It stares at us, open mouthed and empty; a sinister, sparkling plastic throne. Its cleanliness taunts us since, unique among most objects in our flat, it is now our dream to find it filled to the brim with urine.
But no. It’s spotless. Since we got the potty, it has been successfully used just once, and afterwards we cleaned it as if we thought we might end up using it as a soup bowl one day. Our own toilet has never known a shine like it, and it certainly isn’t nearly so snazzily decorated, covered with decals from Paw Patrol, my son’s favourite libertarian nightmare/TV programme. The logic of this escapes me. Not the logic of Paw Patrol itself, you understand, that’s patently clear: it’s simply a nightmarish hellscape of bad animal puns and indifferently recorded vocal performances aimed specifically at teaching children that all emergency services should be privatised.
No, I mean the potty decals themselves. I am profoundly, perhaps excessively invested in television, but it has never yet occurred to me that I should adorn my own toilet seat with a slick little appliqué of Dr Frasier Crane or pop a jaunty little Adam Curtis on the cistern. My son has no such qualms, however, and greatly appreciated the effort.
But aside from his one triumphant moment, he has so far found it hard to understand what it is we want us to do with the thing. He has, naturally and to everyone’s great delight, seen both of us on the toilet many times, but the idea that this was for the same purpose took him a while. ‘This Paw Patrol fireman’s helmet seems very smart,’ his widened eyes seem to say, ‘and I am sorry for weeing in it that one time – but what exactly is it for?’
Once he realised the general idea, he was even more confused. The nappy arrangement had, after all, been working well for everyone. Suddenly making him plan his movements does seem like cruel change of our terms of service, not least since we’re expecting him to flex, clench and hold muscles that we can’t readily identify ourselves.
I’ve been proudly continent for over three decades so I’d long lost whatever inkling I once had about how these skills were achieved. Like those trust-fund kids who write articles about how you too can buy your dream home by simply asking their parents for money, I’ve become blind to the realities of what weeing on command demands.
Slowly, I’ve managed to put it across in language he can understand. That I have only managed to do this by repeatedly sitting in it myself is one of those things I wish someone had told me many years ago, before I’d developed a sense of dignity, and the lower back of a 90-year-old.
He’s on it now, so here we sit. Aching and frustrated, we slowly learn to be patient as we await the defacement of our living room. We’re just not quite sure who’s training who.
Follow Séamas on Twitter @shockproofbeats