I love going out to eat with Ella.  It’s especially fun when Trish isn’t with us.

I feel an incredible sense of pride when I walk into a restaurant with my little girl. I admit, there’s a little voice that says, “hey, look at me. I’m a cool dad, going to dinner with his kid.” And another little voice says, “check out this kid! Is she cute or what?!” And most of the waitresses in our college town pay a little more attention to us, and that ain’t bad, either.

But it’s deeper than that. I’m grateful that I have a little kid in the first place, thankful that she’s healthy and smart and able to go out to dinner. I appreciate our time together, just she and I, charting our way through the world together, even if it’s only for an hour or so at a time. We order our food,  Itry not to nag too much when the eating gets messy and we have a great time.

It gets especially interesting when Ella has to go to the bathroom.

She’s fascinated by urinals.

The restaurant we went to tonight has one bathroom. The bathroom has one stall and two urinals.

“Hey, Dad! Let’s use that one!”

I was carrying her, so I was able to deposit her in the stall, and I started wrapping the seat.

“Hey, why can’t I use that other one?”

“Those are for men, sweetheart. You can’t sit down on them. This is the one you sit down on.”

And I could tell it just didn’t make sense. Why couldn’t she pee standing up? They seemed to be welcoming, and the extended from the wall a little bit; surely if she balanced herself just right she could sit there.

“Dad! I want to use the other one.”

What if I’d said OK? What if I’d been in that experiential mood that encourages my kid to explore and try everything. What if I’d held her up, turned her this way and that, helped her squat just enough to pee.

And a man walked in.

“Hey, how ya doin?” I’d say. “Great game tonight, eh?”

I don’t think the world is ready for that.

I remember being a little boy, probably 5 or 6, going to the bathroom at the Astrodome in Houston during a ball game. A man came in with a little boy and a little girl. I was initially horrified. I’d be peeing in the same room with a girl!? But the man was so obviously intent on caring for his kids that I though, and still do, that it’s a pretty neat idea doing what you have to for your kid, regardless of the circumstances.

I also remember having to go to a public restroom with my grandmother and mother. At some point I grew out of that, and if I hadn’t gone when we left the house I had to go to the men’s room by myself, or wait ’til we got home.

So, back at the restaurant, I have the sat papered and Ella’s about ready to jump on when she see’s that it’s an auto-flush model.

“Look! It has an eye!” A phrase she got from Trish.

I held my hand in front of the cyclops while Ella had the fastest pee on record.

These are the little moments of fatherhood I didn’t expect to love so much.