My wife recently introduced our son to herbal tea. Hendrik has watched me make a delicious vanilla chai tea latte for my wife most days of the week since he was born. It’s one of her favorite things, and he has always been curious about it. He frequently asks for a sip and can’t quite wrap his 3-year-old mind around why caffeine wouldn’t be a good idea for him at his age.

It finally occurred to us that maybe we could let Hendrik try an herbal tea one day. As expected, he loved it, not because of the taste (most likely), but probably because it made him feel like a big boy to have a special drink like his mama.

Fast forward to three days later.

The kids spent the day at daycare while Allison and I worked. Al works 12-hour shifts as a nurse practitioner, so that means I get the kids off to daycare, and then back home again at the end of the day. I get them fed, teeth brushed, bladders emptied, and in bed before mama gets home. That’s the goal anyway. Typically I can get H into his room and through the usual bedtime rituals, but he rarely (if ever) is asleep by time Allison gets home. This night was no different.

We were getting ready to sit down to eat dinner while Hendrik did who knows what upstairs in his room. At one point right before the food was on the table, I heard the toilet flush for what seemed like the sixth time in a ten minute span. It dawned on me that Hendrik must have been unnecessarily flushing the toilet, but it had been a long day and I wasn’t in a mood to think too critically about what might or might not be happening. Anyone who’s been a parent of young children understands that feeling.

As we wrapped up eating, Hendrik finally made his way downstairs, realizing Allison was home. He gets a kick out of seeing her before bed and usually can’t wait until she comes upstairs to say goodnight, so he comes downstairs. This time, he came down with a ball of toilet paper in his hand.

Unprompted, Hendrik excitedly proclaims, “Mama, I made you some tea!”

“Oh wow, buddy! That’s so kind of you,” Allison exclaims proudly, despite being worn out after a long day at work.

Hendrik puts the ball of T.P. up to Allison’s face and she mimics taking a sip from this “cup” of his. Neither Allison nor I have put it all together yet.

“Hey buddy,” I start asking him. “Why were you flushing the toilet so much upstairs?”

At that, H got a perplexed look on his face as if to say I’ve already explained this to you. He paused a second, then sweetly said, “I was making tea!”

Something clicked.

I looked at his T.P. ball and realized that it wasn’t just a ball. It was a make-believe toilet paper tea bag.

“Hendrik, is this your tea bag?” I asked, not really wanting to hear the answer.

He was delighted. “Yeah!”

Something else clicked.

I finally noticed that Hendrik’s toilet paper tea bag was wet at one end.

“Hendrik, did you dip this in the water?!”

Even more delighted. “YEAH!”

Allison and I spent the next few minutes vacillating between keeling over with laughter and trying to sanitize our son. I’m starting to realize there’s a whole different kind of “potty training” we need to work on with him. I was proud of him, though. He took it well when I broke the news that mama preferred her vanilla chai latte to toilet bowl tea.