Chapter 7 Summary
It is the middle of October, and in the mornings the toilet seat in Aibileen’s bathroom gives her a start when she sits down. There is no cross-through to the garage, so she must go outside to use the bathroom even in the cold weather. Aibileen is sitting on the back steps eating her lunch when Mae Mobley joins her with her half-eaten hamburger. The little girl would rather be out here with the maid than inside with her mother, who looks at everything in the room but her. Aibileen thinks about other children she has raised and is satisfied they have “grown up fine.”
Miss Leefolt begins hollering for Mae Mobley to get back in her high chair and complaining that her friends’ children are all better behaved; then the phone rings and her attention is diverted from her daughter. The little girl has a look of consternation on her face, and when Aibileen asks what is wrong, she says, “Mae Mo bad.” This breaks the woman’s heart, and she tells Mae Mobley she is a smart girl and a kind girl—and she says it until the child repeats it back to her. Aibileen wonders what would happen if she told the girl something good about her every day. She is going to try it.
It is time to potty train Mae Mobley. Aibileen has done this many times before. The key is for the parent to model the behavior for the children so Aibileen can get them to do it consistently. Miss Leefolt has adamantly refused to let her daughter into the bathroom with her; now it has become apparent that the maid is going to have to be the one to show her how it is done. She takes the child out to the garage. Aibileen does what she must quickly and without allowing the child to see much, but Mae Mobley is amazed and immediately wants to “tee-tee” herself. For the rest of the day, she goes tee-tee in the toilet.
When Miss Leefolt comes home, Aibileen proudly tells her about her daughter’s accomplishment. Miss Leefolt hugs Mae Mobley and tells her how proud she is of her—though Aibileen knows she is mostly relieved that she will not have to change diapers anymore. When Aibileen tries to get her to go one more time before she leaves, the girl turns stubborn and refuses. Before Aibileen can get her diaper back on, Mae Mobley runs to the bathroom in the garage, which infuriates her mother. She slaps the child hard on the back of her legs more than once, telling her this is a dirty place and she did not raise her to “use the colored bathroom.” When her anger is finally spent, Miss Leefolt leaves the child to Aibileen; she just holds her and tells her how sorry she is.
Before she leaves, Aibileen reminds Mae Mobley that she is a smart girl and a good girl. On the bus ride home, Aibileen relives her “Baby Girl” getting spanked because of her and hearing herself called dirty and diseased. The maid wants to scream that “dirty ain’t a color, disease ain’t the Negro side of town.” Instead, she feels the bitter seed growing inside her that began when Treelore died. In every white child’s life, she knows, there comes a moment when they begin to think that colored people are not as good as white people. She hopes that moment has not come so soon for Mae Mobley.
For the next few weeks, Miss Leefolt takes a great interest in her daughter’s bathroom habits and even sets the example for her. A few times when her mother is gone, though, Mae Mobley still makes a dash for Aibileen’s bathroom. Robert Brown is here today; he does the yards for everyone in the neighborhood. He was a classmate of Treelore’s, and he always does Aibileen’s yard and will take no money for doing it. Miss Skeeter also comes today, asking more Miss Myrna questions and still wondering about Constantine. Aibileen thought once she told her about Constantine’s daughter, she might understand it is impossible for a black woman to raise a white child in Mississippi; however, she does not seem to have understood and keeps asking questions. Not belonging in one world or another...
(The entire section is 1,497 words.)