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On Poo

Defeat at the hands of potty training.

There was some hesitation on writing this, hesitation on devoting a few hours of my time and a few minutes of yours to this subject. But sometimes, one single thing, one immovable force can so take over one’s life that attempts to escape its endless shadow is futile. There exist forces in this world so powerful that everything else in life—friends, family, work—succumb to its power, get sucked into its swirling vortex. My life is in the sway of such a force, and attempts to write around it were stillborn, useless struggles against its sway. Our household is consumed by the tyrant Potty Training, and we are failing in our attempts to please him. Advice: If you’re adverse to intense scatological discussion, kindly close your browser now.

I have never spent such a fruitless amount of time in a bathroom as I have over the past few weeks. (Even that time when I made a meal of a bowel-binding military Meal, Ready-to-Eat and rancid yogurt during one memorable field exercise pales in comparison to this.) Our son says, with disturbing frequency, that he has to go to the potty. So my wife or I hustle him off to the nearest water closet, place him in a starting position, and wait. And wait.

We sit. We play Angry Birds. (And yes, my almost 3-year-old son is a more sure destroyer of piggly castles than me. Predicator of things to come, I’m sure.) We read books. We wait. And wait. And…wait. And, eventually, dejected and defeated, bowl still pristine, we get up, pull up the pull-up, and, within minutes, have to replace the now-soiled pull-up. It can be discouraging. Despite endless reiterations of the DVD, we are not yet Potty Pirates.

We have yet to have successful discharge of waste directly from the originator into the receptacle. I’m baffled; at this point, odds should be in our favor. A broken clock is right twice a day, and by this point potty time and potty time should have coincided. Our day care says they’ve witnessed a slight tinkle get through, but I have my doubts about those reports.

Instead, we’ve resorted to planned intervention, like when zookeepers force some normally instinctive behavior onto reluctant captive animals. Soiled diapers were once something to vanish into the Diaper Genie as quickly as possible; now, we march our son into the bathroom and make a celebration of tipping the pants-borne poo into the potty, like a formal burial at sea for feces. Bye-bye, poopie! Wasn’t that fun?! Don’t you want to put poo into the potty directly from the source?! Our celebration, however, can have unintended consequences.

The other day, my son informed me of soiled drawers and need for a change. We cleaned up, then headed for the bathroom for the poo’s going-away ceremony. Sploosh! On this occasion, though, things went awry. My son had managed to produce such a rock-solid bolus, such a masterpiece of biologic geometrical perfection, that when I flushed…the toilet clogged. My son has never pooped on the potty, but he’s managed to stop one up. It was a square poo in a round potty.

Desperation calls for expert reinforcements. Lois Kleint, M.A., claims you can potty train in three days, using “unique parenting principles that are as dependable as the laws of gravity.” I’ll be honest, I thought gravity would have been working in our favor by now, if only to pull some hangers-on down into the welcoming water. Since even Newton has failed us, though, I don’t trust this book, either. And for what it’s worth, My Wife, M.A., has some pretty unique parenting principles involving M&Ms that seem to be a lot more cost-effective than fifteen bucks for the paperback.

The provided us with Diaper-Free Before 3, one of the few times I cursed our easy access to books. The book’s methods are “based on medical evidence,” so based on medical evidence, we’re apparently bad parents for not putting our son on the toilet from birth. Believe you me, my wife is resting her pregnant belly on a toilet training seat right now, lest we make the same mistake twice. Gotta start ‘em early, apparently.

I imagine the children of these authors at nine months: “Mother, I’d prefer to use the toilet now,” giving our still smelly and drooling son a wide berth. “I doubt I’ll be seeing him at Harvard, Mother.” Between these American experts with their über-early, über-supportive successful three-day potty boot camps on one hand and the Tiger Mothers with their intense perfection on the other, we’re left with nothing but the ever-present smell of parenting poopy diapers.

I know we’ll get through this, and I know my son will someday be a productive, bathroom-utilizing member of society. Still, despair is just one more wet pull-up away, accompanied by dreary thoughts of awkward conversations with kindergarten teachers, surreptitiously examining adult diapers and wondering if they’ll fit an unpopular teenager. Hope springs eternal, and, after all, everybody poops. Perhaps in a few weeks (or months, or years), we’ll be the proud parents of a super-duper pooper. Until then, you can find me in the bathroom. Waiting.

Ginny Stickles March 08, 2012 at 01:27 PM
I found that my children and children I watched, who were boys, were afraid of falling in the toilet. I turned them around to face the back of the toilet gave them cars to run along the top and it was very quick to train them. I have given this hint to many over the years and it seems to work for both girls and boys.
TJ Mayotte March 08, 2012 at 02:11 PM
@edb- That's a great idea, but so far The Boy is more interested in throwing the Cheerios in instead of sinking them. (He enlists me to send them to their watery graves.) @Ginny- That sounds really helpful! Thanks for the tip, we're going to try it next time.
Wendi March 08, 2012 at 02:13 PM
An old elementary school friend of mine who is now a pediatric urologist says that potty training is best at the age of three because years of uninhibited voiding are needed for maximum bladder growth. He recently wrote a book (http://itsnoaccident.net/) that's more about the reasons behind chronic accidents, but I found the age 3 info interesting since I have a kid who will be 3 in a couple of months and she has shown zero interest in potty-training. And I have zero interest in standing around in the bathroom waiting for Godot. I also have no interest in paying for pull-ups (which are more expensive than diapers). With my first kid I used them and she didn't get the full hang of potty-training until I just put her in underwear and let her have accidents. With my second kid, I let her have pull-ups because she begged for them because they had princesses on them. But, she used them just like diapers so I made her go back to diapers and then when she was more ready we went straight to underwear. With this third kid, I'm hoping that she's just going to decide one day that she's sick of sitting around in her filth and she'll train herself.
Katryn D. Stewart March 09, 2012 at 01:52 AM
I hesitate to give parenting advice-- since it tends to backfire more often than not-- but here it is. In three steps 1/ Run them around naked (so you can see it if it starts and get them to the potty before they are done. Plus THEY realize it's happening when it puddles at their feet. 2/ Give them one m&m every time they go. I realize you may be adverse to giving your child candy, but really, kids will do anything for an M&M. 3/ Give up on child number 1 for now-- he'll be trained by the time child #2 comes, and then let child #1 TRAIN child #2. Easy peasy. Monkey see-monkey do. I've got four children, and I've only potty trained one. And (not to brag, but I am), my youngest is already potty trained and she won't be two for another four weeks. My only contribution? A big sister and a bag of M&Ms. (granted, you have to give big sibling one m&m for every time she helps little sibling on the potty.) Oh. Before you start step 1, get rid of all carpeting and switch to hardwood floors. :-)
sharon gilbert March 09, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Sitting the child backwards works well. Also try putting a step stool in front of the toilet so he can sit with his feet resting on it. My son really like stickers so I taped a piece of notebook paper on the bathroom door and every time he used the potty he got a new sticker and put it on the paper.

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