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.