humour parenting

Dad Files #4 Trials And Tribulations Of Toilet Training

The first time your child does a poop in a previously agreed location is one of the weirder emotional moments. What could possibly have driven me as a right minded human to record the image of a giant stool nested in a plastic bowl emblazoned with images of Dory. Why am I saying that? I know what made me do it:

PRIDE!

But I’m now learning in the weeks and months since this incredible, on-target splash down, that the balance slips. The overarching smugness fades, and in the place of the chest swelling pride is the sensation of your stomach wishing to escape via your esophagus.

When sprog #1 landed in our lives we had grand intensions of following the Elimination Communication method. Which, if you’ve never he heard of it, means that your baby tells you when they need to evacuate. Theoretically it’s pretty intuitive, you fairly quickly get used to your little one’s expressions, as random and mixed up as they are at times, but the ones that take more effort are fairly easy to decode. You have to catch them in this sweet spot though, because they lose the triggers if you don’t utilise the signals.

Of course our noble intentions fell apart, because frankly keeping a new born alive is stressful enough, without having to take note of every configuration their chubby facial features are trying to forge themselves into.

Get used to intimate exposure to effluence and micturate quickly. Because they need changing so often, it’s like a form of immersion therapy. By dealing with it so repetitively your gag reflex gets tired and gives in. Also the stink isn’t too bad, depending on what you’re putting into them. We found if you go with breast milk then the smell isn’t too bad, but the consistency is less contained. Formula makes it stinky but more manageable. Anything else and you’re either a monster, or a genius, but that’s a dance for another time.

Those first couple of ploppers, with the meconium, need looking into by NASA, because their adhesive qualities are second to none!

We went with the cheap homebrewed option, but via a pump, as junior was dealt a tied tongue, preventing him latching on. And once a bottle was brought into play he didn’t see the point in making life harder for himself. Suckling straight from nature’s dairy was not an endeavour he had the vision, nor fortitude to entertain.

One particularly memorable night time nappy change came a couple of weeks into the parenting things. It was about 3am and I was on feeding and cleaning duty. Management was attached to the breast pump every 3 hours for 30 mins to keep the infant’s dairy stocked, which limited her range of movement. Plus she was on full service duty while I was at work all day, so quite rightly the filling and emptying ‘me laddo’ duties fell to me in the hours of darkness.

Junior was guzzled his body weight in booby juice, and had made a mess of himself, as was his style. I knelt down on the floor, laying him on the edge of the bed, on a tea towel… I don’t know why the mountain scale surplus of muslin squares wasn’t my first call. I can only assume the rectangular design of a tea towel gave me a better sense of orientation, how do you know whether you’ve got a square pointing in the right direction? But I digress. I’d removed the soiled elimination receptacle and cleaned the affected area. I was prepping a fresh nappy when my barometric sense picked up a change in the air pressure, and my exhausted, but still agile, cat like reflexes took over. Small man’s body was active, his tiny bum hole twitched and let out a micro trump. Before if I knew if I was in real danger I’d launched him sideways toward the headboard and into a thankfully generous pile of pillows. He landed safely, and no mess was made, THANKFULLY. Had his emission been more substantive there would have been a pungent stripe all the way to his feather and down filled landing site.

Eww.

No harm no foul, and I’m lucky that any viral worthy video instances of me actually getting dumped on have erased themselves from my mind and were never captured for posterity.

As teenagers, boys are bludgeoned around the head with the fact that girls mature faster and never take it well, because that’s just not fair, and girls smell anyway so… (crying ensues). This presumption of maturity starts very early, but instead of using the ‘M’ word, instead we’re told that “Boys are lazy”. This flagrant exhibition of patriarchal rejection is fuelled by the fact that girls figure out how not to wet, and, or poo themselves sooner. Which seems sort of fair enough on balance.

My heir apparent initially proved quite resistant to shifting his emissions to a de facto toilet, instead wilfully favouring whatever he was wearing for his dirty drop-zone. His closest boy cousin, only six months older, nailed using a potty in a provocatively short time, obviously trying to make a point, but our guy wasn’t unnerved. He held his own, peeing and dumping in his nappy like it wasn’t even a thing.

At some point I presume a sense of embarrassment must seep in from somewhere, because kids start to take themselves off to a quiet corner to relieve themselves. I don’t know whether it’s because we’ve accidentally fostered a sense of shame into them by presuming their lack of willingness to engage in societally appropriate toileting habits. Perhaps the fact that they genuinely don’t know what their body is telling them it’s going to do when they need “to go” freaks them out too. It seems pretty safe to assume that excusing themselves to self-soil in private, indicates a development in their understanding of these new tingles and pressures. They then link the outcome, and what inevitably happens when our olfactory senses clock that the nappy army has lost another brave soul.

“You should try him without a nappy and see how he gets on” someone suggested, which lead to an evening soundtracked by the soft pitter-patter of cascading pee-pee and some pretty rank stains on our carpet.

We put the nappy back on and waited for him to “tell us” when “he’s ready” but quietly settled back into expecting to be changing his poopy pants well into our, and his, dotage. Then one day, a friend and I were trundling a bunch of nippers along to a local park when my guy chirped up with,

“I need a wee”.

My initial response was for him to just soil himself and bury the shame deep in his soul. But no, he deserved some credit gosh damned it. I whipped down his pants and nappy, hoisted him up in the air to hover him over a sewer grate.

SUCCESS!!!

Well success and wee all over my hand and shoes, but, as a family, we chalked up a Win. That was going on the scoreboard; I was as proud as I was moistened!

We were in business.

Not a functioning business with any scheduled hours, any chance of making a profit, or apparent control over the corporate bladder and bowel. I may be being a little unfair, but he’d done well.

We were now in a phase of tense anticipation, trying to be encouraging but not applying too much pressure. We had a couple of days where he was spot on telling us he needed a wee, but the other business seemed to take him quite by surprise as his cheeks went red and he was sticking his bum out. Although it seemed like this newfound relative mastery of his own ablutions was a big step forward, it didn’t directly equate to a desire to do anything about it. We’d usually be able to manoeuvre him on to a potty, or ideally a convenient toilet for his #1s but if he managed to announce the onset of a #2 and we tried to ease him onto an appropriate receptacle he’d go stiff and screech in panic. There seems to be a problem with departures through the backdoor freaking little ones out. A friend’s little girl was doing the classic toddler preschool gender shaming thing of being better at toileting sooner, but if she needed to ‘lay a cable’ her mother had to put a nappy on her before she could go. Is it a sensory thing? Is it a comfort thing? Is the loss of connection with something SO personal an early sign of a future hoarder? I don’t know, but there’s something there.

Getting the appropriate warning of a dirty bomb being dropped is one thing, but being able to do something about it is another thing entirely! Thankfully little man’s usual spot was in one of our many local parks rather than at the opera or some sort of high society polo match. When nature calls and you’re out and about, you’ve been told, you’ve managed to get the little one to a relatively secluded area of your immediate environment. If it’s a wee, you just have to hold them in such a way that you don’t get whizz on you or your clothes, and then it seeps or runs away but no one’s tutting and rolling their eyes. If it’s the other business and your pup’s pooped, there’s pile of something that you need to deal with.

When you’ve collectively taken the leap to ditch nappies and your small human has even joined in with the manipulative mantra of “Nappies are for babies” it means that you stop taking stuff with you that you use with nappies. Like nappy bags… you become one of those dog owners who feed their canine companions regularly but are singularly underprepared to ever see the resulting mound the food results in.

You maybe have a carrier bag for putting wet and poopy clothes in, but you need that, because even when the turd has moved to a better place, there’s still washing to do. The true measure of you as a human comes at times like this, and how you manage yourself, your resources, and your environment. Now I shudder to think about the poor council employees who’ve had to empty the litter bins of the previously mentioned parks, having to work so closely with whatever crisp packet or piece of tinfoil you’ve managed to acquire to collect up the steaming pile and dispose of it with.

Park bin emptyers of this cruel world; I salute you, and I’m sorry.

Now one way around this kind of poor planning is to be one of THOSE people with the potty among their canon of equipment, but as much as I admire your tenacity and fortitude I can’t join you. I understand the path I’ve chosen and the unpleasant inevitability of its slap-dashery, but you can only do what you can, and I can’t.

One day I remember I was solely responsible for the nipper, and found his enthusiasm for helping me take one of our cats to the vet quite endearing. Now, after some cajoling and insistence on my part resulting in some tardy appointment keeping on the cat’s part, I did manage to negotiate a precautionary wee. He assured me he didn’t need to go, so I asked him to show me he didn’t need to go, and right enough, go he did. We made it there a little later than should have, but drier than we would have.

WHY DO THEY DENY THAT THEY NEED TO GO WHEN THEY’RE CLEARLY GRABBING, AND DANCING??? THEY’VE GOT A DAMP PATCH, BUT THEY STICK TO THEIR GUNS UNTIL THE SOGGY END, ALL THE WHILE DENYING EVERYTHING!

Himself was being very good and telling the vet some rudimentary facts about the cat we’d brought there, along with information about our other cat, and even with my simplistic knowledge of the basics of mammals, I knew it was nonsense, but the vet didn’t kick him out.

It was annual jabs time for the feline in question and she wasn’t enjoying it, so I was using my ‘Daddy’ skills to hold her still and keep her calm. Almost forgotten in the flurry of furry activity the cutest voice in the room chimed in from the far end of the vet’s table with:

“I need a poo”

We were at a critical point. The needle had just gone in, and I was bracing the unhappy patient.

I could do nothing.

His face went ruddy, his breath a little stunted, and I did my best to avoid the vet’s eyes as we were told we were finished and could leave… and we never spoke of it again.

In the more recent times he’s since nailed pretty much all aspects of the toilet, apart from the bum wipe, which I still don’t know how to teach him, but I myself figured it out, so I’m confident we can sort him out, together.

Unless he can exclusively do those phantom poops. You know, the ones that don’t even need another wipe, but you do another one anyway just to be sure.

They’re the best!

Jamie Sadler is a retired actor, anxious stand-up comic, cat owning dog psychologist, with a Masters in screenwriting. He’s also a husband and father of 1.8 children (#2 due in September ’17) For more musings you can check out his blog Mohosapien.com

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