Chocolate or Poop?

January 12, 2011

Before I had kids I thought poop was the most disgusting thing in the world, but now that I’m a mother poop has become part of everyday life.  One of my favorite lines in the movie “Baby Momma” is when a little kid runs into the room with an unknown brown substance on his hand and his mom grabs him and says, “Tyler, is that chocolate or poop?”  He doesn’t answer so she asks again in a louder voice, “Is it chocolate or poop?” Again the child is silent so the mother takes a quick sniff and then a lick. She smiles and says “It’s Chocolate”.  The other woman in the room is her sister (who has no children yet) and she looks over in horror and says, “What if that had been poop?”

Life with kids is messy and poop is a big part of that mess.  There are the dirty diapers when they are babies (who knew poop came in some many different colors) and then as they graduate into the toddler stage you have that lovely experience called “potty training”.  I remember with my first son, Drew, I naively thought that potty training would be a simple process where you simply showed the child how to go pee and poop in the toilet and then sat them on the toilet at regular intervals to avoid accidents.  I bought a “Bear in the Big Blue House” video about potty training and several pairs of big boy underwear.   Little did I know that 6 months later Drew would still not be any closer to being out of diapers as he was on the day I purchased the underwear.  I quickly learned the important lesson that a child has to be ready to give up diapers or it’s just not going to happen.

The first stage of potty training is convincing the child that they WANT to be potty trained. With Drew and Caleb that decision took longer than with Emma and Ethan. Emma and Ethan potty trained together (one plus of having twins) and it was like a competition so the motivation was always high. With Drew, he was still an only child the first time I attempted potty training and he was just not interested at all.   He thought it was neat to sit on the little potty and watch videos, but he didn’t actually use the potty to pee in.  Caleb was very similar to Drew in that he was not very motivated and since he didn’t like any kinds of candy or gum bribery was not an option.  With Drew the decision to be “ready” came about a year after I was ready for him to be potty trained.  However, when he made that decision it was a difference of night and day.  With Caleb it was the twins’ potty training that finally convinced him that he was ready. He knew they were younger than him and there was no way he was going to be the only one left in diapers.  I remember him looking at Ethan in his big boy underwear and then looking down at his own diaper. Since Caleb was still not talking at this point due to his Autism, he simply pointed to Ethan’s underwear and then proceeded to take off his diaper. This was his way of saying “I’m ready Mom”.  As many of you know, that moment when a child decides they are ready to give up diapers it’s like turning a switch and suddenly everything starts to go a lot smoother.

The second stage of potty training is teaching the child to tell when they need to potty enough in advance that they can actually make it to the potty in time.  Once they realize how to recognize the feeling you might think you are done with this stage, but when you add things like playing with their favorite toy or watching TV in the mix they become distracted and may not make it all the way to the potty. “Close, but not close enough” is what I always told them in these instances.   “Close” still means Mommy has quite a mess to clean up.  Another obstacle is going out of the house.  When you are home your child knows where the potty is and it is easily accessible. When you go out you have not only the challenge of making it all the way from the back of Wal-Mart to the bathrooms in the front in time, but you also have the issue of what to do when you are driving along and you hear from the backseat “Mom, I have to go potty!”  This usually happens when you are on some remote road and the next gas station or McDonalds is twenty miles down the road.  With boys you can always make a pit stop and pull off on the side of road to have them pee in the bushes or grass, but with girls you don’t really have that option.  This always upset Emma and she thought it was “just not fair” that she couldn’t pee standing up like all of her brothers.   When the twins were in this stage my husband was a youth pastor at a church about an hour away from our home so we started bringing the portable potty in the car with us so that we were prepared in case we happened to be out in the middle of nowhere when we heard the shout out from the backseat.

When your child moves onto stage 3 they are pretty self-sufficient in the area of pee but may need a little help with poop because wiping their bottom can be a very difficult task. A task that can end up leaving such a mess for you to clean up that you want to just say, “Next time just call me and I’ll come help you wipe.”    The other part of this stage that causes messes is that children are fascinated with their poop.   Once they get it on their hand and smear it on the wall they realize it’s really just like finger painting.  I have had to clean up poop off the walls, the toilet seat and my children’s bodies so many times that it doesn’t even phase me anymore.  I also have had the unique experience of cleaning poop out of a bathtub when a child claims “I thought I just had to fart”.   So I guess we can just give this stage the nickname of “The Poop Stage”.

When they make it though all three stages you are pretty much footloose and diaper-free.  There may still be the occasional accident, but you are relieved to know that this project is just about complete.  When Ethan was getting ready to start Kindergarten he still needed some help with wiping his bottom and I would usually hear a “Mom … I’m done!” from the bathroom when he needed my assistance.  One day he came into my room with a big smile on his face and announced “I wiped my bottom all by myself!”   I told him how proud I was of him and that he was such a “big boy” for doing it all by himself and he replied, “Yeah, I think I’m ready to go to college now.”