There’s been so much stress and strain recently, that I struggled with what to write for a blog post. Should I comment on the dreary atmosphere? Should I make suggestions for how to cope? Would acknowledging the cautious optimism we all felt related to moving through to a new stage in re-opening our province be helpful? Or would it only remind people about the equally foreboding worries that still linger as numbers begin to rise?
Should I say something as trite as ‘Nice weather we’re having!’ and give some long winded explanation about how weather impacts our mood?
No – none of that felt right. I looked back through my last few posts and thought to myself: I know what’s missing. Some levity. Some good old fashion gag-reel classic writing about something absurdly ridiculous.
So, here it is.
I’m going to tell you the story of how I caught my son’s poop in my hands.
Have I intrigued you yet?
My son, at the time probably 3, was notoriously horrible to potty train. I mean terrible. Hands down the worst part of parenting him. I would rather go through teething, child birth, Terrible 2s and sleep regressions all at once than potty train another child.
He was the kid who one time sat in a puddle of his own urine until it went cold, because he honestly didn’t care that he was playing in it. And naïve me, first time parent, assumed that a child who was quietly and contently driving his cars around in the corner of the room would definitely tell me, or make some sort of racket, if they did wet themselves.
Imagine my surprise.
We tried everything. We tried Pull Ups and training pants, stickers and reward charts, marshmallows and Smarties and toys and books and ice cream. We sang songs, and read stories, and did dances. We tried 3 different potty seats. We tried underwear, we tried naked, we lived for a week with towels on every surface and an alarm going off every 30 minutes.
It. Did. Not. Work.
I was beside myself with tears, fearing my son would head off to school as the only child not toilet trained. I imagined ridicule and frustration for my already sensitive boy. How would he possibly cope? It was hard enough in a day care with a full classroom and a 5 to 1 ratio. What would it be like with one adult for 30 kids? I felt a vast pressure to get him to master this one key skill before he was metaphorically left behind and somehow stunted in his development.
My stress made him stressed, and I think we ended up feeding off each other. The anxiety to report when he needed to go just seemed to freeze him up and so the accidents kept happening and I felt like I did nothing but laundry for months.
I felt like I was failing as a parent. It was a basic body function! Bladder full, use the bathroom. I just had to teach him what the feeling was and link that to needing to run to the toilet. Classical conditioning right?
So why couldn’t he do it, and what was I doing wrong that was causing it?
In retrospect, the advice I received from every seasoned mother was true: they will do it when they’re ready.
I HATED that sentence.
What did it even mean? He should be ready NOW. What else does he need? Don’t just tell me to wait – TELL ME HOW TO FIX IT!
But it’s true. He wasn’t ready at the time, and it was like a switch was flipped when he was ready – he suddenly just started saying he had to use the potty and went and did it. And it was like he had been doing it for years. One single day.
I’m almost pissed at how easy it ended up being, after all the crap I went through trying to potty train him.
Speaking of crap, you say, when do you end up catching the poop?
Patience. I had to tell you about my struggles with him potty training so I could tell you this part.
Because in his infinite wisdom, my husband, decided to teach our son the rite of passage handed down from all father’s to their prodigy. The hallowed and sacred act of ‘Peeing in the Woods’.
This is a joy only truly experienced by the male demographic, I’m told. When I questioned the logic, I was informed that I ‘wouldn’t understand’.
Part of me is glad for that.
So throughout my son’s difficulty potty training, our life had to continue in some fashion, and occasionally while I was dealing with my daughter, or some other task, father and son would be outside doing yard work or making themselves scarce in the backyard. And we all know the rule; when a toddler says they have to go, they mean RIGHT NOW.
The solution? Pee in the garden.
Thus began a lifelong (so far) habit of my boy just dropping trou willy-nilly in broad daylight to ‘water my hostas’ whenever the need arises. It’s funny on a baby. The humour gets lost when it’s 5 years in, and you’re talking to the neighbour only to hear a suspicious tinkle and watch your friend’s face twist in disbelief.
At first, it was a means to an end. It did sort of teach him that the sensation he was having meant the need to pee – the locale just needed some work. But beggars can’t be choosers, right?
Fast forward a few weeks. I’m outside as well and we are all spending some family time in the backyard, playing in the sand box and generally enjoying the day.
“Mama, I go potty now,” my son chirps in and starts to stand. Me, panicking still at realizing the time crunch I’m under, race to grab him and haul him up the stairs of the back deck and into the house.
Hubby shouts to let him pee in the garden, and while I’m aghast at it, I can see the wiggle that every preschooler starts to do when the countdown is nearly there. We won’t make it in time, I’m sure.
Again, means to an end.
Down the pants and Pull Up go, and my partner helpfully suggests that I need to place my hand on his bum and push his hips forward to help him ‘aim’. Otherwise, the effort is a waste, and we need to get a new outfit and clean his shoes.
Trusting some one who has spent their whole life dealing with such matters, I do as instructed and wait.
And wait. And wait.
And then I realize.
He said he had to go ‘potty’.
Things are taking longer than they should.
Potty can mean two things.
And it definitely wasn’t the one I anticipated.
My hand is in place, I’m following orders and propping him forward for the best trajectory, but I’ve entirely ignored the possibility that I’m covering the wrong exit, and I’m about to get ambushed.
It was a bit like a slow motion scene where I watched things unfold before my very eyes, knowing full-well the end result, but being quite helpless to stop it.
I could feel it. It was happening. Right there. In my hand. I couldn’t pull away. I just had to accept it. I was locked into this grotesque moment with my child and had no way out.
He would tell his therapist about this someday, and I was sure I shared the same thought.
I cannot even begin to explain to you what this was like, but the… experience… will be with me for the rest of my life.
You can’t know how any situation will affect you until you live it and trust me. This isn’t a situation my brain had ever CONSIDERED taking a crack at trying to extrapolate about. My body and brain could not fathom what my hand and eyes were telling me, and the absolute improbability of this event happening.
And apparently, my only response was to freeze, staring, feeling, watching, and then slowly let out a high pitched squealing noise of horror and hysteria that only grew in volume.
I started to laugh. At the decibel level of the fire engine, I unleashed the single loudest, highest, gasping sound I’ve ever made because that was the only way I could find to express the sheer ludicrous experience of catching my son’s poop, being aware of catching my son’s poop, and not being able to stop myself from catching my son’s poop.
I laughed and guffawed and wheezed and snorted that weird hiccupping-squeaking noise you only do when you’re entirely too close to loosing control of your bowels. A hyena level shrieking belly laugh that turned into a scream at several points before tumbling back into gales of laughter.
I was incomprehensible.
My neighborhood must have thought I was being torn apart by clowns. I might have blacked out, I’m not sure. All I know is I was making an ungodly sound, frozen in position while my son carried on with single minded focus while dead-eyeing my forsythia bush.
I cackled and laughed and basically sobbed myself through this process straight to the end, while my husband watched on in confusion and bewilderment. Because he couldn’t see. He couldn’t see what my hand was covering/catching and I definitely wasn’t getting the point across when I couldn’t even speak. All he saw was his son trying to pee in the garden, while his wife wailed unintelligibly, sometimes giggling like a deranged lunatic, other times trying to get words out in between tears to explain.
I think I eventually managed to say ‘It wasn’t pee’, which in hindsight still probably wasn’t enough information to be going on. And was definitely an understatement.
Now keep in mind, I assumed this would be your run of the mill toddler pee. I was expecting barely a thimble full of fluid, a bare minimum of a shake, and then back to playing. I was not, shall we say, prepared for a ‘long haul’ which is what I ended up getting.
So I had assumed the position by balancing of the balls of my feet and crouching down on the paving stones surrounding our garden. Admittedly, I was better set up for this sort of act than he was. Couple that precarious gargoyle-like stance with my theatrics of screaming my bloody head off and laughing until I almost followed suit and wet myself too, and you can imagine I was destined to fall.
And fall I did, directly backward and into the dog’s recent ‘leavings’.
That’s right. Poop in one hand, and more in my back pocket. Because life hadn’t humbled me enough already that day.
An undignified end to possibly the most debasing event of my life. And I honestly just lay there on the grass, with my toddler standing over me, and a healthy handful of filth, and laughed.
Is there a moral to this story? Not really.
Is it embarrassing to think about? Definitely.
Is it still one of the funniest stories I have about my son’s childhood? You betcha it is.
This story is also a reminder to myself… that even during the hardest parts of your life, the days where it feels like every time you turn around, someone is handing you another piece of crap to deal with, and you end up falling into a pile of it too – learning to laugh at ourselves can turn it into a story of how we got up, washed off, and kept on playing.