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Poopy Pinkie Update

5 Mar

A dog with infinite patience is a treasure.

Children are impressionable and are firm advocates of the Monkey-See-Monkey-Do philosophy of life.  As parents, we’re aware of these facts, but there are still moments when we’re taken by surprise. 

My little Phoebe has been my frequent sidekick on trips to the vet with our dog Gretzky.  The most recent one, however, had quite an impact on her curiosity and penchant for reenactment.  I was folding laundry last week in the master bedroom when my daughter walked in and handed me a small hairbrush she has had since infancy.

“Mommy, can you please wash this hairbrush?  It stinks.”

I sized up the manner in which she held the thing—pinching the portion that housed the bristles between her thumb and forefinger with one hand, pinching her nose shut with the other. 

“Why does it stink?” I asked. 

“Because it was in Gretzky’s butt.” 

Phoebe offered this explanation without fanfare, and without the laughter that would accompany such an outrageous statement if it were meant as a joke.  I eyed the hairbrush suspiciously.  The evidence I was hoping not to find was streaked on the otherwise white handle—only a smear of light brown, but enough to let inquiring minds know where it had been.  The dog came into view of the bedroom’s doorframe.  He looked okay, but he was sporting those “Help Me” eyes I have seen many times since my daughter’s birth four years ago.

“Why was the hairbrush in Gretzky’s butt?”  I asked, still a little fazed that I had occasion to utter the words.

“Because I was pretending to take his temperature like the vet did,” Phoebe answered in a tone that implied I should have known this already. 

“Phoebe, only the vet is allowed to take Gretzky’s temperature.  Do you understand?  I know you wanted to pretend you were helping Gretzky, but you are not allowed to put anything in the dog’s butt.  Nothing goes in Gretzky’s butt.  Nothing,” I still could not believe the necessity of the conversation.

Phoebe, looking visibly disappointed, turned on her heel and went to sulk in her room.

And I went to the bathroom with the hairbrush.  And some bleach.

Back to School Bathroom Blues

6 Sep

Phoebe sniffled and whined a little as I left the classroom that first day of four-year-old kindergarten.  Her separation anxiety is usually short-lived, so I knew she’d get over it and have a great time.  I strode away from the school, confident that both of us could handle it.  Along with all the other Mommy-stuff that runs through our brains when kids conquer the school milestone, I also said a little unorthodox prayer of thanks:

“Thank God she finally learned to wipe her own ass.”

My child had little trouble with potty training, but the one task that eluded her was the ‘rear bumper polish.’  Number One was a breeze.  But streak-mark sanitation? Dingleberry disposal?  These were major issues.  It’s not that she was unwilling, although I’ve seen that before.  For some reason I was charged with wiping my little sister’s ass from her second birthday to her fifth, which was when I finally told her I’d had enough of her shit. (What I actually said was, “You’re old enough to wipe your own butt now.  I’m done.)  My daughter was more than willing, she was just unable.  Her arms were too short.

Over the summer months we conducted an almost daily examination of Phoebe’s arms.  She’d be on the potty finishing up her business and muse aloud, “I wonder if my arms are long enough to wipe my butt today.”

Poor thing would grab a wad of tissue and go for it, but they just couldn’t make it.  Until that glorious day.

Growth spurts are for real.  A month ago, I heard the cry of victory from the bathroom.

“Mommy!  I did it!  I wiped my butt!”

Never were more beautiful words spoken.  And just in time.  I could now put to rest the visions that haunted me, of my daughter calling out for the kindergarten teacher to come and wipe her ass.  Or worse: an epic fail that left her begging the teacher to help dig the shit out of her fingernails.  That hypothetical kept me up at night.

Thankfully, I was able to send our little one off to the big wide world of public school knowing that she could handle all things potty-related.  Until she came home that first day and gave me the full report.

“Mommy, I had trouble using the potty at school, and the teacher had to talk to me about it.”


Crap-tastic disaster scenes that warranted industrial-strength disinfectant flashed through my brain.  But Phoebe’s issue had nothing to do with poop at all.  It was something I had never given any thought to. At least, not in the past thirty-three years.

“The teacher made me shut the door while I went potty, and it scared me.  I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to get out of the bathroom.”

Phoebe never shuts the bathroom door at home.  Never.  When she still needed assistance, keeping it open was necessary.  After she mastered the art, it never occurred to me to tell her to close it.  In public restrooms she was always with me.  She had never been in a ‘foreign’ bathroom alone with a closed door mandate, until last Friday.

So we practiced it this weekend.  It wasn’t easy for her.  Closed doors and small spaces seem to freak my daughter out.  The traits that turn out to be genetic will never cease to amaze.

Rewind to 1978.  My first week of kindergarten.  I loved it.  The teacher was sweet.  It was only a half day.  Life was good.  Until the first time I had to use the bathroom at school.  The door handle was different from the ones at home, and I was deathly afraid of being trapped.  It probably won’t surprise you that I grew up in a household that was pretty free and easy with its open-bathroom-door-policy.  Never closed the door.  And now it was required.

Terrified, I opted to close it just enough to hide me from view, but not enough so the latch would catch; I was convinced that final click meant certain doom.  If I could just avoid that click while sparing my classmates a free peepshow, then all would be well.  But, as it turned out, my classmates were really desperate for a free peepshow that day.

“Children,” the teacher boomed. “I’m just stepping out for one minute to cut this paper on Mrs. Borrocow’s paper cutter. Nathan, you’re in charge.”  (It was 1978, folks.  Teachers left the room – a lot.  And were never sued for it.)

Nathan was the kind of leader who becomes immediately drunk and reckless with power.  He was on an immediately mission to watch my five-year-old ass take a pee, and bring an audience with him.  A few moments after the teacher’s Declaration of Absence I heard Nathan’s rallying cry “Let’s watch her!”  Twenty kids piled in the doorway, jockeying for primetime spectator real estate.  The sudden appearance of all of my classmates in that doorframe jolted me out of potty position, leaving me hip-deep in not-so-pristine toilet water.  My chin rested on my knees while I wriggled in vain to gain purchase on the sides of the toilet.  But total humiliation wasn’t achieved until two minutes later when the teacher forged through the huddled masses to hoist my wet ass out of the bowl.

This whole ordeal had been neatly tucked away in some corner of my mind until Phoebe’s fear of the shut bathroom door catapulted the memory front and center.  We’re working on the whole ‘close the bathroom door’ phenomenon.  Hopefully we’ll work our way up to actually locking the door too before she as any peepshow horror stories of her own to tell.  I guess the upside of our litigious society is that no teacher is going to leave a classroom of kids unattended for a second, so if there is some version of Nathan waiting for a chance to ambush my little girl, he’ll be waiting for a very long time.


* Have a potty training or post-potty training disaster story of your own?  We’d love to hear it!

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