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Back to School Bathroom Blues: Update

27 Sep

Our little angel has enjoyed the “home-bowl advantage” for every BM since the school year started.  While I hope that this continues to be the case until Memorial Day, it is highly unlikely.  What I’ve learned in the past few weeks is cause for a little pinprick of alarm.  It seems that arm-length and a few lessons in ass-wiping isn’t enough to keep a crap-tastic disaster at bay.  The art of poop removal is a long process, the details of which have to be reinforced and revisited almost daily.

A few days ago, my daughter ran the last hundred yards of the trek from the elementary school to our front door.

“I gotta poopy!”

Enough said.  I jogged ahead of her and cleared a path to the toilet. When she finished her extracurricular activity she asked me to do the haz-mat cleanup.

“Mommy?  Will you wipe me?”

“No, sweetheart.  You’re a big girl.  You know how to do it all by yourself now.”  We’ve recently discovered that the novelty of wiping your own butt has about a two week shelf life.

“Please, Mommy.  Help!”

“I will show you how to do it again, but I will not do it for you.”

I’m not sure if what happened next was because she was pissed off that I wouldn’t clean her up or if it was a genuine lapse in post-poop hygiene.  My daughter took a swipe at her rear that deposited a tiny smear on the toilet paper and a big brown clump on her thumb.  Before I could administer further instructions or intervene with a steady hand, my daughter leaned forward and wiped her thumb on my jeans.  She did it as casually as if she believed I were a paper towel.

Work in progress.  That’s what toilet independence really is.  And I will quietly console myself with that information the next time I squeeze out a round of Shout to remove butt-paste from my favorite jeans.

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!

Take Breaks

19 Oct

Just because a toddler is potty-trained does not mean she will always take breaks. The more attractive the distraction, the higher probability she will have to be reminded to go. Scratch that. The reminder will often be met with, “No, I don’t have to go.” In this case, physically remove the toddler from the scene and cart her off to a restroom. This is what I should have done last weekend. But my toddler, Phoebe, has already been potty-trained for a year. I thought she’d be fine. She had also already emptied her bowels before donning her swim pants and floatation-reinforced super swimmie-suit. All was well with the world.

My husband took Phoebe into my grandmother’s pool and splashed around with cousins, aunts, uncles and nieces. It was my cousin Olivia’s birthday and everyone was in a great mood. I sat with my Grandma on the deck under the shade of an umbrella catching up and enjoying the day.

Phoebe was having a ball. My husband, Brendon, was throwing her high in the air so she could make huge splashes. My sister, Terri, then took Phoebe duty and caught her while she jumped repeatedly from the side of the pool into the water while Brendon tossed our nieces from the shallow end into the deep end. Grandma and I watched this happy routine for several minutes until my sister shoved Phoebe away from the pool and shouted, “No! Phoebe, stay on the side! Don’t jump in!”

“What happened?” Brendon aked. And then he saw his answer running down Phoebe’s legs. He scooped her up and carried her towards me.

“What happened?” Phoebe asked.

“What do you mean, ‘what happened?’” Brendon muttered. “ You know what happened. You crapped your pants.”

And then I saw the damage too. “Oh, man.” I wrapped Phoebe in our towel from home in an effort to contain the brown ooze. I carried her to the bathroom and deposited her in the shower. Thank God for removable shower heads. Slowly I unzipped the floatation-reinforced super swimmie-suit. Bits of yesterday’s carrots and black beans spewed forth into the tub. There were at least two quarts of the nastiness.

“I see a carrot Mommy!” Phoebe actually sounded excited.

“Forget the freakin’ carrot Phoebe! “ I barked. “Why didn’t you tell Daddy you had to poop?”

“I like the pool. I didn’t want to stop swimming.”

“I understand you like to swim, but you can’t poop in the pool, honey. No. You have to take breaks.”

My grandmother is ninety-years-old. She has those old-school individual plastic flowers with suction cups on her shower floor to prevent slips. Not the mat like everyone else from the twenty-first century. No. The individual flowers with tiny suction cups collected little chunks of carrots and black beans and whatever else Phoebe had ingested over the past twenty-four hours. I removed the flowers and washed them off, replacing them carefully. I didn’t want to be responsible for my grandmother wiping out and breaking a hip in the shower because of my kid’s shit attack.

“I ‘m sorry I pooped my pants,” Phoebe offered.

“Okay. Okay.”

Then we heard someone huffing and puffing outside the bathroom door, and the sound of someone wringing out rags in the adjacent laundry room.

“Stay here,” I ordered Phoebe, who was now wrapped in a towel and standing on the bathroom floor.

I peeked out into the hallway. My aunt was cleaning up a trail of shit on the carpet that led at least twenty feet from the threshold of the bathroom door to the deck.

“Oh. No!” I exclaimed.

“Oh, yes,” she sighed.

All I’m saying is make sure they take breaks.

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