Tag Archives: potty training

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!

The United States of Poo

19 Oct

One of the many things they don’t mention in parenting books is the normal circumference of a two-year-old’s poop. Why should this matter? Well, my two-year-old, Phoebe, was laying poop pipe with the diameter of an adult-sized turd. No wonder her little bum started to bleed. It wasn’t anything drastic, just a little red smear on the toilet paper. But it was enough to make me panic. After collecting a stool sample for the doctor, an interesting task in and of itself, I was apprised of my daughter’s unusual poo girth. The temporary solution? Miralax stool softener.

The downside of a Miralax regimen for a toddler is that it often narrows the already narrow margin of error for distinguishing between the urge to fart and the urge to defecate. A few days ago, Miralax blurred this distinction for my potty-trained daughter at her most vulnerable: the haze of sleep.

The diarrhea hit her during the tail end of her nap, and she woke up while she was already in the process of polluting her pants. All I heard from her room was a violent outburst of “Oh No! I’m pooping! I can’t stop! Mommy!”

I opened the door and she was standing in the middle of the floor with butt sludge oozing out of her pants and running down her little legs. The look on her face was completely indignant. She was standing on her tip-toes and struggling to keep her balance.

“Why is this happening Mommy?”

It was so pathetic. I scooped her up hastily because I feared that if she fell, the overloaded pull-up would literally explode and send the poop soup spraying in all directions.

I made a bee-line for the tub. We needed a space with water and a drain. The smell was awful, and I recognized it as that fetid brand of dog shit that occurs when the dog eats something it shouldn’t have. I peeled off the clothes and put them in the sink. They were sopping wet. The pull-up pants were bloated and nearly bursting at the seams. When I pulled them down…well, let’s just say that Willy Wonka would have been proud.

I handed the shower head to Phoebe and instructed her to sit down while I ran to the kitchen to get some grocery bags. The shitty pull-up needed to be triple bagged and removed haz-mat style. Phoebe has never had a bowel movement so foul, and I pray she never does again. It was a diabolical combination of a black bean quesadilla and left over falafel.

When I returned with the grocery bags, Phoebe was standing in the tub directing the spray at her belly and watching the thick clumps of black bean-falafel paste make their way towards the drain. She was laughing and pointing at the clumps as casually as if she were cloud watching.

“Look Mom, that one looks like South Carolina.” I peered into the tub.

“Well what do you know,” was all I could muster between belly laughs.
It really did look just like it. Is it weird that I felt a little proud?

It’s a Crappy Job, but…

19 Oct

I take my daughter to a beautiful children’s garden in Columbia, South Carolina. It is an idyllic piece of land on a hilltop overlooking a lake. Butterflies flit about, bumblebees buzz from flower to flower, birds sing from pine trees and swoop from feeder to feeder. We love everything about the garden, except the facilities. There are two port-a-potties. Those are the facilities. The garden’s proximity to a major shopping district makes it the perfect place for my two-year-old to blow off steam after a morning of errands. The downside is that after a morning of errands and a lunch at Moe’s Tex-Mex, the toddler pipes are usually ready to dispatch something that for some reason couldn’t manifest itself in the immaculate restrooms of Target just thirty minutes before.

I’ve been frequenting the children’s garden since I was pregnant. Never in those three years have I seen the honey pot service that empties the port-a-potties. Until last week. My daughter, Phoebe, had just informed me that she had to pee and she couldn’t hold it much longer.
“Don’t worry, sweetheart. You can go in the port-a-potty here at the garden.”

As soon as I uttered, “garden,” a noisy truck rounded the bend behind us and cut across the grass to where the port-a-potties stand sentinel near some large shrubs.

“What is that Mommy?” asked Phoebe.

“Oh, no! That’s the truck that sucks the poopy and pee pee out of the toilets. If we hurry we can get to the potty and ask the nice man if we can go pee pee before he cleans it.”

Why I assumed that a man whose sole employment consists of toting around an enormous vacuum cleaner for strangers’ shit would be nice, I can’t tell you. What I can tell you is that he seemed intensely bitter about his lot in life. Phoebe and I were dashing towards the port-a-potties when his glare stopped up in our tracks.

“ ’scuse me, I need to pee pee,” my daughter offered meekly, doing the proverbial ‘gotta-go’ dance.

“Sir, we would really appreciate it if we could use the bathroom before you clean it. She’s two and, well you know how that is. I don’t know how long she can hold it.”

He looked right at me, hard lines around his eyes squinting with disapproval. The man was only three feet from us. He had to have heard us. He looked at my dancing toddler who was holding her crotch; he looked at me. He made a decision. He turned his back to us and grabbed the crap-encrusted nozzle of the shit sucker and thrust it into the first port-a-potty and planted himself between the first and second port-a-potty so no one could access either ‘facility.’

“Mommy, I really have to go.”

“I know sweetheart. Maybe it won’t take too long. Excuse me, sir? How long before we could use the toilet?” His reply was to take the hose out of one shit pot and plug it into the other, stare at me menacingly, then turn his back again to grab a bucket of chemicals from the truck which he proceeded to chuck into the first port-a-potty, presumably to disinfect its floor.

“He’s not listening to us,” Phoebe pleaded.

“No, Phoebe,” I said loudly for his benefit. “He’s not. So, you know what?” You can go right here.” I yanked her pants down while returning the glare of the disgruntled honey pot dumper. She squatted while I supported her, making a wide puddle of piss that trailed off in a winding yellow river that stopped just short of the angry man’s boot.

“Ahhhh,” said Phoebe, relieved. “You know Mommy sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Not everyone is nice.”

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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