The joy of no more poopy pants

The three pillars of parenthood are puke, poop, and pee.  Though puke is probably the most difficult to remove from random places within the house, it is encountered least often. Pee is most often encountered. Little boys can make a mess with it, even when their intentions are beyond reproach, if their marksmanship forsakes them. But pee is relatively easy to clean up, and even if you miss a spot, it will dry up and nobody will notice.

Poop is the most problematic of the unholy trinity. It occurs often enough; you know it’s there, even if you can’t see it; and though it cleans up faster than puke, it can leave you with that same sneer on your face and the same resentment in your heart.

Potty training time doesn’t bring any extra quantity of puke, unless it is your own. You are more likely to find pee and poop in places you’d rather not have it. Big Man is on the righteous path now, but just a few weeks ago, he was backsliding in a bad way. It was not pleasant.

In the beginning, Big Man embraced potty training with enthusiasm. We marveled at how easy this third child was. He took to the routine like a pro. We gave away his unused diapers. We smiled. We hugged. We high-fived. Happiness reigned throughout the land.

Then the slacking began. He made it to the potty sometimes, and sometimes he just didn’t bother to try. Some of his underwear were salvageable and some were merely blessed with the sign of the cross on their way to the outside garbage can.

“Okay, which one of you didn’t make it to the potty in time? You have to tell somebody you need to go!”

I am not one of those parents who can keep everything positive with a pat on the head and a “We’ll get ‘em next time, Champ!” I want to know why we didn’t get ‘em this time, and I frown while I’m making my inquiries: “Why didn’t you tell somebody you had to poop?” Over the years, I’ve learned I am a man who is disappointed at finding poop where it doesn’t belong under any circumstances, and I’ve yet to master hiding this disappointment.

A little frown won’t hurt the child. It may help him when he grows up into the real world. I’m sure his future employers will appreciate that he knows how to take correction. Also, they probably won’t want him carrying a load around the office in his pants. So, when I frown at him, I’m really frowning for the good of society, and pleasant smelling workplaces everywhere.

The boy tired of me making faces at him and now he is back on the straight and narrow. The world is right again. My only regret is that the casualties from his underwear drawer will never know they did not die in vain.

 

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Keep your jelly beans in perspective and your thumbs where you can find them

When we were potty training our first child we fell into the trap of offering him a toy as a reward to motivate him to use the toilet. This quickly became an untenable strategy; we are made of neither toys nor money. The boy had to learn a hard lesson about terms being subject to change without notice. It’s like when the cable company made you get a separate tuner box for each TV, advising you not to worry because you were not being charged for the extra boxes, and a few years later you find yourself paying $6/month/box. Potty training is good practice for dealing with the cable company.

Now, well into potty training the third child, we have lowered our game. This boy scored a few jelly beans or a tiny Tootsie Roll for doing the right thing. Using the potty is becoming routine for him, which means earning a candy reward for each occurrence has become unsustainable. It’s not that we’re yanking away his reward; we’re helping him realize using the potty is its own reward. If you think this is parental double talk, try pooping your pants at your next social gathering. The privilege of using a toilet beats three jelly beans any day.

Rewards should be reserved for accomplishments that are challenging. Remembering to go to the potty is no longer challenging for Big Man. It is nothing compared to the formidable challenge of keeping his thumb out of his mouth. He sucks his thumb when he’s tired or anxious. It looked like he was kicking the habit, but the stress of potty training must have made him fall off the wagon.

In the olden days, Big Brother adored his pacifier. It was a relatively easy addiction to break. The pacifier magically got lost one day. That was the end of that. I’m not sure I’m ready for Big Man to lose his thumb, so we’re working on other ideas.

Winding down with a good movie and a little snack.

The other day, he was incessantly reminding me he was due some candy for his pottying exploits. I explained that this was an obsolete reward system and then I made him a new offer. He would earn a piece of candy if he went the entire afternoon without putting his thumb in his mouth.

I didn’t think he could do it. We had to drive to pick up his brothers. The car makes him sleepy, and that’s when the thumb goes in.

He didn’t get sleepy that day. He kept himself awake the entire trip by chanting, “I want candy!” at me from his car seat of whininess. Annoying? Yes. That was an added benefit to him. Annoyance is the smallest wage I deserve for my duplicity.

He earned his candy. And then he felt free to suck his thumb. As extra tired as he was, he couldn’t stop himself. He’d missed his car nap after all.

The road to Hell is paved with Pampers

Diapers. When will I see the last of them?

I’ve got one kid still in diapers, and he doesn’t seem in any big hurry for us to move on.

The amount of money I’ve spent on diapers makes me a little sad that my boys will have to find a way to pay for college on their own. If only I’d followed my instincts and raised these kids in a barn, with a shovel and a hose, we might be able to pay for college one day. Instead, we enjoyed years of warm, dry bottoms. Who can say if we did right?

Big Man wears a size 5 diaper. He’s worn a 5 since he was about six months old. That was two years ago. I can’t bear to get him a size 6, because the kid on the size 6 box looks like he’s about eight years old. I don’t want to give Big Man any ideas about how it’s okay to just do your own thing if it feels right. It’s not okay. He’s going to have to make some tough decisions before community college slips out of reach too.

He’s not even 3 yet, so I don’t want to rush him, except I want to rush him. I’ve been buying, changing, and smelling diapers almost constantly for 8+ years. I’m ready to put them behind me, figuratively, for the few years I’ve got left before I have to start putting them behind me literally. God knows I lack the resources to afford Pampers and Depends concurrently.

"You toss him up in the air and I'll catch him in this."

“You toss him up in the air and I’ll catch him in this.” (Image: Esther Bubley, U.S. Farm Security Administration)

Big Man seems very content to remain in diapers for the foreseeable future. Once in a while, he will tease us by asking to go on the potty, but this is not an evolution so much as it is a precious chance to toy with our emotions. The only smell better than the aroma of one’s own dirty diaper is the smoky odor of burnt parental hopes. It’s a toddler thing.

My wife is not as eager to get out of the diaper trade as I am. She would start all over again with a new baby in a heartbeat. If she had her way, she would always have an infant in the house, which is the definition of insanity. She’ll keep wanting new babies while she’s playing bingo in the Sunshine Home.

I like babies too. They’re cute and nice to hold for a little while, but when it comes to owning any more of them, I’m cashed out. I’m too close to the light at the end of the diaper tunnel to turn back. I’m so close I can almost not smell it.

All I need now is for a certain little boy to get serious about earning an Associate’s Degree.

Then it’s a few good years of freedom, and off to the Sunshine Home. Unlike my wife, when I get to the Home, I’m not giving a single thought to changing another diaper, not even my own.

And the award for Parent of the Most Civilized Pooping Child goes to . . .

Since I first became a parent, I’ve been taking an informal survey on how old children are when they complete potty training.  This has been an unintentional survey; I’ve never asked parents how long it took to potty train their children. Yet, scads of parents seem to think I want to know. The word potty can’t come up in conversation without people laying out the impressive timetables of their children’s migrations to the toilet.

Due to the unwilling nature of my research, I have never recorded the results of my survey. This could have the slight potential to erode the credibility of the findings. The only result of which I am certain is that 0.00% of respondents’ children took longer to potty train than my own.

My two potty trained children became so somewhere in the three-year-old range. The remaining child seems on pace to match that timing. When it comes to deciding where to poop, I thought I had pretty normal kids. The older two, in their own time, came around to a decision I can endorse. I have high hopes the third will eventually see the wisdom in their choices. On the other hand, I can’t honestly argue that a diaper isn’t a convenient alternative when you’re on the run.

Assuming my youngest takes approximately the same time to potty train as his brothers, he represents the third strike in my beginning hypothesis that my children are normal. It will prove beyond the margin of error that they are outliers – sluggard, ne’er-do-well poopers – the slowest children ever to be potty trained.

Further research has confirmed my fears about the futures of poorly trained children like my own. Source: Delusional Parent Magazine.

Further research has confirmed my fears about the futures of poorly trained children like my own. Source: Delusional Parent Magazine.

The stats don’t lie. And the stats are backed up by random, self-reported data from proud parents that happened to come up in conversation. These facts were presented to me by confident (almost beaming) individuals, through the famously unbiased memory of parenthood, who were prescient enough to ascertain that I was conducting a survey on this exact topic. That’s pretty solid, considering I didn’t even know I was conducting this survey. How can I begin to question the validity of such information?

Having not ever encountered a single survey subject whose children were slower to evolve than mine, I am left to consider the consequences of my children’s backwardness. Will these arrested beginnings hinder their futures? I fear so. None of the survey respondents who offered updates reported that their advanced pooping children are now incarcerated. And since someone has to fill the prisons, I can only conclude it will be the slow toilet adopters, of whom my children are, statistically, the slowest.

I know you’re probably thinking how brave it is of me to publicly admit these facts about my own beloved children. But now that I’ve done it, I wonder if I should have just lied about it. I can’t do that though. I wouldn’t want to be known as the first parent to embellish his children’s toilet skills.