Potty Mouth

My two-and -a-half year old son can be as stubborn as a wizened mule. These may seem like harsh words, but they are also entirely accurate. He began his stubbornness while yet in the womb. He insisted on performing uterine pilates while my pregnant wife tried to sleep. Somewhere between the first and twelfth hour of labor, the nurse kneaded Miranda's belly in order to turn the unborn child into the right position. "I hope that he isn't this stubborn and difficult after he's born," she said to us in the sympathetic tone that only those who handle discharged placenta for a living have. Well, our little bundle of joy was born and he was stubborn and he was difficult.

He cried for months on end, unhappy with my wife's consumption of first dairy, then wheat, then soy, then anything that either grew in, on top of, or within 10 feet of the ground. He refused to sleep at night, or take naps in the day, unless he was snuggled warm in the arms of at least one of his zombie parents. He made his skin break out when we used slightly cheaper laundry detergent or a brand of cologne that he didn't like. He peed on us 4 out of 5 times when we changed his diaper, and all with that silly baby smirk on his face. This was only a trickling preview of things that would come. Oh yes, Zachary was king and things would be his way or the highway.

Zachary eventually grew up to be a stubborn little toddler. Miranda and I were so worried when he started walking later than some other kids. He just needed a bit more time. His second birthday rolled around and he still wasn't talking. We gained exorbitant library fees on books teaching how to help late talkers. In the midst of this worry, Zachary quite literally, woke up one morning and placed his order for breakfast. He knew how to speak all along, but just didn't want us to think that we were doing a good job as parents. Zachary has always been a picky eater, but he is the worst kind of picky eater-- one with a gag reflex. We would try to feed him mashed sweet peas or, later on, some casserole or pasta. All were met with similar resistance in the form of two tightly sealed lips that turned white in defiance. His first word was "No" which my wife originally thought was just precious. After approaching the billion "no" mark, it is far from cute. His next favorite phrase was "I want ______!" filling in the blank with whatever his majesty's current request may be. It was later, and is currently shortened to include only the object of the demand. "Tissue!" "Cookie!" "Better Homes and Gardens!"

Here we are, present day, living with our loveable son who is the Ike to mine and Miranda's Tina Turner. With the New Year and all of the eventually failed resolutions that come with the joyous celebration, we thought it was a wonderful time to potty train Zachary. The expense of buying two sizes of diapers as well as the gag-inducing stench of Zachary's adult poo were also contributing factors. We began by picking a date. Saturday the 10th would be the big day. For an entire week, we pumped Zachary up about the great experience in which he was about to embark. For the most part, he seemed excited, looking at his potty seat and briefly trying on his cartoonish underpants. Meanwhile, Miranda and I haphazardly searched through the resources that we had available on the subject. I skimmed through a potty training DVD sponsored by Pull-Ups while Miranda searched Wikipedia. We had prizes and a little sticker chart to mark off his successes. We had the bathroom set up with his potty needs and had a line of diuretic snacks at his disposal for the big morning. On Friday night, I had him kiss the last diaper he would ever wear. He did so, and then laughed uncontrollably for seven minutes. Only he knew what would come.

Skip ahead to Saturday, circa 3 in the afternoon. "We don't pee on Wall-E, Zachary. You've already peed on Nemo, Mr. Incredible, and Lightning McQueen. Lightning McQueen, Zachary! What did he ever do to you! Please, don't pee on Wall-E." I was pulling Zach's eighth pair of pants on for the day just in time to see the loveable robot cry his yellow tears. We were taking him to the potty every fifteen minutes, figuring that fifteen minutes on and fifteen off would give us a fifty percent success rate. Zachary was never one to go with the odds. The incentives we offered him became null and void once the first present given him for going to the potty a few times in a row turned out to be a cheap dollar-store toy. "Maybe I shouldn't get him that stuff, like, on a regular basis so he will appreciate smaller things more," my wife declares. I dumped the next set of soiled garments in the plastic "pee" sack and headed downstairs. Miranda and I then frantically researched the subject. We talked to neighbors who recently performed the apparent miracle. I had man-to-man discussions with Zachary where the emotions I broadcasted wavered between sadness, grief, blinding anger, understanding, belittling, and acceptance. I knew those AA meetings would pay off. Miranda found a website from someone who makes a living teaching children how to go to the bathroom. She is called "The Potty Whisperer" which is a name where, even now just typing it, makes me throw up a little in the back of my throat. Urine enthusiast Al Roker vouches for her. Her fee is $600 for a one-day session.

As I contemplated the triviality of the pee soaked clothing I gathered, in the back of my mind was the realization that the dreaded deuce was on the way which made the $600 dollars not only seem reasonable, but a necessary expenditure. "Will she fly out here? I'll pay her well to fly out here. Very well." Every rumbling in Zach's tummy made me grab him like a fumbled football and rush him to the toilet. The poo would not come, but on the rare occasion where he did actually pee into the potty, he would comment how "It looks like a straw." My nerves eventually got the best of me, and I decided I would have Zachary sit on the pot until said excrement was successfully expelled. I informed Zachary of this, and all of the sudden, he began speaking in tongues. He sang nonsense in a metered, lyrical format and swung his legs around as if he were on a ski lift in Aspen. It was like the Day of Pentecost in there, only I would rather refer to it as the Day of Pottycost. He rambled and mumbled and there was a lot of swaying. It was a war of attrition, and both of us were determined to win. Zach of course had the upper hand and eventually would win as he had really nothing else to do with his time. He picked up a magazine, Better Home and Gardens, of course, and waited.

The day ended and I tried to scrub the foul waste products off of my body in a shower not of the golden variety. Sunday rolled around and accident after "accident" Zachary stood his ground while sitting on the potty. Sunday night came and Zachary informed me that he wanted to be a baby. I told him that I was sorry that he had made that decision. I listed off the myriad of big boy things that he would miss out on in reverting to a baby. He would not get to watch TV during the day, or play the Wii at night. He would not be able to get dressed by himself or play with a lot of his big boy toys. I went on for a while, and Zachary took it in with his eyes aimed upwards in serious reflection. After much consideration, he made the decision that, yes, he wanted to still be a baby.

I put him to bed without his usual song, pirate story, and subsequent song. Usually, a deviation in the routine would cause him to have a fit that would make people less familiar with him assume he was possessed of some evil spirit. But, that night, he was ok with it. He lay silently in bed as I walked out of his room. The next morning came and I was determined to use all the information that I learned from the painfully required "Family Studies" course I took in college to use child psychology against him. We got up and I carried him downstairs for breakfast. I handed him his milk, but in one of Isaac's bottles. I then got out his breakfast of stewed carrots. He looked at it with some confusion as it was not the sugary cereal he usually demanded with "Tootie Fruities!" every morning. "Babies don't get to eat big boy food. This is what baby's have for breakfast," I informed him. I placed a bib under his somewhat confused expression and then dug in. Remember that gag reflex. Well, Zachary hadn't eaten any vegetable in mashed form since he was old enough to have a taste bud. When we did give him baby food, it was always bananas and vanilla custard-- customized for the future or currently obese baby. So I knew that these carrots were going to be met with absolute disgust.

And they were, in a way. The first bite slipped between his previously pursed lips and his mouth curled back at both ends. His eyes batted and his entire body quivered. He mustered a swallow, and then opened his mouth for more. With the second spoonful, he recoiled slightly, opened his eyes wide, and sat up straight in his high chair. One more gulp, and the audacious mouth opened again. Bite after bite, Zachary swallowed his carrots, but never, no never, his pride. He was determined to refuse all of the fun, exciting big boy things as well as even his own natural reflexes in order to meet his insatiable desire to remain a baby. Upon asking if he liked the taste of the carrots, Zachary swallowed hard and shook off the look of fatigue in his face like a highly-trained spy under some brutal Eastern European interrogation techniques. Through his panting, he looked straight ahead and said "Yes" and opened up for another bite of assured youth.

In many ways, I can't say that I blame him. We have all seen Peter Pan and we have all not been able to get the Toys R' Us song out of our heads. Who wants to grow up when there are literally a million toys that I can play with? With the economy the way it is and the responsibility that Zachary and his generation will have to both take care of us and maintain their own unlikely survival, maybe Zachary had it right all along. The freedom of infancy means that all we have to worry about is when Mommy will come by with more milk for me. Everything is new and shiny and waiting to be discovered. And the best part of all, you can be with your family and friends and know, really know, that if you happen to poo in your pants right in front of them all, they will laugh it off and help you get some clean clothes.


Marsha said...

Wow -- "Potty Training play by play" -- very entertaining. This is painful to observe, Cameron! How is he doing? Any better? Worse? Let me know.

Rob & Michelle Eberly Family said...

Wow . . .way to give me something to look forward to.