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Posts Tagged ‘toilet training’

A long time ago, when Mr Justice was still an only child, I remember having two thoughts in quick succession, completely independent of each other with ne’er a connection between the two.

The first thought was: “I should let Mr Justice have some nappy-free time before his bath.”

The second thought was: “Mr Justice hasn’t done a poo today.”

(I think we all know where this is heading. Yes, hindsight is a fine thing, indeed.)

So there I was, doing the dishes, when Mr Justice came crawling into the kitchen, a look of abject horror on his face. He stopped at my feet and, Lady Macbeth-style, stretched out his hands as if to say “All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!“.

And it still wasn’t until I looked behind him at the long trail of brown sludge the length of the (carpeted) hall that I finally connected those two thoughts o’ mine. Yes, the penny had finally dropped – except it wasn’t really a penny, it was about half a kilo of baby shit.

This was the story I wasn’t allowed to tell my already deeply-traumatised husband the other day when he showed me photographic evidence of a floor-poo Tiddles McGee had laid while I was out at the shops.

“Uh, it’s a photo of a turd,” I said, non-plussed. “So what?”

“I don’t think you understand! He’d got some in his trousers and everything!” my husband exclaimed. He then went on to describe how it had taken three scoops to get the poo into the toilet and how he’d had to scrub shit off the trousers. Yes, scrub shit off the trousers.

He was far too agitated by the whole shocking experience to notice that my thumb and forefinger had started playing the world’s smallest violin for him. After all, in my time I’ve regularly dealt with far worse and he is a man who makes no secret of his belief that he will die if he touches the shit of a child not of his loins.

“You should use the photo in your blog,” he urged. “Go on.”

“And let my blog become a scatalogical fetish site? No thank you,” I said. “Anyway, most of my readers don’t need to see poo. It’s like showing a classical musician what a treble clef looks like. Or a potter some clay. Some very brown, squidgy, squelchy, lover-ly warm clay.”

And with that, my husband scurried away, all but delicately pressing a lavender-scented handkerchief to his mouth.

Lightweight.

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We’ve all done it. We’ve all bought heavily-trademarked and unfeasibly expensive underpants for our toilet-training children, partly to entice them into wearing underpants in the first place, but mostly in the hope they will take all possible measures to avoid pissing on the face of Buzz Lightyear or Ben 10 or The Little Mermaid or Dora the Explorer or whoever it is they’ve chosen to champion on the front of their grundies. 

Of course, whenever the child is wearing these special undies, an accident of the Worst Kind is sure to happen and Buzz/Ben/Ariel/Dora end up eating shit. And then, rather than flushing the whole lot down the toilet like we want to, we end up scrubbing faecal matter off said underpants in a public toilet block, because our child doesn’t want us to throw Buzz/Ben/Ariel/Dora into the bin and is expressing this through the subtle art of screaming their head off.

I don’t know why we do this when it’s a strategy that fails us every single time. And, of course by “us”, I’m meaning “me”. 

Recently, I found Tiddles McGee crying in my friend Madame Zap’s courtyard, having had such an accident in his favourite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles underpants. Unfortunately for Tiddles, there’d also been a small section of ‘output’ that had slid down his leg into his shoes – I call these rogue bits of shit “Travellers”. Also unfortunately for Tiddles, he’s got his father’s egg-shell constitution and was dry-retching at the sight of his Traveller. 

Oh fuck, NO! Not the trifecta! I thought and immediately prioritised cleaning up the damage in his direct line of sight. I worked quickly and efficiently – even, some might say, cheerfully. Well, as cheerfully as anyone can work when they’re in the direct line of fire of their three-year-old’s gag reflex.

When I returned inside the house, of course, I found my friend Madame Zap in the midst of clearing out her baby’s bouncer chair because he’d filled it with a voluminous milk-based vomit. And so it came to pass that the trifecta had been achieved after all…

Now, I was going to blog about the achievement of the trifecta a couple of weeks ago during my Bloggies campaign and I made the mistake of mentioning it to my husband. He was appalled. “You can’t blog about that! You’ll scare people off.” 

“Phooey!” I exclaimed. “We all shit! Even Bloggies tourists shit!”

“Yes, and we’ve all taken part in a line dance at some point in our lives but it doesn’t mean we want to talk about it,” was his response.

He raised a fair point: I put the post on ice. And by the time I got around to looking at it again a few days ago, I realised that so much had changed. For one thing, Tiddles McGee was one week into being in underpants twenty-four hours a day and was hitting his target (i.e. the toilet) Every. Single. Time.

“Could this be the last of my wee and poo stories?” I wondered to myself. “Is this the end of an era, of seven and a half long years of hard slog, wiping arses and stepping in surprise puddles?”

CUT TO: the afternoon of that very same day. I was at the museum where one of the (many) children I was in charge of suddenly got a funny expression on his face and said “Oh! I didn’t know I had to do a poo!” and I found myself back in the toilets scrubbing shit. Just like that. As I did it, I recalled my husband’s claim that “If you touch the shit of someone else’s child, you will die” and at that particular moment, I thought, he wasn’t far wrong.

Moreover, later that day, I found out that my fashionista friend had been sitting in the front row of David Jones’ fashion week chatting to my fellow Bloggies nominee Mia Freedman quite possibly at the very same moment I was hanging a sopping wet pair of Ben 10 undies on my pram handle, like some kind of white flag signaling my complete and utter defeat. Shee-ittt.

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In my own experience, I’ve found the term “toilet-training” to be a bit of a misnomer (see “The NDM Guide To Toilet Training“). Training a child to use the toilet is like trying to train a cat to sit: the cat will sit when and where it damn well pleases. Same with kids and their piss and shit. To put it politely. 

So far, my toilet “training” with Tiddles goes something like this: I cheerfully suggest that Tiddles wear underpants only to have him start wailing as if the mere mention of the word “underpants” is a deep personal affront. I’ll then try to bribe him with the promise of treats but will be extremely lucky if he wears those damn pants for more than ten minutes before appearing before me, naked from the waist down and sobbing “WHERE ARE MY UNDERPANTS?” as if he himself had nothing to do with their removal. Of course, while I’m searching high and low for said underpants, he’ll suddenly cheer up and follow me around saying “Willy-WILLY!” in a sing-song voice and shaking his penis ’round and ’round like it had a tassle on it, until finally, he’ll slip over in a puddle of his own creation right next to the potty, inside which I’ll finally find the underpants stowed safely away. 

It’s not going well. 

You might be wondering, as many of my friends have, why I would even embark upon such a perilous journey with Christmas looming so ominously ahead. After all, many a PhD has been written about the lasting psychological scars inflicted upon older siblings who made a rush for the “mars bar” Santa had left under the tree, just next to where he’d spilt his “brandy”. 

But listen, this is not so much a journey that I’m undertaking here with Mr McGee: it’s more an occasional day-trip. I take us on one of these day trips when the pressure to have him “trained” gets too much. Like when I realise there are less than seven weeks to go until he starts kindergarten. Or when there have been one too many children in the neighbourhood younger than Tiddles making their debut appearance in underpants. Or I’ve heard one too many remarks along the lines of “Oh, he’s still in nappies, is he?” –  to which I usually reply something like “Oh, we all are! Who’s got time to go to the toilet?” and laugh ha-ha-ha-ha-ha but cry on the inside because nobody’s ever going to give me a plastic trophy with a sticker saying WORLD’S BEST TOILET TRAINER on it. 

Of course, the seasoned mum-of-three in me knows that it’s not a competition. That if it’s not going well, it’s because he’s not ready. That today might not be an Underpants Day but maybe, just maybe, tomorrow will be… Possibly not for my husband, however. But that, my friends, is a whole other story.

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Every mother has to draw a line somewhere. For me, it’s drawn at sewing costumes for the ballet concert. Oh, don’t get me wrong: I’m happy to bake for the kindergarten stall and dress up for the School Bush Dance and even refrain from telling fart jokes to the Principal. But when it comes to becoming a one-woman sweat-shop chucking an all-nighter to hand-sew sequins on bow-ties? The. Line. Is. Drawn.

Of course, the fact that I can’t sew for shit is neither here nor there.

Anyway, for this year’s concert, I outsourced all sewing to my own mother with the thought that the worst of it had been dealt with. Now, I’d just have to show up on the night of the concert, sit back and enjoy the show, right?

Wrong.

Last week, I received a list of ‘costume extras’ in the dance school newsletter that has made me think of those ‘Scavenger Hunts’ I used to go on at university. Except I have to provide my own alcohol. The hardest item on the list to find, it turns out, is the “flesh-coloured underpants”. For a five year old. Because so many five year olds wear sheer clothing.

“Oh, NDM,” I can hear certain people say. “You can buy flesh-coloured underwear for pre-tweens at any specialty dance shop.”

Sure! As long as you don’t live in an area where the closest thing to a “specialty shop” is a Kebab House where you can choose between three different kinds of sauce on your lamb doner. Get a grip, people!

In any case, someone told me I could buy them at Target. But when I went there on a mercy dash the morning of the first dress rehersal with Tiddles McGee in tow, I couldn’t find anything remotely ‘flesh-coloured’, except, perhaps, if I were to paint my daughter hot pink.

After several agonising minutes, I settled on a shade of pink that might pass for ‘slightly sunburnt’ or ‘blushing with rage’ and Tiddles and I ran to the checkout (as fast as you can when you have to negotiate five aisles of toys in your path). And of course, because I was in such a hurry, the pair I’d selected was without that all important price-tag so a call had to be made to ‘Sonya’ in Children’s Wear for a price check.

Tiddles and I stood and waited. And waited. And then waited some more.

Then Tiddles McGee started tugging at the front of his shorts and in one of those cold flashes of memory, I realised I’d put him in underpants that morning, as part of me paying lipservice to the toilet training process now that he is three.

“Hang on, Tiddles,” I told him as we waited. And waited.

Finally it emerges that ‘Sonya’ is not rostered on today and another call for a price check is made, this time to ‘Rayleen’ in Children’s Wear. After a few more minutes of waiting (me) and tugging (Tiddles), “Rayleen” turned up… to take the underpants I wanted to buy all the way back to Children’s Wear to find the price. It was by this point I suspected it might have been quicker for me to have filled in a Target job application form, gotten interviewed and hired, done the price check myself and then handed in my resignation. Sheesh!

In the meantime, Tiddles was growing incredibly uncomfortable. “I think he’s about to blow!” I remarked to the checkout lady, wondering if I should ask her to call in a mop-up team as a pre-emptive measure.

“You know, we do have toilets in the store, ” the lady replied. “They’re in the far corner of the store, just next to Children’s Wear.”

At which point, I was almost tempted to piss on the floor myself in utter rage, except that ‘Rayleen’ finally turned up and I was able to pay for the underpants and, scooping up Tiddles McGee, run to the nearest toilets that weren’t the ones next to Children’s Wear, which would have just made me feel like a dog returning to its own vomit.

Luckily, Tiddles made it. Not so for the underpants I’d purchased, which were deemed by the Powers That Be to be “too pink”. And two days later, I ended up driving three suburbs away to a specialty shop where I paid a small fortune for a pair of knickers my daughter will probably only wear once while dancing to the beat of her own internal drum at the back of a crowded stage.

Now all I need is for someone to ask me to stay up the night before the concert hand-sewing sequins on said underpants and my happiness will be complete.

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The other night, as I was cooking dinner, two alternate scenes kept flashing through my head.

In the first scene, Mr Justice’s little face was all lit up and he was saying “Gee, mummy. This is the bestest meal ever!” while the other children clapped and cheered enthusiastically in the background, all three dinner plates were licked absolutely and utterly clean, and somebody somewhere voted me The World’s Greatest Mum and I got my photo in the paper and everything. 

And in the second scene, Mr Justice was holding his throat and dry-retching, Tiddles was spitting his food into my hand and The Pixie was exclaiming “This is bisgusting!” without even tasting it, while I stood by and prepared to scrape the whole damn lot into the bin and sob myself to sleep face down in my pillow. 

You see, I knew from experience that whenever I try to make something new for dinner and/or attempted to hide vegetable matter in it (like some kind of vegetable-hiding married-to-a-celebrity fool – see “Like Mushrooms for Chocolate“), I always do it hoping for the Best (Scene 1) but thoroughly expecting the Worst (Scene 2). And let’s just say a whole lot of food, untouched by even my children’s forks let alone their lips, gets scraped into the bin.

And, yet, I still persist in trying to extend and challenge my children’s palate. Which is an admirable pursuit, but perhaps not the wisest one on this particularly day I’m talking about, which had seen me almost pushed into the Yawning Abyss of Parental Madness as it was. 

Anyone who has toilet trained a child will know that there are Bad Toilet Days. Even with ostensibly “trained” children, there are still Bad Toilet Days (I shudder to think how many more years I will have to endure those days). And sometimes, like groups of women who know each other really well synchronise their monthly cycles, my children manage to have their Bad Toilet Days on the same day just to give Mummy a Very Special Treat Indeed. 

Tiddles McGee, who is in the initial stages of toilet-training, is having a Bad Toilet Month and has taken to leaving little puddles of piss all around the house all day long. He’s worked out that he’s supposed to pull his training pants down before he pisses, but not yet that he should only pull them down and piss into the toilet and not wherever he happens to be standing at the time. His hot spots, on this particular day, included my favourite cardigan and my husband’s pillow (shhhh don’t tell). And he also made two little “deposits” – thankfully outside – that made Mr Justice shout at him “Tomorrow in class I’m going to have to choose the angry face on the mood chart because I’m angry about all this poo!”. He’s not going to be alone in that, I thought to myself, as I hosed down the pavement in yet another illegal-use-of-a-hose-during-Stage-4A-water-restrictions incident (again, shhhh don’t tell).

The Pixie, in the meantime, suddenly announced she had “done a big fart”. Which was an upbeat way of labeling one of those things in life I really wished had been all hot air and no substance. And so I got to scrub some underpants as well – but hasten to add that the hose wasn’t involved this time, however much I’d wanted to blast them clean with a jet of water from a safe distance. 

And finally, just to top things off, Mr Justice – who has claimed that the Snuffleupagus of spiders is living in the toilet and only comes out when he’s there alone – wanted me to stand in the very confined spaces of the toilet with him while he did his evening ablution. And whatsmore, he wanted me to look at him while he was doing it. Let’s just say it didn’t sit well with me for a whole host of reasons, although, ostensibly he was the one doing the sitting. It’s also hard to smile encouragingly at your child when you’re dry-retching. 

And so, it wasn’t really the best day to go experimenting with new recipes (and ones containing mushrooms at that) but I found that I really truly needed a Big Win in the kitchen to salvage the day – and serving up plain mince along plain pasta just wasn’t going to cut it. So I took the risk. And I’ll be damned if the three of them didn’t scoff the lot down and that Mr Justice really did proclaim it the Bestest Meal Ever and I was saved from falling into that Abyss, yet again. Even the fact that all that food would ultimately turn into poo and wee and I would get to dance the whole merry jig again the next day didn’t bother me one jot. Because at that moment – and that moment alone – I truly was the Word’s Greatest Mum. Quick! Someone take a photo!

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Having touched lightly on this delightful subject in a previous post (see “Poo-tential“), it struck me the other day while I was scrubbing skid marks off the children’s underpants how there was so much more to say about the art of Toilet Training. To help guide you through this veritable minefield, where at any moment a chocolate bomb might go off in your face, here are some random musings straight from the desk of the Not Drowning Mother. 

“Denial is a river of piss in your son’s pants”
Let’s be honest here: the male of the species is in deep denial when it comes to the fullness of their bladder. There is some fundamental break-down in communication between their brains and their nether-regions, which, early on in life, leads to what I affectionately refer to as “piss-pants” and, later in life, leads to embarrassing text-message scandals in the tabloid press. 

To this day, I’ll often find Mr Justice standing in the most awkward way, clutching his penis and sticking his bum right out like a baboon on heat. It always begs the question: “Do you need to go to the toilet?”

And yet the answer is always an emphatic “No”, shortly followed by the sudden – but not surprising – appearance of the Wet Patch of Shame (although, as a mother of two boys, I know there will one day be other kinds of wet patches for me to deal with, but thankfully I’m not there yet and I’m sure both my boys will be praying I’m not blogging anymore when I am). 

And then when he does make it to the toilet in time, the phrase “to paint the town yellow” springs to mind. As recently as yesterday, he said to me “I’m sorry but I did a wee in the bin by mistake.” The bin. Which is in the kitchen and nowhere near the toilet. And people wonder why I’ve aged so much these last six years. 

Beware the Camel
In stark contrast, The Pixie has superior bladder control which has earned her the nickname of “The Camel” in these parts. That girl can go from 5pm one night through to 10:30am the following morning without conceding a single drop of urine – and as someone on the other side of three pregnancies from my little girl, she completely blows me out of the water I’m invariably sitting in. However, just when you come to rely on the exceptional urine-retaining talents of The Camel, she’s still prone to play the “I’ve got to go to the toy-ah-lettttttt” card at the most inconvenient moments. And in her case, when she’s got to go, she’s really got to go, floodgates opening and all, so you’d better move damn fast. 

Night-time dilemmas
The overnight nappy presents a parent with a double-edged sword: on one side, the longer you use the night nappy on a child who emits a steady stream of piss throughout the night, the more sleep you will get; on the other side, you run the risk of one day still trying to shoehorn a 18 year old into a pull-up with Bambi on it. 

I’ve heard tell of little electric mats that you can buy or hire which, the minute a drop of urine hits it, sets off an alarm to wake the child and remind them to go to the toilet. I don’t know why, but it doesn’t sit well with me. Perhaps it’s the combination of liquid, electricity and my child’s bed and its strong overtones of electroconvulsive shock therapy that does it. There must be another way. But before you start offering me advice, read the next section. 

Be careful who you give toilet training advice to
Having had an easy-breezy time toilet training one of my children and an excruciating time with the other (Tiddles is only just starting to form a relationship with the potty, and so it’s too early to call), I can appreciate why some people might like to give “useful” advice like “Just put them in underpants, it will sort itself out”. These casual advice-givers obviously had the easy-breezy experience where the moment they chose to toilet-train was at precisely the moment the child was ready, the stars were all in alignment and someone was mooning Uranus (or some-such).  

In my checkered history as a toilet trainer of ill-repute, I’ve been driven to posting on online parenting forums where I’ve swapped horror stories with other mothers experiencing the Extreme Sports end of Toilet Training. 

One poster helpfully interrupted our merry banter with some unsolicited advice about “Early Elimination Control” – where you’re supposed to start waving your baby’s bum over a potty the moment they’re born and you never EVER let them sit in their own excrement for even a nano-second, even if it means pulling over by the side of the road and changing them IMMEDIATELY.

And how old was her little one and did she have any other children? one other poster asked sweetly, no doubt sharpening her claws in readiness to pounce. 

The answer? Eight months old. And yes, the baby was her first. 

What ensued can only be described as internet forum carnage. The lesson in all that: you just don’t mess with mothers at the Extreme Sports end of toilet-training. You’ll get the shit kicked out of you.

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