Note: This was originally written nearly two years ago for Toddler Talk, but was eventually not used because it was deemed too poop-filled by my editor (and rightly so lol). I’d forgotten about it, but found it recently while clearing out my old laptop and decided to share. Thinking of writing a follow up piece on post-potty training woes too, hence the part 1 🙂
Nothing prepares you for how poop-centric (and to a lesser degree, pee-centric) your life becomes when you have young children. There are the jokes about changing stinky diapers and all of that, but nobody ever tells you how much time and energy you will spend thinking about and worrying about and, yes, analysing poop once you have a kid. (If you’re already grossed out at this point, you may want to consider not reading further).
It begins, of course, with that mythical first-poop, the meconium, which all the parenting and birthing books prepare you for in such excruciating detail. Then once the breastfeeding begins, you constantly worry – is my baby peeing enough? Is he pooping enough? Because, since god didn’t see fit to make our breasts transparent and marked neatly in ounces and ml, you never really ever know for sure that baby is getting enough. The only indicators for the anxious breastfeeding mom? Weight gain, poop and pee. And since you can only weigh baby during doctor visits, guess what you have to go on every day? That’s right. Poop and pee.
Then the solid food adventures begin. The first time you see orange poop or black spotted poop or green poop, you have a minor cardiac event. Then you recall – oh yeah, baby had carrot or raisins or spinach the previous day. My daughter made life even more interesting for us. She pooped ridiculous quantities while being breastfed, to the point that I was panicking and taking her to every paediatrician in the city. Then once she was on solids and formula, she decided to swing the other way and not go at all for days. So in our household, every day with a normal motion for baby is a day for celebration. Grandparents anxiously enquire about it over Skype. Daddy calls from office to get an update. It’s big, big news.
But nothing is bigger than the Potty Training travails. Beginning roughly from one-and-a-half until whenever your child sees fit to poop in the potty, your life centres around this major (non) event of the day – going (or not) in the potty. There’s a reason why there are a number of books (“Bear goes potty”), videos (“Dora teaches potty training”) and more on the subject in the market. This is a Sisyphean task. The funniest products would have to be the peeing dolls (they don’t have – at least I think they don’t – pooping dolls because, presumably, of the grossness factor). These little dollies usually come with their own potty and all you need to do is, er, supply the water (yes, I studied them in detail at the toy store, and yes, I considered buying one. Don’t judge me). No, actually, scratch that. The funniest product would have to be the singing potty I found in one store. I couldn’t find any button to make said potty sing, and asked the bored-looking salesman why. He perked up as he explained to me that the potty only sang when it was peed or pooped on. He turned it over and showed me the little music box at the bottom, with a sensor. “See? When susu falls on it, music will come,” he said enthusiastically. “We were (indicating the other staff) also confused at first.” I admired the mechanism and thanked him for his help, and tried very hard not to think about how exactly they solved the mystery…
Of course, all these products are merely props. The hard work is done by the parents who sit with the child every day, trying to make using the potty seem like so, so much fun. There are kaka-susu songs. There are sound-effects. There are games and stories. Usually all of this descends first into wheedling (“please kanna, will you just try sitting on the potty?”) and then into frustration. That’s when it’s usually time to put the potty away for the day. There’s always tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that…
(When you’re all out of ideas, you can even try letting your child watch you when you visit the little girl’s or boy’s room. It serves to set an example, say the experts, and let’s face it, privacy in the john is a thing of the past once you have kids anyway. For the record, my daughter enjoyed the experience immensely and provided running commentary the whole time. I’ll spare you the details.)
It took me weeks to get my kid to even sit on her jungle-animal themed potty for more than 10 seconds at a time. Then, unfortunately, it became clear that I’d succeeded too well in making it fun, because she started treating it like a chair to sit and play on (and stand on. And jump on. And throw toys into). Then she’d carefully stand up and move away a few inches before doing her business. It was months before there was actually any, er, contact between potty and said business. Even then, it was mostly accidental. I still celebrated like I’d won the lottery.
The day we have our final breakthrough, we’ll probably throw a party. Watch this space, because you’re all invited.