I Don’t Want to See Your Underwear.

Owen still needs “help” going to the bathroom. When I say “help,” I really mean company.¬† He likes to have conversations about what particular foods that he’s eaten have made their way through his body. And tell me how much he loves me. I’d really rather not be in the bathroom with him, though left to his own devices, he sometimes leaves puddles on the floor. The other day, Duncan and I listened as Owen (by himself) peed, flushed, and washed his hands (with soap) unprompted. We high-fived each other, as if to say, good job for raising an independent child! We were so proud. And then later, I sat down on the toilet¬† to realize that it was very, very wet. Oh well.

Despite Owen’s desire for company in the bathroom, he is starting to realize the connection between the bathroom and the need for privacy. When he was smaller, I would bring him in the bathroom with me to keep my eye on him, but now I try to get away completely and, you know, close the door. More often than not, I will soon hear the door handle turn, and a little face appear.

“What are you doing?”

“Go away. I want some privacy.”

“Are you peeing?”

“Yes. Go play.”

I was so glad, beyond glad, to put my body AWAY after childbirth, after breastfeeding. I was so happy to be able to keep my clothes on in public all day long. Small blessings. Owen’s interruptions seem to be the last hurdle in getting back some measure of dignity. It will come.

Meanwhile, Owen has developed odd moments of shyness. At the swimming pool last week, he insisted on putting his underwear back on when emerging from the bathroom stall, even though he was going to put his bathing suit on as soon as we got back to our locker. Then, with the bathing suit on, he covered his belly button with his hand, saying “I don’t want to show people my belly.” I had to show him that all of the boys were topless, too.

The other morning, Duncan got out of bed, wearing a T-shirt and underwear. As he was walking around, looking for some pants to put on, Owen chimed in: “Daddy! Put some pants on. I don’t want to see your underwear! You have to wear pants if you want to have breakfast.”

This is the child who runs around the house before his bath, shrieking, “I’m naked! I’m a naked boy in your bed! I’m a naked boy in the hall!” He even said goodbye to one of our friends with a naked-boy dance/hug.

In any case, I hold out some hope that for Owen, as well as for myself, the day will come when modesty will prevail.

The Story of “NO”

The idea for this post was suggested to me by my friend Alice in early October. She had noticed that in many books she was reading to her daughter, the word NO, or the denial of permission, was used as a plot device. Alice mentioned Robert Munsch’s use of “No,” NNNNno,” and “Nononononono” as a device in many of his stories.

I didn’t know what to do with this idea when she proposed it to me. I suggested that she write a guest post, but I suppose that, given that she was working full-time, AND in her third trimester with her second child, AND the mother of a busy a one-year old, she just didn’t have the time.

Anyway, I’ve been mulling over this idea ever since, and these are the musings I have come up with.

This is what one Robert Munsch story (Thomas’ Snowsuit) would look like without the word “No.”

One day, Thomas’ mother got him a nice, new, brown snowsuit. And when Thomas saw that snowsuit, he said, “That is the ugliest thing I have seen in my life.” But he put it on anyway. THE END.

See? No story at all. This is the story of my life, by the way. “Oh no! – Not the lavender store-brand running shoes with velcro fastenings from Kmart! But I have no others… so I will wear them.” THE END.

What is no, and why do toddlers make such copious use of it? No is an assertion of selfhood, right? When you’re a baby, you do whatever is done to you. You eat the food that comes at you, you wear the itchy sweater that your Auntie Matilda made for you. But when you get a bit older, you realize that there is this powerful word that makes grown-ups stop. No.

It doesn’t mean that you don’t have to wear the sweater, but it means that (if you’re lucky) the grown-ups will give you reasons to wear it. “Put this sweater on. It’s cold outside” or “Put this sweater on and smile for the camera so we can send Aunt Matilda a picture. You can take it off as soon as you’ve taken this picture. I promise.”

“NO” doesn’t mean that you don’t have to eat your broccoli, but it does mean that grown-ups may find creative ways to encourage you to eat it. They might tell you that you can be a giraffe. They might start telling you how delicious it tastes with cheese sauce. Or, if you live in my house, you might be told that it’s OK not to eat the broccoli, but if you don’t, you MIGHT get scurvy. And that would really be too bad. Because then your teeth would fall out…

What I am saying, I guess, is that the word “No” becomes the basis for an explanation, and also for a story. “No” inspires persuasion, tall tales, narratives.

Obedient children make boring characters, too. Here, for example, is the story of Peter Rabbit‘s sisters.

Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail lived with their mother under the root of a very large fir tree. One day, their mother said “I’m going out. You may play in the meadow or down the lane, but don’t go into Mr McGregor’s garden. Your father had an accident there. He was made into a pie by Mrs McGregor.”* Their mother took her basket and went to do her shopping. Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail went down the lane and gathered blackberries. When their mother returned, they had bread, and milk, and blackberries for supper. THE END.

*Now there’s a story…

Peter Rabbit doesn’t say “No” to his mother, but his disobedience is a willful negation of his mother’s wishes. His disobedience is the story. Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail’s story might be the moral, but it isn’t interesting. Readers might want to be the good sisters, eating their delicious meal at the end of the day, but they don’t want to read about them.

Many parents (including myself) would doubtless like to shut down the “No” emerging from their children’s mouths. We’d love to have angelic faces beaming, with “Yes” emerging from cherubic lips. But that wouldn’t be very interesting, would it? And there would be precious few stories to share.

Syndicated on BlogHer.com