Well, It Works for Dogs…

So: Owen’s potty trained. And yes, this post will be primarily about poop so if you’re squeamish, please click away and come back another time.

The boy has been wearing underpants for about 3 weeks now (daytime, nighttime, home and daycare).  We’ve had 4 accidents, I think, so all in all, I’m pretty pleased. I thought he would be a lot leakier (which is why I kept the padding on his bum for so long, I guess). Once he decided that he was “wearing underpants today,” he basically had it figured out.

The only difficulty we’ve encountered is leaving the house when we know there is a poop somewhere inside the boy. Owen doesn’t have the ability to “hold it” yet, so when something is coming, there had better be a receptacle nearby.

Two weeks ago, Owen and I biked to a park. While on the see saw, he turned to me: “Ihavetogopotty!”We were in the middle of nowhere (residential nowhere – I guess you could knock on someone’s door and beg a toilet for a toddler, but I don’t have it in me). I led Owen over to the bushes and pulled down his pants. He tried, failed. We biked toward home. Rather than actually go home, though, where a bathroom would be available, I decided that we would enjoy the (beautiful! sunny!) day by going to another park. There is a bathroom near that one, I reasoned. I had not realized that the bathroom I was thinking of was not always open. Again, the look of panic: “Ihavetogopotty!” This time, he changed his mind right away when he realized there was no bathroom. “I was just joking, Mummy.” We went home. No poop materialized. After nap, we went to our new neighbourhood to explore. We ended up in another park. This time, he was really serious. “Ihavetogopotty!” Once more, we were without resources, and this time, having held it all day, it was coming whether we liked it or not. I guided him over to the side of the playground and helped him to squat. There it came. We picked up the poop in a plastic bag and put it in the trash. Gross, right? But what else were we supposed to do? We did the same thing last week because we were at the park after the bathrooms close (at 5pm!).

When went to the beach, I brought his little green potty along. I figured that potty training is not the time to tell your child he can pee in the lake, or river, or whatever.

So, I ask you, parents who have potty trained: What are we supposed to do? If dogs can poop on the ground, can toddlers? What are the rules of the potty-trained toddler game? Do you travel with potties? Do you whisk children off to bushes? Do you tote extra plastic bags? Do tell.

Jesus uses the Potty: A Christmas Story

Last week, Owen and I built our first snowman of the year. The snow was powdery and impossible to pack together, but we made a little mound and then another one, and found some wood chips and branches for the eyes, nose, and arms. When we were finished (or so I thought), Owen said, “But the snowman need a penis for pee-pee in the potty.” Of course he does. So I (ever encouraging potty training) obligingly supplied a small twig in an appropriate location. We made this wee (wee-wee) snow man at the park… I kind of hope no one looked too closely.

When I was a teenager, and well into my adulthood, my family attended the candlelight Christmas eve service at a Presbyterian church in Rockburn. We weren’t Presbyterian (and we dropped into church one day a year), but it’s the prettiest church around, and I think it’s the closest one to my parents’ house. Because it’s situated in a rural area and because of generally dwindling attendance, this church always had a hard time finding ministers. One year, there was no minister at all, and the congregation had decided to put on the Christmas Eve service themselves. Children were sent up to the altar to read heartwarming poems they’d written about the magic of Christmas. Adolescents and adults read about the Nativity. The choir is always wonderful, so we heard solos and duets, and then joined in for the choruses. We held our candles and sang “Silent Night.” The most “creative” part of the service was a reenactment of “Mary and Joseph: The Untold Story.” Two parishioners went to the front of the church and, acting as Mary and Joseph, proceeded to have an argument about which one of them was going to change Jesus’ diaper. I think they were trying to humanize the holy couple, but the whole thing left me kind of aghast.

Anyway, at some point before Christmas, in an attempt to show Owen that the holiday was not simply about Santa Claus and presents, I told him the story of Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay for the night so Mary could have her baby. It’s a beautiful story – I’d forgotten how human it is. A pregnant mother seeking lodging must finally accept shelter in a barn with animals. Mary (and Jesus) are so vulnerable in this account, and I guess the presence of the animals have appealed to children through the ages. After I told him this story, and throughout the Christmas season, Owen would every now and then ask me to draw baby Jesus, or make baby Jesus out of play-dough. Tonight, I was tired, so I explained to Owen how I made baby Jesus out of play-dough. We made a round head, a longer body, and then a blanket (the swaddling clothes). But Owen, toddler that he is, soon took off Jesus’s blanket and held him over one of the empty play-dough containers.

“I have to take off baby Jesus’ blanket.”

“Why do you have to do that, Owen?”

“I want baby Jesus to go potty,” he said.

Of course you do.

When asked whether he himself would like to go, the reply was a breezy “Not yet. After supper.” Meanwhile, he peed (and pooped) in his diaper.

(I’ll just let you guess what I was thinking).

[Insert Expletive Here]

[Look away if excrement is not your thing]

So… it was bound to happen. Once. But two out-of-diaper poop incidents in one week? Not likely, right? And yet, Thursday night, the night Duncan teaches late and I am alone, after Owen’s bath, was much worse. I gathered the clean boy up in a towel, showed him in the mirror how cute he is (as we do), and carried him into his room. After drying him off with the towel, I put him onto a clean diaper, hauled up his legs, and… well, there was poop there. I thought he had just started, so I tried to get the diaper on so he could do his business. Except then (slowly… think every 45 seconds or so) I noticed some on his feet, and then on the towel, and then a streak on his back. And I was trying to clean him bit by bit (thinking there couldn’t be much) and get the diaper on, which I did, but then I picked up the towel and a big chunk fell out onto the carpet. I cleaned the carpet, but not before I knelt on another small smudge. So off with my clothes, too. I washed out the towel, threw in a load of heavily bleached laundry, and came up to put Owen’s pajamas on. And I saw another small streak on his back, but wiped that off, still denying, somehow, that I had toweled him off in a poopy towel, which I must have done. And we got into the reading chair with some books and instead of smelling bath-fresh, Owen smelled, well, you know. And so we had to start over – back in the bath, back in another towel, diaper, pajamas.

I was near tears this time, I will confess to you.

And as my mother always said, things tend to happen in threes.

It Was Bound to Happen…

I am alone tonight because Duncan is working late. Owen and I had a great afternoon, much of it spent outside, shovelling mounds of snow off the deck to help it melt and looking in the flower beds for baby flowers (floflos). I even read a magazine in the sunlight.

Owen has a bath every night as part of a bedtime ritual; in general, he loves his baths and we love them too. Tonight’s bath was especially slip-slidey slippery, excited, let’s try swimming and splashing… I sprayed bath water in my face and splashed some more on Owen’s face. His hair was already soaked from his swimming maneuvers…… and then, under the bubbles, I noticed some dirt. I swished the water, thinking, could all this have come from between his toes (sock fluff?), or was one of his bath toys growing copious quantities of algae? It took me so long to figure out this puzzle that I swished the water around quite a bit with my hand, until it dawned on me.

I think I screamed. I do that. I hauled Owen out of the bathtub and left him naked and shivering on the bath mat. I drained the water and in my frenzy to get as much poop as possible out of the tub, started scooping it up with paper towels and throwing them in the toilet. I know, in the back of my head I knew I was going to block the toilet, but what do you do? What does one do? I flushed. Blocked. Then I realised my face was full of bath water. When did I splash it? I scrubbed my face with soap. I scooped more out of the bathtub, ran the shower to flush down some residue, scrubbed that tub, and got Owen back in it to scrub him and soap him more vigorously than ever before… I got a little carried away, and at some point his laughter turned into tears, but we got through it, and I got him towelled off and diapered. I asked him to please please tell me if he has to do this again, making him repeat the word “poop” over and over like some crazy mantra. He was laughing again, and so was I. At some point I realised I had popped his pacifier from the bathwater (then presumed clean-ish) into his mouth so hauled it out (with another scream) and insisted on some heavy-duty tooth brushing. I changed my clothes, fearing that the splashing had sprayed contaminants on me… I unblocked the toilet.

Calm, finally, we read some stories together. I sniffed his (CLEAN) hair, hoping I had done a thorough job. I soaked his bath toys in a bleach solution.

I do so hope this is the only time I have to deal with this (I hear) inevitable (and disgusting) event.


We hosted my staff party last night and it was a great time. These winter parties tend not to include kids, so many people asked me what I was going to do with Owen, to which I replied that, well, he lives with us, so he’s going to be at the party. Luckily, he’s the kind of kid who loves people and thrives on attention, so I figured he’d enjoy himself. And he did. He did find the crowd a bit much at times – so did I, frankly, with 40 people packing our smallish downstairs. Owen sought refuge from the crowd in the bathroom and between the double doors in the kitchen. This last place caused me minor anxiety of the “note to self” kind. We were there while he was closing himself between the two doors, but there were many times during the party that I had no idea where he was, so it was conceivable that he would shut himself between the two doors and we wouldn’t notice until he got hypothermia. That never happened, though, fortunately. Whew!

At one point, a colleague’s wife offered to take Owen upstairs for some quiet time while I had a bite to eat. I gratefully accepted! When I was almost finished, another colleague’s wife came down to tell me that there was “a bit of an emergency” – Owen had somehow, in a way he only manages when his parents are absent, to make a poop so big that it went down his leg and all over the carpet, his shoes, etc. etc. Oh la la. Poor R had needed reinforcements, so she cleaned the carpet while I cleaned Owen – and plunked him in the bath.

After that excitement, I got him into bed, and he slept right through the shouted conversations below him. R, bless her, seemed unperturbed by her role in the excitement of the evening.