Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On Potty Training and The Ugly Cry...

Whoever said “life is a marathon, not a sprint” obviously didn’t have a three-year-old who needed potty training before they’d let him into preschool. Two and a half hours three times a week alone? This is exactly the kind of deadline that a facetious Mother of the Year like myself would crawl through a cesspit of rat sludge to pull off. Unfortunately, potty training Cameron (said three-year-old) has turned out to be less of the sprint that I desperately need it to be and instead, a grueling marathon of embattled wills and soiled underwear. I mistakenly underestimated my competition and it’s clear that neither of us will make it over the finish line without permanent damage. If I ever get there, I will deserve a medal—and I just might make it into a necklace.

My first son Jack was potty trained in about a week. There were a few tears and even a little three-year-old Baby Ruth that ended up on the playroom floor, but he walked into preschool a proud big boy and ne’er an accident since. His little brother, on the other hand, is a stubbornly independent, free-spirited and notorious “poop disturber” who clearly has no interest in disturbing the poop routine he’s had going now for the last 40 months. We’ve got every book, including the modern classic Everybody Poops. We made a big deal of picking out a special potty. We’ve had big brother mentoring, reward charts, the M&M candy bribes and even Dr. Phil’s ridiculous Potty Party. My doctor said it’s a “control” issue. Yes. Now that we’ve established that infuriatingly obvious conclusion, what do I DO about it?”

Six months later, I still don’t know. But what I do know is that when potty training boys, it helps to have a little insight into their anthropological heritage and the male psyche. Boys can’t just embrace the fact that their castoffs have a place to go, they need to believe they’ve made a worthy contribution to mankind. I’m assuming this concept harkens back to their Stone Age ancestors. Man make fire. Boy make poop. For instance, potty training didn’t click for my nephew — a big Sesame Street fan at the time—until he pooped the letter of the day. Jack had his aha! poop when he managed to squeeze out a rocket ship headed for the moon. And while it’s yet to make a difference, the two times Cameron’s little Lincoln logs actually made it to the toilet bowl, he seemed genuinely pleased that they resembled a hot dog and a snake respectively.

A week and a half ago, I noticed Cameron doing his potty dance, which incidentally has a striking resemblance to the beginning steps of The Hustle. In a panic I whisked him to the potty despite his demands to the contrary. I used my sweetest voice to again explain the fundamentals of potty etiquette, but he responded like a Mel Gibson voicemail minus the expletives. At some point during his tirade, I simply sunk to the floor, covered my eyes, and the sheer duress of the last six months including, but not limited to my failed attempts at potty training unleashed like The Great Flood. That’s right – the ugly cry. The one where your face contorts and snot appears out of nowhere to join the downward stream of mucous and you just don’t care. As I sat there fully embraced in my cathartic release Jack ran in the room and yelled, “You’re making Mommy cry – just squeeze it out!” And then, as if an angel were speaking to me, I heard the littlest voice in the din say, “Don’t cwy Mommy, I do it.” To which I looked up through the tears and snot and replied, “What?” And he said, “I do it. I go poop.” And he did, which just goes to prove that every man, no matter how old they are, will do just about anything so they don’t have to hear a woman cry.

It was a small victory to say the least. As I’m writing this column my husband arrived home with the kids and news that Cameron’s new, favorite WonderPets “Ming Ming” underwear had been defaced. So we double bagged the whole mess and made Cameron take the walk of shame to the big garbage can in the garage. I’ve never seen a walk of shame taken with more pride. If I could hear his thoughts, I think they might go something like this: Boy make poop. Boy make Mom and Dad really mad. Life is good. So here we are. Just when I falsely believe I’m going to win the race, he proves me wrong and our long-winded marathon continues. I’m not sure if I have the stamina to finish this thing, but maybe the next poop that makes its way into the bowl will be a little brown medal and we’ll both win.