Like riding a bike, I always presumed that pooping was one of those things that once you learned how to do it you pretty much had it down for the rest of your life.
Turns out that journey is not so simple. Our four year old has apparently hit some bumps in the road. There are small, almost imperceptible changes occurring within me over time that might suggest there is the potential that this could be an issue for me as well, albeit in the distant future.
Anyway, there I was, sitting all smug up on the toilet catching up with my selected family and friends on my phone. This was my me time. I didn’t have to use the toilet, but it’s a place a parent can sit on occasion, as long as one’s spouse is there to occupy the kids, where they are given a moments reprieve. I think of it as a panic room of sorts in the hour after dinner, before bedtime. A place to go to forget about life for upwards of 3 minutes. A spa. It was here that I came across and amusing post by my younger sister. I’m paraphrasing here, but it said something like, “I’ll NEVER get used to cleaning poop out of the tub!”
I responded the only way I knew how. “Oh my god. That’s so gross!”
After a minute or two, and after a few, more kindhearted friends and family expressed empathy and understanding in the comments, it occurred to me that I might be tempting fate. In an attempt at something of a reverse jinx I went back in to the comment thread and expressed something closer to thoughtfulness. Something like, ‘Oh that so sucks. I’m so sorry. We’ve been lucky so far.’ But I was totally faking it. That sh*t doesn’t happen if your careful and stay attenti…
“Joe! Oh no.. Joe!” My wife shouted from upstairs.
I was on the couch enjoying my own end of night screen time alongside the big boy, the four year old, the one in the clear from the possibility of such an accident when my life took a dark turn.
“T had an accident. In the tub!”
I’m guessing that having made it this far through without this happening there are some parents that have made it all the way without dealing with this dark day. With the extracting by hand a turd that floats in parts and sinks in others like dynamited fish in a filthy pond. I remained calm on the outside because you need your children to know that although life is forever changed and we’ll never be able to truly look each other in the eye again, that they are okay and that one must be strong in the face of fear. I am a role model.
Karma was not through with us.
Believing that we’d learned all we needed to learn in order to avoid this issue in the future, we let down our guard. Somehow a few days passed without our big boy making a poop family in the potty. That’s what he calls it when it happens in phases. It’s amazing what you find cute when your kids say it. When we pointed it out to him and asked him to try he was resistent in a way that only a four year old could be.
He had become afraid to poop.
We coaxed. We bribed. It worked a couple of times, but it hurt and came with tears. Then he just stopped. Refused. He would have intermittent bouts of pain due to his being backed up. We couldn’t convince him with logic. We tried everything. What happens next is amongst the dumbest things I’ve ever done. I can’t believe it occurred even as I sit here and write it. It’s so dumb I’m embarrassed to say it. I decided that a good warm bath would do the trick.
Our 4 year old is huge, like the size of a 7 year old. This is not an anecdote. He is the average size of a seven year old. I’ll just say that it’s possible for a backed up 4 year old, who is the size of a 7 year old to poop like a 41 year old who had a steak burrito and coffee for lunch. Through tears and the splashing of fecal infested dirty bath water we learned the power of karma and at that moment I knew it was done.
Karma had made sure that I learned my lesson.
We are a modern family and my duties as a man are far more involved then men of previous generations. I am a competent and caring nurturer. Still, there are certain tasks that only a mother can perform. One of those tasks is exercised now when we note it’s been a couple of days. Our elaborate system of rewards for willing poops (chocolate, funnily enough) is pretty good. But if we let it slide the fear returns. When it does, my wife becomes the guide for our boy that he needs at that moment. They will retreat to the bathroom where she will allay his fears, stick with him through his vicious rebukes and tearful apologies, always reassuring him that this is how it has worked since the dawn of time. That despite his fears, he will live through this and be so happy with the results that he’ll choose willingly to do it again! Eventually he believes her and they are one, holding hands as she provides him with the spiritual and emotional support allow his body to do what it’s made to do.
Without intending to and being motivated only by deep deep love, my wife is now a poop doula.
Photo: Getty Images
This essay originally appeared on Joe’s blog, Developing Dad
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