A few months ago, when my son Peter turned 3, Someone asked me why I hadn’t potty trained him (I potty trained most of his 5 older siblings before they turned 3). I said I wasn’t sure I trusted him alone in the bathroom. Someone tried to allay my fears by asking, “What’s the worst that could happen?” I felt like a wimp to be afraid of a little water spilled on the counter or floor, or maybe even Peter accidentally missing the toilet.
So I took a day and sent the other kids to Mom’s house so I could concentrate on training Peter for the WHOLE DAY if need be. I removed the rugs from the bathroom floor and got some nice, clean new underpants for Peter to wear. For the first hour he listened attentively as I described the heavenly bliss he would excite in friends and relatives, and indeed, experience himself, if he were to keep his pants dry. To every point in my carefully crafted speech he nodded and said, “Yes, Mommy! Can I have a treat now?” Things were going along very smoothly! I mentally congratulated myself thinking I would be done in no time.
At the beginning of the second hour his attention waned. He did not want to sit in the bathroom with me one more minute, even to teach “Baby Emily” (his oldest sister’s potty-training doll borrowed for the occasion) how to keep her pants dry or to get Froot Loops as treats whenever
I discovered Peter’s pants to be dry!!! He kept saying things like “I want to go play with my toys” to which I responded by bringing his farm set complete with barn, horse stable, farmer Jed, 3 or 4 farm hands and about 20 farm animals. He said he wanted to play with “ALL my toys – in the OTHER room.”
For the rest of this hour he threw himself on the floor, kicked, screamed, and had 3 or 4 “accidents” in different parts of the bathroom. I wanted to give up, but I knew that if I stuck to my guns he’d be trained today. Or at least before his 21st birthday. I could have meals brought to us. Maybe Fr. Jeremy would bring the Sacraments to us.
Well, after that hour was up, Peter suddenly discovered that it wasn’t too bad to just sit on the toilet to do his duty. “Wow! A breakthrough! He can do it!” I thought out loud. I gave him more water to encourage him to practice his new-found skill. He expertly kept his pants dry for the rest of the afternoon, even while I accidentally passed out from exhaustion on the couch for an hour.
For the next few days he was pretty good at getting to the toilet in time, even at other people’s houses, and I was really feeling proud. But as the saying goes, “Pride goeth before a fall.”
Today he went outside to play. I gave each of the kids a plastic observation jar with instructions to catch a bug and find an interesting flower so they could draw them in their nature journals. I paired an older kid with a younger so that I wouldn’t hear “Mommy!!! Maria is in the neighbors’ horse yard pulling the Clydesdale’s tail!!!”
Some kids trickled in with their spiders and ladybugs, wild roses and clover blossoms. I supervised their drawings and was quite pleased with my plan when I realized not everyone was inside. “Where’s Peter?’ I nonchalantly asked. “Oh, I told him it was time to come in and he didn’t want to,” said a child who shall remain unnamed.
I looked out the window and there was Peter, hiding in the play house. After much hollering on my part, he came in reeking!!! I asked him if he had kept his pants dry and he sheepishly admitted that he hadn’t. I sent him into the bathroom to start cleaning himself up while I attended to his youngest brother Thomas’s exploding diaper.
Gentle reader, if you are disturbed easily, please avert your eyes from the rest of this paragraph. I was not prepared for what I found when I walked into that bathroom. Peter had found a bottle of apricot baby oil and emptied it into the sink, which he had first filled with water and “fixed” so that I could not drain it. Then he emptied the poop out of his pants with his hands and smeared it all over the toilet seat. Gentle reader, do not think less of me if I say I hit the roof. I screamed. I moved to pick up Peter to put him in the tub, but then saw that the kids had left their muddy shoes in there to dry from the day before when they discovered – and explored (one might even say settled) mud puddles. I moved to take Peter’s underpants off to put them in the sink and discovered the Exxon-Valdez oil spill experiment I told you about. I moved to rinse the underwear in the toilet and discovered it was clogged with too much toilet paper.
Then the phone rang. My poor husband was calling to pray the Angelus with me as he does every day at noon. He got an earful instead. He suggested we pray and I calmed down a little. He told me where to find a tool to unplug the sink.
After hanging up I wiped Peter and the toilet down and unplugged the sink. I put his underwear in there to wait while I finished serving lunch.
Lunch is over now and the youngest children are taking naps. I have not yet gone to deal with the underwear in the sink, but I am in a better frame of mind. The older children are helping out with other chores. The worst is over, and no one was murdered.
When I started writing this, I thought that the worst thing that could happen did. But in retrospect, it wasn’t so bad. The worst would have been if I didn’t care and left the mess for the kids or my husband to deal with. It would have been BETTER if I had not screamed and panicked, but it would have been WORSE if Social Services had knocked on my door at that moment.
Pray for us sinners!