January 22, 2004


You may have noticed that this week's entries have been a little, well, lacking in vim and vigor. I apologize, but my resources have been overtaxed recently, as I have once again become embroiled in The Battle of the Poop. Those of you with weak stomachs or a lack of tolerance for toddler effluvia may choose to skip today's entry, and I won't blame you.

The Boy is an on-the-go kind of toddler. Often, he is so on-the-go that he forgets to do things like eat, sleep or go poop. The latter has been an off-and-on problem for a couple of months now, and the pattern, so far as I can detect it, goes like this:

The Boy thinks, "Hey! I've been moving my bowels regularly for a couple of weeks now, and mommy's getting that potty training look in her eye again. Time to withhold the poop!"
Two days pass with no poop.
On the third day, The Boy begins to complain, but only at home: "Have to poo-poo, have to poo-poo," then walks on his tiptoes until the urge passes.
By day four, he's generally had enough Milk of Magnesia to force the issue, but he persists in complaining until he has no choice but to give in and poop, which, after 4 days, is an uncomfortable affair accompanied by much pro-wrestler-esque red-faced straining. Usually The Boy needs a rest and a snack after such a herculean task.

All the while, mommy and daddy have been explaining how much better he'd feel if he just went ahead and pooped. Of course, mommy and daddy are using logic, and logic has NO PLACE in toddlerville, thank you very much.

Two more weeks pass, and the cycle repeats itself. Mommy has pored over tomes concerning diet, toddler psychology, and physiology, has consulted the pediatrician, and has been forced to conclude that The Boy, darling of her universe and apple of her eye, is being a butt. And an ANAL-RETENTIVE butt, at that. Damn you, Freud! But it doesn't take an Austrian psychotherapist to see the pattern emerging here: withhold poop, pooping becomes uncomfortable, leading to more of a desire to withhold poop. Grr. Just, grr. Hublet, bless him, is at a loss for what to do beyond acting like a pro-poop cheerleader. There is something surreal about seeing a six foot three inch man on his knees chanting, "Push out the poo-poo! Push out the poo-poo!" in what he hopes is an encouraging and non-coercive way.

I would just like to point out in my own defense that I have never even suggested that The Boy must poop in the potty, much less tried to force him. I'm still working on getting him to actually sit still on the potty long enough for something to happen in the pee-pee arena. And based upon my lack of success thus far, and my tendency to just give up and buy the Pampers, I foresee a sixth grader in diapers. Currently, if The Boy asks to sit on the potty, I put him on there, because, being MY child, of course he won't sit on the little potty, only the big one, and then he just perches for 5 seconds, declares "I finish!" and hops off, with nary a droplet nor a dribble to show for it.

Sigh. I am an intelligent, professional thirty-five year old woman, and my life is poop. Toddler poop, at that. I wonder if any mid-life crises have been triggered by anal-retentive boy children?

Posted by Big Arm Woman at January 22, 2004 09:28 AM

Besides my own experience, I have known many mom's with this problem. One thing I discovered is that by reducing fluids during the day children will eat more larger meals and more fibre-type snacks like graham wafers, porridge, berries or oatmeal cookies. As in adults, these foods make more poopies that are softer and almost impossible to hold; and comfortable to release. Delays often cause stools to hardens and then babe just becomes more and more reluctant to go. You are so right - this kind of problem can so easily worsen especially if your concern drives you to give more fluids and less solids.

Posted by: Roberta at January 22, 2004 10:41 AM

I can sympathize, although my life only includes the 4-footed child substitutes. Still, there's nothing more ridiculous than running around in the pre-dawn telling the dog to "have a poop -- goood poop" before leaving for work, so that there are no lovely surprises when I get home. Except maybe a cheerleading hublet ;-) On the same note, I think many of your readers are probably familiar with something the Boy may eventually develop -- Teacher Bladder. I wish you well, BAW!

Posted by: Another Damned Medievalist at January 22, 2004 11:29 AM

I have some unasked-for advice. This comes from dealing with a child who was truly constipated during her toddler years, and also just a bit unsure that the potty was the way to go, so to speak.

(1) Purchase some Metamucil wafers. They're kind of sandy, but not too bad. Give him 1/2 of one wafer in the evening, with a cup of milk or juice. (You could actually eat the other half, yourself, if he smells a rat.) With my girl, this resulted in a very nice bathroom experience every single morning.

(2) Place a large bowl of candy where he can see it, and tell him, "You can have a piece of candy when I see something in the potty." (something being his waste material, of course.) Yes it's bribery, but what the heck.

Posted by: Laura at January 22, 2004 06:47 PM

Hey -- sorry to hear you're having such a poopy day. No medical advice here, but I'd weigh in on the side of oatmeal and oranges in the morning, plus a nice relaxing chat or story or something after the oatmeal. I know . . . your mornings are probably rushed like everybody's, but it's AMAZING what can happen if you feed a kid a nice hefty, healthy breakfast and then wait around for about half an hour getting dressed and joking around so that nobody's uptight and NOT talking about poop. Also, this might seem kind of silly, but we did it and it worked. Do you tell your son when you're going to go poop and then how good you feel afterwards : ) Nothing like positive modelling.

Just my 2 cents.

Posted by: Academy Girl at January 22, 2004 08:53 PM

You can at least rest easy in the knowledge, BAW, that your travails bring much mirth to your loyal readership.

Posted by: Adam at January 22, 2004 10:41 PM

Hey, when he finally poops, great. Unless it's causing medical problems (or is indicative of same) it's not worth worrying about. He'll be ready when he's ready. Boys, especially boys who are first children, take a while. They'd just rather sit in their own poop than stop playing.

Posted by: Michael at January 23, 2004 12:22 AM

I got a good laugh out of your post. I have potty-trained five kids so far. #6 is still too little and #7 is still in utero.

If you have a perennially-constipated kid, you hafta figure out what's gonna work for that kid. One of mine was famously constipated for years, and just not that tuned into when he had to poop, even though he was "potty trained" and trying his best. The ultimate solution?? Green apples. The kid loves green apples, downs at least once a day if not more. Who knew? The catch here was finding something that the kid could take care of himself (rather than my pediatrician's old standby of chocolate syrup laxative in the milk.) Now if I just keep a good stash of greenies in the fridge, he'll take care of the rest.

One other suggestion, if you haven't ever read it: Toilet Training in Less Than a Day, by Fox and Azrin. It has worked for me x5, even with a neurologically disabled child.

Posted by: No Name at January 23, 2004 01:25 AM

Aren't little boys great fun? Apples did it for my now 18 year old - An apple a day, preferably grannie smiths. As a bonus, he learned to really love apples and other fruit, and at 18, he eats pretty healthy food (if you don't count the chips) and is in pretty darn good shape.
It is so frustrating to be a mom sometimes.

Posted by: Beth Donovan at January 23, 2004 07:30 AM

Too bad he's too young to get hooked on coffee ... something about that second cup in the morning.

So I guess you could say, I have no advice to offer, just my hope that everything comes out all right.

Posted by: LittleA at January 23, 2004 08:17 AM

Wow -

Lots of good advice. Thanks! We are an oatmeal eating family, but I'll definitely be embarking on an apple quest.

And bribery for potty training? Oh yeah, I'm all over that as a concept. The problem is I haven't found the magic item yet. But I shall perservere.

And to Another Damned Medievalist - I share the dog pain, particularly since my dog is an omnivore, which at one point led to my toting latex gloves on our constitutionals, the better to assist in foreign object retrieval from said dog's behind. So toddler poop is no biggie to me.

Posted by: BAW at January 23, 2004 09:32 AM

I forgot to mention, the Toilet Training in Less Than a Day method relies on plying the child with large quantities of liquids, salty snacks (to encourage drinking) and small amounts of candy as a reward for toileting successes... It was originally developed for handicapped children, to teach them a fixed "routine" for toileting.

Posted by: No Name at January 24, 2004 03:14 PM

My daughter and my nephew are 8 months apart (daughter is older). My sister & I were on vacation when Al was almost 3 and Jack had just turned 2. Al had started on the potty trail, then lost interest. That was fine with me, she'd be ready when she was ready. Nance gets it into her head that she is going to potty train Jack THAT DAY. Well, she did, except....for the rest of the vacation, we kept having to scoop poop off the neighbor's deck. Jack would sneak over there and squat. Eventually he got the hang of it, though; he's 14 and continent now.

More constipation advice: it is fairly easy for toddlers to develop anal fissures, which hurt more than you can imagine (having developed one after pregnancy). This can lead to a death spiral trying not to poop, cause it hurts, which makes the stool hard, which makes pooping more painful.

So my maternal advice would be to get on top of the constipation deal--the Metamucil wafers are good. If there's resistance, try topping them with chocolate syrup or my favorite, Magic Shell* Grapes are good (not raisins--really good for tooth decay). Some kids adore mangos, you may be able to find them frozen, which means you can flog them as a sweet. Oh, red seedless grapes, frozen, are still a treat with my kids. I know one mom who would make Jigglers (you know, double-strength jello) with gelatin, concentrated fruit juice, and metamucil).

When the weather warms up, if he is still in diapers, you can let him run around outside bare-assed. That seems to work for some boys, to get the connection.

Posted by: liz at January 28, 2004 02:48 PM