When Sean was born and we discovered he had a cleft lip, the medical professionals explained that the reasons he was born with a cleft lip were 'multi-factorial.' One nurse explained that multi-factorial was a fancy way of saying "we really don't know the cause." As I've pondered the recent events in my life, this word keeps coming to mind. For example, a month ago why did Sean run through the dining area of a restaurant screaming, "I HAVE A BUTT RASH!!" when he did not, in fact, have a butt rash? The reasons are multi-factorial. In a juvenile and impulsive move recently, why did I, a 30 year old woman, rip a sticker off the front of Sean's fleece during his tantrum and throw it in the trash can? Multi-factorial. (not my proudest moment as a parent... one in which I felt myself become a toddler again, frustrated with a fellow child, instead of acting like an adult.) Or why was I woken this morning to the sound of Sean screaming in my ear "I DON'T WANT THE LIGHT TURNED OFF"? Need I say more?
Yet the most puzzling of moves occurred a couple days ago.
Before divulging the story, though, I must state this disclaimer: the following story smacks of details surrounding poop (sorry, Dad, I know you're uncomfortable with that), AND the defecation of the lime-green carpet is not meant to be of any offense to my cousins in the Herbert clan (sorry, Herberts!) whose grandparents owned and lived in this house for 30+ years. They loved this carpet, and we do, too. The mixture of poop and carpet is purely coincidental (though in my frustrated motherly moment to follow, I do question the purposeful nature of my son's choices...)
We are still potty-training in our house. It's actually going quite well - lots of stickers, lots of treats, lots of peeing. Pooping on the other hand is a rare commodity... in the toilet, that is. Pooping happens, but just not in the places I would like. Yesterday, I was not feeling well (recovering from a minor surgery. Laproscopy. Ovarian cyst. All went well, I'm healing, and just sore and uncomfortable. And cranky. Hence the story:) so I decided to re-live my high-school-studying-for-physics-days and put a little Enya on the Grooveshark. Imagine, if you will, the sound of Enya floating around the dining room. Audrey sitting in her high chair peacefully eating some lasagna (great pincher-grasp going on there for a 9.5 month old), and Sean playing in the living room. Because we'd been awake since 6:15am, we were all a little tired by lunchtime. I tried to back off questioning Sean about his need to go potty... tried, but clearly did not fully succeed.
me: Sean, do you need to go potty?
me: Are you sure?
me: So you need to go potty?
me: It looks like you need to go potty.
He's dancing around, pressing his legs together, obviously holding in the onslaught.
me: Why are you hiding behind the chair? Are you pooping?
So I let him play. I'm still feeding Audrey, and thinking about how much Enya's peaceful music helped me focus on physics problems. Then, moments later, I hear the whining and whimpering start.
Sean: My pants are wet! My pants are all wet!
me: Why? (One might question the need for me to ask, but I always feel compelled to have him take responsibility for his wet pants. Am I a terrible parent? Probably.)
Sean: I don't know!
me: Why are your pants wet, Seancito?
Sean: Because I peed! Because I peed! And I pooped!
This gets my attention immediately. I leave a couple extra pieces of lasagna for Audrey on her tray knowing that I will be gone for awhile and she may get hungry.
me: That's okay, buddy, let's go in the bathroom and clean you up.
Sean. NOOOOOooooooo! I want to stay out here!
Really? He wants to stay out in the living room? Why does this make any sense? Multi-factorial.
me: No, if your pants are wet and dirty, then we need to go in the bathroom so that I can help you clean up.
Sean: (quietly) no.
He pauses in the middle of the living room, and he has his hands on his hips. Is he thinking? Is he pooping again? I'm about to ask another question, to begin luring him into the bathroom, to continue reasoning with him. This is the game we play, right? I attempt to get him to agree with whatever I want him to do. I try to lead him to believe that what I want him to do is actually what he also wants to do. In my mind, this is easier than just picking him up and carrying him wherever I want him to go. Plus, who wants to pick up at 30 lb. child who's just wet and pooped himself? Not me.
me: Okay, well I will go get some clean underwear -
Sean begins pulling down his pants in the middle of the living room. Now - most things I've heard about potty training focus on the parent being supportive and encouraging of their child. I have been as supportive and encouraging as I can be, but the threat of a poop explosion in the living room throws all ideas of support and encouragement out the window.
me: NOOOOO - do not pull down your pants! Yuck! No! That will make a huge mess! No! Stop!
I am yelling. Audrey starts crying from her high chair. Sean is clearly upset. I force his pants back up around his waist, pushing feces around his waistband and shirt, and I lead him (push him?) towards the bathroom. When safely in the confines of a tiled floor, we begin the process of disassembling the pants/underwear/poop combination that has enmeshed itself around my son. As I clean him up, I realize that a bath is in order - I will spare the reader (Dad) the details of why the bath is necessary. I am so upset about him nearly flinging his feces all over the living room that I'm very clear about the rules of the bath.
me: Sean, this is not a bath where you get to play. This is only a bath to clean you off.
me: Because you have pooped in your pants, we now need to clean up your clothes, get you dressed and I need to get back to Audrey (who is crying) to finish feeding her lunch.
me: You know why.
me: Why not?
Sean: No don't say 'why not'!
This has been my new tactic for confronting the 'why' barrage head-on. When he continues to ask 'why' I ask 'why not' and he gets angry. Soon he's so angry that either he's forgotten all about asking 'why' OR he's throwing a tantrum. It's a 50/50 gamble, but I risk it... frequently. He asks 'why' frequently. At this point in our story, though, I think Sean senses how upset I am so he does not continue asking why. He does not ask to stay in the bath any longer. He allows me to clean him up and he gets out of the bath without much rigamarole. I get him dressed and I am just about to clean up his dirtied clothes on the floor of the bathroom when I see it. Down the long corridor of our hall, through the living room, I see two huge brown turds. TWO HUGE BROWN TURDS?!? How did they escape??
I walk immediately back into the bathroom, grab toilet paper, and I am stomping over to the poop about to pick it up. However, I stop myself short. (Enya is still playing, Audrey is still crying, and Sean is beginning to insist it is time to take a nap. This is a sure sign he's thrown in the towel on the 1st portion of the day). Then a thought occurs to me:
me: Sean, this is your poop, so you are going to help me pick it up.
I put the toilet paper in his hands, and together, hand over hand, protected by a wad of toilet paper, we pick up the poop. It takes two trips to the bathroom, and Sean goes along with this plan without much fuss at all. Again, I think he senses how upset I am. I then insist that he flushes the toilet. He refuses. I insist. He refuses. I insist. Then I force his hand over to the handle while he fake-cries. I know it's a fake cry because there are no tears. And then when the toilet begins flushing he stops the "crying" long enough to curiously watch his poop (and WADS of toilet paper -who wants to feel that poop?? Not me!) go down the drain. Once gone Sean resumes fake-crying. He then again insists it's time to take a nap.
me: Well, Sean, I would love to help you get into bed right now, (the frustration is not at all hidden in my voice) but I need to rinse out your dirty clothes, and then I need to clean the bathtub, and then I need to start a load of laundry with your dirty clothes in it. THEN I need to get back to Audrey and finish feeding her (Audrey is at a full wail by now), and then, maybe then, I will be able to come tell stories and say prayers.
Sean starts crying for real now. He takes himself into his room. By the time I finish the cleaning up, I get back to Audrey's high chair and discover she has pooped. A two-fer. GREAT.
When both kids are clean, and clothes are in the laundry, and the bathroom has been wiped down with Lysol, I am sitting on Sean and Audrey's bedroom floor telling a story to Sean about Pauncito the Elephant (long story, but it's basically Sean's alter ego). In the story, Pauncito had to poop and he was afraid of pooping on the potty. However, he was a brave elephant, and he told his mom that he had to poop, and then he pooped on the potty. Frequently, Pauncito is living out the very same adventures that our Seancito has lived out during the day. OR Pauncito is going after the very same goals that our Seancito is trying to achieve. I always like to drive my points home in multiple ways:) When the story is finished, Sean is thinking hard.
Sean: Mama, I want to say a prayer for you.
You heard it hear: the boy is thinking of me. He wants to take a quiet moment and say a little prayer. He sees how frustrated I am, he sees how hard my job is as a mom, he wants to be compassionate in his little 2.5 year old way. He seizes this opportunity: where things could go sour for us at this juncture, he decides to pick up the slack. He is reaching out to his mother through the offering of saying a prayer. It does my heart proud!
me: Aw, Seancito, that is so nice. I would love for you to say a prayer for me.
And what mother doesn't want that? Amidst doing absolutely EVERYTHING for my children, this was a light through the clouds moment. This was a moment where I could let Sean lead. This was a moment where I could receive a little something back instead of constantly just giving to him.
Sean: No, Mama. I can't say it. You say it.
me: Well, if you're going to say a prayer for me, you can go ahead and say it, then I'll say a prayer.
Sean: NOOOOO, Mama. I can't say it! You say it!
Let me get this straight: now I will be saying a prayer for my son who is saying a prayer for me?!? Why? That doesn't make any sense! Or as Sean has taken to saying lately, "No, that's not right!" Why would he say that he wants to say a prayer for me and then make me say it? The reasons for that would be multi-factorial.