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The messy details of parenting

Anyone who has raised children has gone through the trials and tribulations of potty training.

My wife and I have tried many tactics, but the best method has been to strip Arthur nude from the waist down, and leave him free to roam half-naked. Arthur has become so desensitized to the feeling of soiled undergarments that it no longer fazes him when he dukes in his drawers.

So at home, Maureen and I leave him unfrocked below the equator and keep a watchful eye on him. When he has to use the toilet, we’ll lead him to the bathroom, and he earns a sticker for his potty-training chart. Once he earns 25 stickers, he gets a prize.

It doesn’t work all the time, but it’s the most successful tactic we’ve employed, and it was the strategy Maureen was using when I began receiving texts from her Thursday morning. She was home with Arthur because he had plastered the floor of his school with neon-red vomit the previous day, as kids are wont to do. Her messages described tales of potty training success that had been unheard of prior to the day.

9:45 a.m. Potty progress! He still started pooping before we made it to the toilet, but he’s understanding better. He made it to the toilet before he peed!

That text in itself was great to hear, but not out of the ordinary. Little successes happen from time to time, which is how Arthur filled his chart halfway over the course of a month. Stringing these accomplishments together has been the sticking point in Arthur’s training, which is why the next text was much more encouraging.

11:34 a.m. Art just had another big potty success. I sure wish he could use the potty without having to be naked. Steps…

This was uncharted territory. Back-to-back trips to the bathroom were a momentous occasion and made me start to think whether this column venting my frustration with potty training was premature.

A few hours passed before the following bombshell shattered my world.

3:21 p.m. Arthur pooped in the toilet all by himself!!!

I nearly spit out my coffee.

This had only happened one other time. About six months ago, I coerced Arthur into going No. 2 with 30 minutes of coaching, magazine reading and frustration.

He would only do it if I pretended to be the Batman while holding Arthur’s 12-inch-tall Batman action figure. Imagine a beleaguered 30-year-old man impersonating Christian Bale’s gravelly voice saying, “Arthur – Batman really wants you to poop in the toilet. You’ll make your mom and dad proud, and you’ll be doing a personal favor for me – the Batman.”

We thought it was a breakthrough, but it was just a one-time event that we couldn’t repeat, no matter how much cajoling from the Dark Knight.

I called my wife and she gleefully explained she was downstairs when she heard Arthur call from the top of the stairs. Arthur led her to the bathroom and proudly pointed to a big, beautiful deposit floating in the toilet.

Not only had he pooped by himself, but he had done so of his own volition. No one was there to lead him to the bathroom. No one was there to hold his hand. This was 100 percent pure Arthur, and it signaled the beginning of a new era.

Arthur needed just one more sticker to complete his potty chart. After work, I picked out a small Lego kit for my boy, assured that he would complete his chart by the time I got home.

As I pulled into the driveway, I spotted Arthur in the bay window. He had mashed his half-nude body against the window, waiving at me with a big smile on his face.

He gave me a hug and led me to his potty chart to apply one final sticker. Arthur had filled in half the chart in just one day! I gave him his toy, and the three of us sat down to work on the project as a family. It was a wonderful experience, and we all basked in the glowing knowledge that a new ceiling had been established.

After dinner, he resumed playing with his Legos while I called my mom. I was wrapping up a voicemail message when I walked into the living room to see a distressed child on his knees, just starting to poop on the floor.

“Oh God, he’s pooping! He’s POOPING!”

These were the final words of the message I left to my mom, as my wife swept in, picked up Arthur and rushed him toward the bathroom.

Too late.

The biggest bowel movement I had ever seen my son produce fell to ground and slapped the floor with a wet thud.

“So much for progress,” was my first thought, but I reminded myself that potty training is about peaks and valleys. It’s about raising the bar higher. Praise progress and learn from mistakes, and last week was about progress. The night ended with an accident, but it didn’t take away from the gains Arthur made. We’ll build upon this and before we know it, his potty training woes will be a distant memory. I’ll be looking forward to that day.



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