Jesse turned nine today, and as I sat around wondering at the passage of years, this deep thought occurred to me: I’ve been wiping kids’ poop-stained asses every single day for nearly a decade – more specifically, for exactly 3285 days.
Okay, I’m exaggerating. Sometimes when Jesse was an infant, she went for three or four days between poops, so I guess the off days don’t count, but she made up for it by pooping 14 or 15 times a day for the first few months. Nick is just four, so we probably have a couple years to go; but Anthony often takes the burden so I really shouldn’t complain. I’m not a fan of pushing children too young to self-wipe. There is no way an ordinary 4 or 5 year old would do a decent job of it, and the only thing the would make me grumpier than wiping my kids’ asses is having to deal with their shit-covered hands and wash their sullied undies.
As my friend Erin once said, DAMN I can’t wait for the day when the only ass I have to wipe is my own.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not poop-shy by any stretch, and I always enjoy good, clean scatological humor. Also I do think folks would be well-served by a little less repression on this subject. Did you know there’s a technical term for being poop-shy? “Parcopresis” is what the DSM calls it.
That would be the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a text with which I’m surprisingly familiar thanks to my lawyer days and my daughter. Leaving me alone with the DSM in adulthood is as bad as leaving me alone with the Bible when I was a kid (read my post about vanity if you’re curious). It turns out I am very good at self-diagnosis. I’m definitely suffering from the usual suspects (anxiety, OCD, depression), and I’m pretty sure I’m somewhere on the mild end of the Aspergers spectrum (except it’s all called autism now, right?), and also I think I concluded last year that I have mild oppositional defiance disorder and also a borderline personality. You just have to read the DSM definitions. It’s all there, plain as day. I seem to be high-functioning, at least.
Anyway, back to poop-shy. “Parcopresis” is an odd word that doesn’t give its meaning away easily, and also it’s hard for me to say out loud. I feel all puckered up. Why not just call it “poop-oppressed” and then a person would have a distant chance of guessing what it’s about? The good news is, you can also call it “psychogenic fecal retention.” That’s better.
The only fecal retention problem I’ve ever had is occasional constipation. My dad used to tell me I have diarrhea of the mouth (love ya, Dad). Let me open my literary sphincter and vent a few random poop tales, and then I can feel a little less bloated.
Jesse used to poop so constantly in her early months that every diaper change was high-risk. Once she lay on that changing table and shot high-velocity liquid stools three feet, horizontally, through the air. It splatted on the wall at my eye-level. I remember actually crying out in terror. Cleaning her was like wrestling with a tiny crocodile. She did not cooperate. We frequently ended up holding her in the air by one ankle, upside-down, desperate to stop her from cavorting and smearing poop everywhere. It was carnage.
The next evolution came when Jesse was three and trying to potty train. She was really resistant and kept crapping in her pants, but her no-diapers-allowed nature preschool was starting in a month. Oh no! I really needed my insane daughter to go to school 8 hours a week so I wouldn’t become insane too! It was an emergency. We were on a mini-vacation on Lake Michigan when we were inspired to take her training potty down to the beach with us. It was a popular beach on a warm day, which in Wisconsin means this: the water was probably 60 degrees (balmy by local standards, i.e., warm enough not to make me scream on first contact), the air was in the low 80’s, and there were actually 3 or 4 people within 50 yards of us.
Whenever Jesse wasn’t playing, we encouraged her to pull down her swim bottoms and sit on the potty with a towel over her lap (lest we shock walkers going by), la la la, staring out at peaceful Lake Michigan. Eventually her bowels moved, and then Jesse brought her game on. She leaned over and started grunting and moaning loudly and dramatically, and it went on for at least 5 infinite minutes. She essentially recreated the toilet scene from Austen Powers. Anthony and I rolled on the sand laughing. Peeps walked by with looks that were variously entertained and concerned, but all I really cared about was the fact that Jesse was finally taking a dump on the can.
Nick’s diapers and potty-training were mostly no-brainers, thanks to parental experience and his less-tortured little soul. I didn’t focus on the actual potty as much with Nick. I tended to take him outside and let him squat, because he liked that better. He could pee on a tree and poop on the ground. And anyway it was easier than cleaning up a training potty. One day Nick ran out to the front lawn and decided to poop there. Before I could stop him, he had dropped trou’ and was pushing out one of his massive loads, roadside. A couple cars came by before he was done, but what could I do at that point except wait patiently with a plastic bag?
Here’s my most humiliating personal poop tale. When I was in seventh grade, I cargo-farted during Spanish. I wish I remembered the teacher’s name. She was a tiny little Latin woman with an accent and enormous breasts. She wore bras that made them each look like half a football. I was laughing hard at something that happened in class, and I shot a fart accidentally, and then I smelled something awful. Sure enough, when I went to the bathroom after class, there was a wee smear. I was horrified. I cleaned up best I could and went about the rest of the day. My guess now is that half the schoolboys were wandering around with even better skid marks than mine, but as far as I was concerned, everyone passing near my orbit must have noticed I smelled like shit and held me in contempt forever. It’s a miracle I ever had a friend again.
My grandma was perfectly comfortable with open body talk, including pee and poo news. On the day of her funeral, I ended the day driving back to the hotel with my man Anthony and my brothers Mark and Eric. It was late, we were emotionally spent, the tears were done. I don’t know how we got on the subject of poop, but it was inevitable because Mark and Eric totally get how important pooping is, both as a bodily function and as a source of humor. Eric described a particular impressive dump he had taken. It involved volcano analogies. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I expressed some strongly felt concern that he must have been inspecting his poop closely to be able to describe it in such clear detail. Mark interceded with a vigorous defense of his bro. “Hey! Leave him alone! So he’s fascinated by his poop! What’s wrong with that??” It was a perfect end to the day.
I have officially connected my grandma’s funeral day with my daughter’s birthday via poop talk. I don’t think sweet Grandma would have minded at all. Happy birthday to my sweet little girl.