I had never known the feeling of rage until I had a toddler. I have felt upset, angry, even furious before but never seeing-red-can’t-even-think rage.
The situation that brought about this new emotion may not seem to warrant such a dramatic word, but it's what I felt, nonetheless.
Here’s what led up to that day:
I had been potty-training for a long darn time. I read several books on the subject and some claimed that it would take only a day or, at most, three to achieve success. All I can say about those people is that they probably waited until their kids were nine to try or they have miracle kids, for which they should get on their knees and thank God for, at least once for every day it took me to potty-train: eight months and counting (nighttime dryness still eludes us). Recently, when I experimented with no diaper one night “just to see,” E. was nice enough to give me one dry morning, one day to get my hopes up, to see my future diaper free (as far as he is concerned) before he dashed my hopes again. You cut me deep, Shrek.
We tried the one day thing, even stretching it out to a week. One week where we didn’t leave the house (torture in and of itself), read potty books, watched potty movies, and talked all about the potty (more torture. Who would have thought there was that much to say about doing your business?). The first morning, a naked E. was playing cars on the hardwood floor in the living-room and, with no warning and without a pause in his vroom vrooming, he defecated right there. Clearly, he was not ashamed and felt no need to go hide behind a couch or (gasp!) actually go sit on the potty.
I will admit that I cried as I envisioned a long, miserable day stretching out before me. I begged Dave to take the day off work and stay home with me. He took pity on me, but, unfortunately, couldn’t skip work every day until the mission was complete like I wanted.
The potty-training process took months. I won’t go into too many details, but we’ve had instances of peeing in the middle of a coffee shop, the farmers’ market, and way too many messes in his room during “quiet time,” a.k.a. “soil your underpants, take them off, and sit on a bunch of things time.”
During this phase of life, I was writing emails to my mother-in-law while she was in Korea. After about email number five, I realized all I had to talk about was bodily functions. My life was consumed with them.
Along came baby A. and things got even more interesting. One word: regression.
Then one morning E. and I were playing cars (surprise, surprise), which, by the way, is one of my least favorite things. Let’s play Uno, color, do a puzzle, anything besides push hot wheels around the couch while pretending they are scooping dirt and dumping it. Over. And. Over. Again. But, I was feeding A., and a good way to occupy E. while I was stuck on the couch was cars, so I resigned myself to the game. Then I noticed E. doing the not-so-subtle-grab-yourself-to-keep-the-pee-in-so-you-don’t-have-to-stop-playing thing. I told him to go potty. He obliged and walked across the room to the little BabyBjorn potty. Yes, we keep the it in the living room; easy access is part of the training process. We need all the help we can get.
I glanced down at A. and when I looked back up, E. was standing not two inches in front of his potty, peeing all over the floor. Two. Inches. Away.
I lost it. I yelled. No words, just ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
E. burst into tears. That’s right, I scared my child with only my voice and probably the horrified expression on my face. Looking back, I can see how maybe he just wondered what would happen, but in the moment I was completely baffled and frustrated.
I cried later myself and felt awful. I told Dave I was a horrible mom and had traumatized our kid forever. With my luck it would end up being his earliest memory: his mom yelling incoherently at him. Dave said a little traumatizing might not be all that bad. He may have been sort of right; E. never tried that stunt again, although, if I could get the same result, I’d pick a different, less out-of-control method.
I'm hoping that when his time comes, baby A. will be that miracle, easy-to-potty-train child. If he is, I will do a happy dance in my living room right over the spot E. initiated on that first day.