It’s funny how there is this over arching sense of shit around parenting. Constipation, loose motions, diapers, potty training, finding toilets on the highway… a whole range of worries.
When I had the Brat I didn’t know what hit me – green slimey matter one day, something that resembled goat cheese the next. From being the young couple who wouldn’t know which end of a baby is up to closely examining the contents of a diaper to see if a missing button was indeed ingested, it’s a short and rather painful journey. I’ll stop before I gross out the non-baby people.
But I will admit that I waited and prayed for him to be toilet trained. At that point in my life it seemed like it was a matter of grave importance and if I didn’t hurry he’d be the only college kid carrying diapers in his backpack. And it happened, slowly and steadily – funnily, very early, as I later realised. It seems like just yesterday that I wrote a post on the Brat getting out of his night diapers. Most young parents are too busy cleaning poop off various surfaces and calculating what they spend on diapers in one month to remember that there is more to it and those who are older don’t bother to tell them that it’s too early to exhale. That there still remains the stage where they learn to wash their own butts.
Washing two butts other than my own every morning really poses no problem and so I didn’t think much of it. Well, no real problem compared to the nights when he was a newborn, I was lying with my aching stomach stitched up, waking every 2 hours to feed him, every 25 minutes to change his cloth nappy and the cloth beneath it and every 1 hour to walk him back to sleep.
Last year I realised that he’d pretty much taken over his own physical care, except for washing his botty on the potty. No burden on me really, but it would be a good time to get that sorted out too, I figured. And so I began to prepare – not him, but myself, for handing over that last matter of hygiene. But how? I’d never done this before. And I knew he didn’t have it in him to balance a mug of water with one hand and wash with the other.
Hold the mug for him, said one friend. Well that isn’t a solution when he is in school and no one is around to pour.
Teach him to wipe with toilet paper till it comes away clean, suggested another. The OA and I looked at each other and shuddered. We’re desi – we worship soap and water. The thought of a merely wiped and unwashed bum gave us the heebie jeebies. Besides that was not a solution – he’d not find toilet paper in a school or friend’s bathroom.
And then I finally broached it with him and he looked at me disgustedly. What? Wash my own bum? And dirty my hands?
I looked at him in confusion. Eh? And what do you think my hands are like after washing your butt, mister, I asked him? Smelling of flowers?
I’m not doing it, he said firmly. I realised I was also worried about how good a job he’d get done and I didn’t want his hands left dirty.
And so I just stuck to the morning routine and we left it at that. Until the OA walked in to the toilet one morning and took control. You’re washing your butt if its the last thing you do, he told the Brat. Who took one look at his father and meekly complied.
I stared in shock. And then it struck me. He heard nothing but firmness in his father’s voice. But in my suggestion, he heard something close to hesitation and a tinge of sadness. No, I don’t really get my kicks out of getting another person’s crap on my hands every morning, but with this, the last of the physical dependence my son had on me was over. And somewhere at the back of my mind, that bothered me.
I speak only for myself but the bond that comes from being physically attached to another is a hard one to break. From feeling the quickening of the womb, watching your slim waist swell to 48 inches and your breasts rival Pamela Anderson’s, to physically and painfully delivering your body of that child. From attaching the child to your breast again and dealing with the rigours of nursing to rocking the child against your body and watching the tiny trusting fingers curl into yours to massaging the little limbs with oil and gently holding them over a tub and nervously pouring the first mug of water. From supporting tha baby back as it wobbles and sits up to holding your hands out to break the first fall. From wiping runny noses to powdering a little round bum. So much of parenting is just the physical.
As you cut the last physical connection you realise what lies ahead. A relationship that for the next 50 years that will depend entirely on words and emotions. That made its foundation in those first few days in your belly in physicality but is moving out of that realm. Senses will alert to Mama’s smell of Pond’s powder even 30 years later even though Mama will not be nursing. The books say a baby needs to be held and nursed during the early days so that it can see and begin to recognise the mother’s features. I cling to that scant comfort and hope that six years of physically holding him, cuddling him, wiping his mouth, cleaning his nose and rocking him to sleep have left their mark. That he has got as much love and security from my physical presence as possible.
Yes, I still feed him on days that the fish needs to be de-boned. I still help him blow his nose. I still barge into the toilet, poke my head through the shower curtain and remind him to wash behind his ears. I still get into bed and pull a child on to each arm and sing them to sleep, awkwardly flapping my hands around them in an attempt to pat and hug. But these are all good-to-do. Not have-to-dos. And with the Brat being the elder one, I go through heart burn with each milestone, each step taken.
And so dear friends, comes to an end the entire potty training episode for child number one. He’s been entirely self -washed butt for some months now and I figured it was a milestone I shouldn’t forget to journal. Never mind if he kills me for this post someday.