Years ago, I walked out of a movie called The Road to Wellville because it was about a bunch of people analyzing each other's poop. Yuckville. It was not my kind of humor. That was before I had children.
Now I'm a mom and poop has become a huge part of my life. First, there was the revelation (why had no one told me?) that giving birth feels a lot like pooping--that when they're yelling "push!" to the woman on tv, she's flexing that muscle. Then there was the bizarre public interest in my own poops immediately after I gave birth--a lot of "have you been taking your stool softeners?" and "have you pooped yet"s. There was that creepy pediatrician talk where you have to use that awful word 'stool.' And there was even my love affair with the buttery poop of my breastfed babies--it smelled exactly like gravy from Kentucky Fried Chicken (which, I suppose, I should admit is a positive thing for me).
The boundaries I used to take for granted aren't the same anymore. In fact, these days there are no boundaries. My two small children follow me into the bathroom (when my eighteen-month old daughter actually nods permission for me to go, that is...) and sometimes even onto the potty. My daughter likes to throw bits of toilet paper into the bowl behind me. She also likes to flush--a lot--while I'm sitting there, creating an unpleasant updraft. Sometimes I'm saddened by the realization that it'll probably be years before I'm allowed to poop alone. And then sometimes, lately, I wonder what the big deal about pooping alone is anyway.
My son, who's three and a half, likes to poop with people present. “I want privacy with you and I want privacy with Daddy and I want privacy with my sister (or whoever's in the house).” He calls it 'privacy with company'.
Then there's what he calls his poop...
It started with potty training, and these sweet stories he'd make up while I sat--keeping him company--on a little blue chair next to the grown-up potty. His whole mid-section would be below the rim of the toilet--only shins and chest (superman logo) and head and shoulders sticking out. (Once he lowered the toilet lid onto his back and said “Look Mommy, a turtle on the potty!” --the image was perfect--smooth round plastic shell atop a splay of limbs).
“Peepee and Poopoo are friends.” he said.
That was the first installment. He made this announcement on a grubby toilet in a graffiti-filled stall at a restaurant two months before his third birthday.
I smiled and said “Oh, really” and repeated the revelation to my husband when we returned to the table.
That was all the encouragement he needed. Slowly, regularly, after-breakfast by after-breakfast, the story began to take shape.
“Sometimes Peepee makes bubbles, sometimes Poopoo says splash.”
“They're yucky friends.”
“Poopoo says I want to come out! and Peepee says “Me first!”
“Sometimes Peepee is running away from Poopoo.”
“They talk to each other but they don't have faces, or mouths, or eyes.”
“My body is the house for Peepee and Poopoo. Peepee and Poopoo come out of the house to go to the Potty Playground.”
"Poopoo doesn't want to come out at school. Only Peepee wants to come out."
It would be impossible to recreate the little grunts and strains that stretch some of his words out into multi-syllabic testimonials. But they're there, too--adding emotion, sometimes even desparation, to the little watery dramas.
Poop-reading came next. Once he'd exhausted the basic motivations and orders of departure for Peepee and Poopoo, he began to turn to the poop itself, studying his characters. He'd poop. I'd wipe. He'd scamper off the toilet and describe what he saw. Then he'd flush. It was basic classification. There were snake poops, broken snake poops, family snake poops (mommy, daddy, baby), snake poop parties. There have been tiny rock poops and garbage poops. There was a man poop and some vegetable poop. Once there was a witch-melting poop (he'd just seen the Wizard of Oz, and the water was low in the potty that day).
Lately though the story-lines have been returning and the poop readings are becoming more involved. The other day he pointed out the "daddy going into the backyard poop". And there was a baby snake poop that was hiding (a lot of the poops hide).
We had poop therapy recently when, shortly after an unpleasant evening in which he and his father had to wait for me on a cold, dark sidewalk (while I was caught behind a semi doing an impossible turn from a side street into a parking lot), he discovered “a daddy poop and a baby poop but the mommy poop isn't there because she's stuck behind a truck.” We both gazed into the toilet and shook our heads in sadness. He needed to work out his feelings of abandonment somewhere, why not work them out in the bathroom?
This morning we had the exciting "daddy-going-to-talk-to-mommy-and-falling-apart poop!" which involved one section floating towards another and then breaking off before our eyes. I've been to Alaska and witnessed the calving of glaciers, but the calving of this poop was even more exciting since it was so unexpected. An action-packed poop! The surprise offered a dramatic twist--who'd have guessed daddy could fall apart on his way to talk to mommy? It's hard to believe most folks just go to the bathroom and don't stop to appreciate the drama going on inches beneath them.
I'm guessing some people will think this is extremely deranged (I know I would have-- back in my pre-children movie-going days), and I'm sure others will think this is perfectly healthy (aren't anal people the ones who haven't come to terms with their own poop?). I don't care. I enjoy it. I could listen to my boy describe his poop forever.
I liken poop reading to tea leaf reading. I don't know much about reading tea leaves but I do know that they swirl around in water before being studied intensely for clues to the future. I don't think that he is really looking into the future when he's peering into the potty at his poop. But I hope I'm looking into his future when he does. I hope that his imagination is always this incredible. I hope that he remains unashamed and fearless. I hope he always strives to find creative solutions to puzzling questions. I hope that he looks for and finds the bright and funny sides of everything--even things that are yucky.
I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like Hollywood-style bathroom humor any more now than I did before I had kids. But I do know that I can say poop, and write poop--and I'm raising a child who can read poop. I am as shocked about it as I am thrilled. I'm in no hurry for all of this business to disappear behind closed doors. Someday we'll all be pooping alone again, flushing away all of the excitement. And I suspect I just might end up missing privacy with company.
6 years ago