How I found myself hostage to a toddler and his turds

Having dramas getting your toddler into undies? You’re not alone.

Cute Toddler Boy Sitting Patiently On Potty

One of the surprises of becoming a parent is how quickly you get used to changing nappies.

Of course, it can get messy. There was the time I invented a new technique for wiping my kid down post-poo that involved holding him over my shoulder like a bazooka. When he misfired, I wore the shrapnel.

Then there were nappy changes when my son had made such a diabolical mess, I wondered if he’d snuck out during the night for a dozen schooners and a kebab.

But those frustrations counted for nothing compared to how mad I was driven when it came to toilet training our toddler.

I was confident he’d have it under control by 18 months. I started early – really early. Well before he was one, if his face turned a certain shade of beetroot, I’d have him over the toilet in a heartbeat.

My wife thought I was worrying too much. My siblings, with eight kids between them, thought I was a lunatic. I thought they were jealous. By 18 months my son would tell me when he needed to do a poo. We were well on track for what – to me – is the only development goal that matters.

Then it all went to shit.

I don’t know exactly when it fell to pieces and I don’t want to point fingers. At around two, there was an incident at his grandparents’ house. They didn’t realise the kid had graduated to undies and there was a mad panic when he did what came naturally.

Somehow in the commotion that followed – it’s never really been explained how it happened – his undies were flushed down the toilet. I suspect our son almost went with them.

Okay, I am pointing fingers.

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Needless to say, the poor boy lost his passion for heading to the bathroom. Instead, he’d make himself scarce if he needed to go. The first time I found him huddled beneath a table I thought he was playing hide and seek; it was more a game of hide the poo.

He started to yell from his bedroom, “Stay in the lounge room!” It was a sure sign he was up to no good (and that he’ll never be a great poker player). A few minutes later he’d be asking me to clean him up.

He can stay in his mess, I thought one time. He has to be uncomfortable; it’s the only way he’ll learn.

“I’ve done a poo,” he cried out.

“You should have done it in the toilet like a big boy,” I yelled back, staying on the couch, watching the telly.

“I’ve done a poo,” he shouted again.

“Not my problem,” I said.

He called my bluff and marched out of his room, waving the evidence around on his fingertips. Clearly it was my problem.

We reverted to nappies, which I’ve since read is a huge mistake. Even changing those became a nightmare. “I want my dirty nappy,” he would scream in a red-faced rage, teary-eyed to see the soiled pants binned.

Friends with toddlers of their own, who had already overcome the challenge of toilet training, were quick to share horror stories they’d heard.

There was a four-year-old who would hide behind the curtains when she needed to go, and then leave a surprise on the carpet. A six-year-old was seeing a child psychologist to work through his issues.

I told myself our boy would eventually get it together. After all, you don’t see 10-year-olds in nappies. Then the Poo Jogger hit the headlines: a 64-year-old man laying cable in the streets like a one-man NBN crew.

Who knew what our kid would end up doing if we didn’t get a handle on the situation. We decided to make a stand. Nappies were over; it was undies all the way.

Our boy wasn’t on board with the new directive. We had to stick to him like glue; if there was a second’s distraction, he’d use it to fill his undies.

“I don’t want to poo,” he would yell as we took him to the toilet – after pulling him out from under a table or from behind a curtain.

We have a friend who gave their kid a marshmallow for every toilet visit. We had thought it was ridiculous but now bribery made perfect sense. I told our toddler if he wanted to watch telly, or go to the park, or do anything he enjoyed, he had to go to the toilet “like a big boy”.

My mother-in-law promised him a Thomas train if he picked up his act. It helped, but things got a little weird.

“I’m pooing for Thomas,” he told me, as he tried to back one out. “This one’s for Percy,” he said another time.

We had to explain – before he gave himself a hernia – that he wasn’t getting paid on a train-per-poo basis. He’d get one if he changed his behaviour.

And even as I type that, I feel like an idiot. I was negotiating with a toddler, using Thomas the Tank Engine to get him on the toilet.

Still, it seems to have worked. We’ve gone almost a month without an accident. Not that I feel great about the situation. I’m living with a kid, who isn’t even three, who knows he can get his way if he threatens to crap his pants.

I had a lot of hopes and dreams when I was younger. Some were humble, others ambitious.

Needless to say, being held hostage by a toddler and his turds didn’t appear on any to-do list. Life really is full of surprises.


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