“I do myself! I. Do. It. ME. SEEEEELF!”
“Owen I need to help -”
“- No. No. NOOOO!”
And repeat. Such is potty training a willful four year old who is a concrete thinker. I’d like to tell you that it’s over, that it’s gotten better, but we’re in the thick of the bathroom exploration. Well, folks, $#!+ got real today.
I was so proud of my visual prompts, social stories, board books, cloth diapers, pull ups, training pants, and other sundry preparations. A silent pat on my back and a misplaced complacency was quickly replaced with the ever repeating realization that my son has the tenacity of a dictator and the logic of a club goer drugged without their knowledge.
What does this look like? I hover and chase him around despite his protests to feebly attempt to thwart him from using various household items to wipe his ass with. What items? Owen is resourceful and sneaky enough that he has utilized the following: curtains, rugs, sheets, his sister’s clothes, and an oven mitt.
Between a clunker car with no air conditioning, my health negatively affected by the heat, and a son wanting to “do it me-self” when it comes to changing his diaper…you have the makings for the perfect $#!+ storm.
Yet keeping him cooped up is even more dangerous so we packed up and headed for an indoor playground. I had our punch cards, five extra diapers, two extra baby bottles, snacks, and a coffee that was pretty much straight espresso. We were loaded for every type of blowout I thought I had anticipated.
He was in a great mood and made it all the way through the grocery store without zero meltdowns. A true rarity. We played peekaboo, our grocery cart snuggle game of me zooming in for kisses by pulling the cart back and forth, and “I Spy”. He then practiced his hook shot to help unload the cart at the checkout. I was ecstatic. I checked his diaper and was shocked. He was still dry.
Off to the indoor play space floating on success. He continued his winning streak and made friends! To all the parents of autistic kids you will understand that I was riding high at this point. Basking in the glow of my good fortune and possibly, dare I jinx myself, good parenting.
I didn’t want to tempt fate or smother the poor kid so we exchanged info with the new found friend’s nanny and called it a day. Our insulated grocery bags were only going to hold up so long in the 98° heat so we made tracks.
I plopped him into his carseat and pulled out of the parking lot. We made it one block before my tire exploded.
I turned to look at Owen, “Are you ok?”
Of course you did.
I cleaned him up the best I could and tried calling roadside assistance and they wouldn’t answer. They sent me a text to fill out a survey instead. I stood next to our open doors and looked at his sweet, roasting face. He farted and smiled at me.
“Ok, we’re going back and calling for help again once we’re in air conditioning.”
One of the beauties of autism I’ve discovered is my kids don’t ask “why”. For better or worse, they don’t consider your motives or agenda because it doesn’t naturally occurs to them to ask. They’re guileless, true in their intentions whether they are kind or mischievous.
We returned once more. The business owner showed little concern or interest in our plight. I made a mental note to not give a damn about him either. I asked if we could skip paying admission again and he begrudgingly said “sure” with a sour smile. Ok, Owen, screw this overpriced place up all you want while mommy makes phone calls…
Three phone calls later and Jamie was on his way to help and plans were altered for Nora. Owen hollered from the depths of the play structure, “Hi mommy!”
“Hi, honey!” I yelled at the fuzzy top knot of what I hoped was my kid and at the edge of my thoughts wondered why he was so low behind a mesh wall.
I answered emails feverishly and worked on the numerous other pressing issues that I knew were honestly more important than us being stranded. Any moment I didn’t have to be hyper vigilant is typically filled with such chores and writing if I’m lucky.
It felt as if someone was staring at me. I let my eyes drift slowly around the room, checked on Owen, and turned to see a woman looking at me. I smiled, waited for a reaction, and sunk inside a little as she behaved with polite disdain in response.
How dare I have a moment to myself and use my phone. She probably thinks I’m scrolling through Facebook or watching makeup tutorials. I wonder what it’s like to be able to turn your children loose at a park or any other venue without the need to panic.
Once again I wondered to myself what raising neurotypical kids must be like since I didn’t have a clue.
Do other parents have to maintain logbooks and a handy cheat sheet of their kid’s behavior quirks, aversions, allergies, and routines?
Do other parents fear leaving the house because it jeopardizes their child’s life at times to even try a new sitter who might not be able to keep up? Knowing that he might bolt away from them at any moment and not stop since he lacks any fear?
Do other parents know that their kid is going to be the loudest kid in the room yet the most likely to meltdown from sensory pain if someone else is loud? Do other parents even understand the dreaded acronym “IEP”?
I jerked my head up sensing he was on the run. He stood looking up at me in pride and handed me an unlocked padlock, “I do.”
The employee’s jaw dropped as I silently walked over and handed it to him. He looked at the lock and back at me repeatedly in a panic, “How?…”
I smiled, “Like I said, “That’s my boy.”…:
My eyes shot to the right and I saw my delighted boy waiting at the open door of the restroom, “I use da’ potty. I do me-self!”
I love that “self” is accented with a hop of but I can do without the resistance to wiping that goes along with his new found mastery of the toilet.
He dropped his pants and hopped up on the big toilet for the first time ever and used it like an expert minus the wiping. I was so overjoyed. The first time out! On a public toilet no less! The biggest impediment all this time was him being ready not his lack of ability.
If someone had told me ten years ago that I would be standing in a public toilet holding my four year old son and cheering with tears in my eyes while his pants were hanging off his ankles I would have laughed. I also would have been almost as overjoyed as I was in that moment. Having a son wasn’t a reality I dreamed for because it hurt too much. I love my rainbow babies and wouldn’t change them for the world. I only wish I could change the world for them.
We walked back out and it occurred to me to be direct and ask why he was resistant to wiping. The answer blew me away.
“It not-s a step.”
As soon as we were safely back home and settled in I started investigating his assertion on wiping and two things became apparent. First, I quickly understood Chazz Palminteri’s character’s astonishment in The Usual Suspects when the penny drops on his realization of “Keyser Soze”. Second, none of my social stories or visual prompts included wiping. All of the minute steps of the mechanics involved to be able to use the toilet were there except for the crucial one that makes a difference between success and wearing faeces.
He was right, wiping wasn’t illustrated on his cards so he wasn’t going to do it until the picture was included. Out of sheer frustration and weariness I sketched a quick doodle of someone wiping on a sticky note and put it in with his cards. He came running in to use the potty and I showed him the sticky note. He laughed and shook his head as he peed, “Dat’ silly, mommy. I don’t wipe, YOU do.”
I need to update my life’s social story.