This post originally appeared as a column in Practical Parenting, November 2010
As summer heats up, mothers of two-year-olds around the country turn their thoughts to toilet training. My little Teddy will be excited, I’m sure. He’s spent almost all his life wrapped in nappies, so a season of letting it all hang out will be a wonderful treat to him. As it is, when disrobed, he is always pleased to regard his own naked glory. ‘Pea-nitz, Mama!’ he shouts with delight. ‘Lookit! Pea-nitz!’
Mainly Ivy’s decorative efforts were confined to the liquid kind. Usually she managed to poo in the potty; but not always. One day Keith noticed she had that thousand-mile-stare as she leaned against the couch.
'Are you doing a poo, Ivy?' he said.
'No, daddy, I just relaxing,' she replied, and then looked shamefaced as a little nugget fell out of the leg of her pants.
Just then I came home from the shop.
'What's up?' I said.
'I did a shorts in my poo, Mummy,' she said.
Another afternoon I come unexpectedly upon a steamy little offering in the hallway. ‘Why is there a poo on the floor, Ivy?’ I asked helplessly. ‘I just wanting to see what it’s look like,’ she told me.
Ivy was particularly good at the psychological aspect of warfare. She would wee on the couch cover, which spent more time on the line that summer than in the house, and when it was removed, would stealthily lay a little egg on the cushion itself. One memorable evening there was an Incident in the bath. It involved Ivy standing up, wailing, a little nugget in each hand, as Keith called for help and tried to stop her putting her fingers in her mouth. The next day she talked about the chocolate Daddy wouldn't let her eat in the bath. I think in toddler-therapy they call it a 'disconnect.'
The weeks passed. The Wee War limped on. Ivy refused to go to the toilet at the park, but instead climbed into the driver’s seat before we went home and let the rivers run. She merrily went though four or five pairs of Thomas the Tank engine underpants a day. I hopelessly tried to keep on top of the groaning laundry and the secret corner-tinkling. ‘Mummy is a bit angry,’ Ivy would say conversationally, with her hand on my shoulder. ‘OK, where is the wee?’ I would wearily reply; cloth and floor-spray in hand.
Will it be easier dealing with a little boy and his pea-nitz? Will it be a summer full of fruity bath-bombs, and a lingering fragrance of Eau-de-Puppy-Shelter? The double-covers are on the couch and I’m prepared for battle, dear readers. I’ll keep you posted.