The Prisoner*

Joshua has now had about five days in a row of relative dryness. Any pee that comes tends to go in the potty these days, so there’s a real sense of progress now. Of course, he will not go to the potty of his own initiative, so that progress comes like driving a car with the parking brake on. We have had to be sentinels keeping watch for the beginnings of the time-old Potty Dance. (I had hoped for a while that this would become the next new dance craze, but despite all the crotch-grabbing, it still hasn’t caught on with Miley et al.) Still, once prompted and reminded of the sticker workbook that awaits him should he keep his Fruit of the Looms dry all day, he usually heads to the bathroom without much hesitation. Unfortunately, this is when the imprisonment begins.

Joshua’s stamina for sitting on a glorified Tupperware bowl is astounding, and surely the envy of potty-training parents everywhere. Some of my friends who are or have been going through this have told tales of extreme bribery and coaxing just to eke out two or three minutes of potty time from their obstinate pre-schoolers. My kid routinely clocks in over an hour per pee. He’s not peeing for an hour, of course. That would be quite something, and almost certainly beyond the storage capacity of his little Elmo potty. While it greatly facilitates getting the pee out, I foresee problems for him later in life if all his bathroom breaks last longer than an episode of SportsCenter.

He is not, in fact, The Prisoner of whom I speak. That would be me. Or Mom. Or sometimes we’re cellmates. For the first few days, we didn’t want to leave him unattended in the bathroom as his technique resulted in equal amounts of pee in the potty and on the floor. He’s gotten better at this, though we’re still short of perfection. Anyway, there’s really not a lot of verbal instruction you can give to someone to perform a partially involuntary bodily function. We run water, talk about the lake in front of the house, and sometimes use Potty Classic while he’s sitting on New Potty. Once, I even poured water from one cup to another while he watched, hoping it would inspire whatever little Dutch boy he has living inside his bladder to pull his finger out of the dam. That metaphor really has the potential to get inappropriate if I build on it, so I’m just going to leave it there.

So while he whiles away the hours, we exhaust our wiles for keeping ourselves entertained. He’ll spend large chunks of time playing with stickers or letters, and our job is to be present while he does so. He rejects most attempts at interaction, but still doesn’t want us to leave. And so, we are prisoners in a cell more cramped than those in a lot of penitentiaries. His bathroom is deep, but fairly narrow (that’s what she said?), and his potty’s footprint is not small. Beyond this, the choices of seating are the toilet or the cold tile floor. The former eventually causes your legs to go numb, and the latter eventually causes anything it touches to go numb. Being in there for two hours causes your brain to go numb. Also, our exhaust fan is really flipping loud. Gotta replace that thing.

Lately, we’ve been giving him a bit more privacy, but with mixed results. Two of his pees today took less than ten minutes. His other kept Jen imprisoned for a stupid long time, and finally culminated with no pee at all. Every day, we seem to take two steps forward and two steps backward, though no two of those steps are ever the same length. I was never good at word problems, so we’ll just say that our progress is kind of like the intermittent settings on your windshield wipers — usually too slow, but speeding it up results in annoying noises (my kid has taken to pretending he’s a cat; you can imagine the sounds).

As his pottying is still in its relative infancy, we’re content to let him take as much time as he needs for the present. Once he’s a little more consistent in his, shall we say, delivery, we’ll probably start scaling down the amount of time that we spend with him. Besides, he’s got to fly solo at some point. I would do a lot of things for my boy, but I won’t sit in the bathroom with him in his college dorm encouraging him to “Just let it out.”

Funny. “Just let me out” is usually what I’m thinking.

*To give credit where it’s due, my wife suggested as the title of this post, “Pee.O.W.” It’s a better title than mine, but I like British television.

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