If there is one surprising, yet universal, tenet of parenthood it is that we discuss our children’s bowel movements openly, often, and usually in great detail.
You may not even realize you’re doing it for a while; early on you’re too caught up in the daze of trying to figure out how to keep your tiny human alive. It’s kind of a miracle if you’re even able to form complete, coherent thoughts, much less calculate how much time you now spend talking about your kid’s wet diapers. Hospitals even helpfully provide you with a chart to notate both how often your baby is peeing and pooping, as well as what the texture is like. I’m not kidding. I’m pretty sure this is how it all begins.
So no, it doesn’t seem bad at first, just necessary to survival. Eventually, though, you realize that 80% of your conversations with your partner at least include a mention of your kid’s bodily functions. When the kids multiply, so does the amount of time you talk about their collective dumps. Who went when, why someone hasn’t gone yet, whose turn it is to deal with it next, what someone could have possibly eaten. As you can, but try not to, imagine, the list goes on.
From what I can tell, talking about your kids’ bathroom (or diaper) habits is a common bonding agent between parents. No matter the kind of parenting philosophy you practice, the one common parenting denominator (in addition to the love for your respective children, of course) is the fact that they poop (and pee and whatever else) and you have to deal with it. Until someone (incredibly smart) invents a machine that changes the very nature of human physiology, we must all accept this as truth (or hire a nanny).What’s ironic is that, when given the rare opportunity to revel in adult conversation, we, without fail, talk about our kids. This is another thing nearly all parents have in common. Kids are hilarious, mind you, but still.
What I’ve come to realize, and am doing my best to prepare you for, is that kid talk almost always brings with it some sort of potty talk. This, a strange hallmark of parenthood, is actually kind of cathartic. If you can lay this on the table, just think what else you can discuss. Your kid’s poop is basically taking your friendships to the next level with very minimal effort on your part! It’s simultaneously appalling, of course, because our poor children have no say in the matter and it is, well, poop, but it’s really amazing too. It’s just another bizarre reminder of how much your life changes when you have kids.
Sure, you know your opportunities for date nights will be more limited (spending $80 to have a babysitter watch your kids sleep so you can go spend another $150 on dinner and drinks is not an easy pill to swallow). You know your body will change (in disturbingly pliable ways). You may even think know how you’ll parent (ha).
But like any grand adventure, there are so many little things you don’t even know to expect when you’re expecting. I’d say that chief among those is the frequency and ease with which you will say the word “poop.”
Keep in mind, this is coming from someone who had a dog for nearly five years before adding a kid to the equation. My husband and I were no slouches when it came to poop talk. After all, when you live in a city and have to walk your dog instead of luxuriously opening a back door to let him in the yard (the fantasy!), you have to figure out if, and when, he needs to go. However, with our dog, unless something truly alarming arose in taking him outside, there was nothing more that needed to be said. We didn’t dwell on the topic.
Kids, on the other hand, force you to take it to the next level. Not only do you discuss the if and when, but you also find yourself going into the intricacies of how and why. Honestly, the creativity I demonstrate with my poop-related vocabulary is praiseworthy. If we earned badges of the sort, parents would be blue-ribbon holders. It’s an award no one ever wants, to be sure, but when you’re at the beck and call of a small child, knee-deep in tantrums and lack of sleep, you’ll take what you can get.
This realization–of how much time my friends and I spend discussing our kids’ pee and poo–is without a doubt one of the most depressing ones I’ve ever had. Sure, any amount at all may be a little bit of a bummer, because I don’t even want to think about anyone’s pee or poo that much, even or maybe especially my own. The degree to which we incorporate these discussions into our everyday chats, however, is astounding. Plus, it’s not just the number of times we bring it up, but the sheer nonchalance with which we do so that’s so incredible. When else in your life do you talk about poop to this degree? I know more about my friends’ kids’ poop rituals than I know about my own family members’ lives.
When they’re babies, especially if you’re first-time parents, you’ll ask questions about what’s normal. I shuddered when my birth class instructor told us a newborn’s poop smelled like Target popcorn, but I distinctly remember a point during the middle of the night just a few short days after baby was home that I very begrudgingly found myself agreeing with her (and you’re welcome for imparting that little nugget–no pun intended–to you). Little did I know that was the beginning of such vivid fecal description.
When they’re older, you talk about when you’re going to teach them how to use the toilet, or, if you’ve already started, your tips for how to get them to actually do it. It’s not like poop is the only thing we talk about–of course not–but it does seem to wriggle its way into almost every conversation we have.
I tried, in vain, to fight it. While I’m certainly not prudish, not in the least, it’s not exactly as if I make a habit of going around and making poop or fart jokes. Yet the more time I spent around fellow moms, I realized there’s a whole host of bodily functions that are unceremoniously, gloriously up for grabs. It’s positively freeing to discuss whatever, whenever, as it relates to you and/or your child.
“No secretion is too sacred” is basically the motto of motherhood.
You may think you won’t be that kind of parent, the one who so casually references BMs and other potty horror stories, but you will. Believe me, you will.
The Whole Truth & Nothing But(t)
Now that many of us have begun potty training, the potty talk seems to have increased tenfold. Truly. For example, while enjoying a nice night out recently, my friends and I belatedly realized with horror that we had been talking about the toilet, and how to get our tiny humans to use it, for 20 minutes. With great pride, by the way. Really, it’s the small things that count. Although, in all seriousness, getting your kid out of a diaper after two or three years feels pretty damn big. It’s exhilarating, hence the need to talk about it so unabashedly, I guess.
(Side note to give major props to my son who we just potty trained last month and, minus a few errant accidents, has been rocking it. Praise be.)
My Hope for the Future
I can only hope–and pray, furiously–that my involvement with my kids’ bathroom activities will dwindle with time. When this day comes, I surely won’t feel the need to discuss such activities at the rate I do now, right? Right?! Just please agree with me. I certainly don’t envision talking about it to this degree when I’m, say, 80. Although maybe by then I’ll be bringing it back up for entirely different reasons.
So be prepared, soon-to-be-parents. Your life is about to change in all the ways you expect, of course. I don’t need to tell you that. But in addition to staying up all night trying to calm your gassy, crying infant, you’ll start to experience what I call the poop creep (in both literal and figurative ways, unfortunately). It may come as a surprise; I know it did for me. But please embrace it for all of its therapeutic, relationship-building glory. At the very least, take comfort in the solidarity the poop creep creates.