We all have heard cute potty training stories, funny potty training stories, and nightmarish potty training stories. But unless you’ve tried to potty train while driving a car, you haven’t really lived! When one of our kids was in this delightful phase of life we were in the itineration phase of missionary work. That means we were driving all over kingdom come raising money for the next 4 years of missionary work. Every Sunday and most Wednesdays we were in a different city or town preaching in churches and sharing our vision with congregations. I was a stay-at-home mom and my husband was a work-out-of-an-office-in-the-basement dad. So we were able to travel together as a family.
This traveling together really had it’s ups and downs. Most churches were really happy to see the children. Let’s face it, my kids ARE kind of cute. I never put my kids up on the stage to perform, that’s just not my style, but we would stand at the table in the back where we had our pictures and trinkets from Mexico displayed for folks to enjoy. I would shake hands and talk with the people while my children played around (and under) the table- sometimes peacefully. But traveling with children is no picnic.
It doesn’t matter if you stay in a hotel or in the pastor’s house, the children don’t sleep well. It doesn’t matter if you eat in a restaurant or in someone’s home, the children don’t eat well. And just when you feel like you can congratulate yourself for packing enough toys to keep them quiet in the church service, a fight breaks out on the front pew and you are the referee. These difficulties are only compounded if one child gets sick on the road OR one child gets constipated on the road, as was our case.
In the midst of our travels, I was trying to potty train the child who shall remain unnamed. But this child has a will of iron. She did not want to poo. So all week long she would hold it and refuse to poo. Then on Sunday night, in the church bathroom, she would camp out for a half hour or so. It wouldn’t have been so bad except that being constipated meant that letting it out hurt quite a bit. (Why her pediatrician never told me about children’s laxatives, I will never know.) So every Sunday night my child would sit on the pot and scream, “I’m pooping!!” And the little old ladies in the church would cluster around the door of the bathroom and ask me if I needed any help. I’d smile tensely, “She’s constipated,” I’d explain, “It’s just something we’re dealing with being on the road.” Well have you tried giving her cranberry juice? or more water? or castor oil? or taking her to the potty more often? or reading books to her while she sits? or offering her candy when she goes? or giving her an enema? or cutting back on dairy? or… YES! Let me save you a suggestion. I have tried it all. But the child hates to poop and that’s that.
When we finally arrived in Costa Rica for a year of language school our lives became more stable. We moved into an apartment building with 3 other missionary families also studying Spanish. All of our bathroom windows vented into a common air shaft. That meant that we could basically hear everything that went on in our neighbor’s bathrooms and they could hear us too! We felt we should warn our new neighbors that our child screams once a week. The first few times it happened, our neighbors would shout encouragement into the air shaft. We heard, “Way to go!” and “Good job!” and “We’re proud of you!” and “Everyone poos! You’re doing great!” With all that cheering and a stable home life once again it only took a month before everyone in the family was on a “regular schedule” again, if you know what I mean.
I don’t know why the Parenting books never mentioned this little gem, but this is my advice to all of you: Cheer. Everyone needs encouragement now and then. Works like a charm!