Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Second Tale from the Land of Potty Training: In which Brownie defeats the Merpeople

A second tale relating to our state in life

Yesterday, I put away half of our children's books.  They hadn't been read in weeks, and were instead being used as teetherd by the baby.   You see, Maria is in a phase where she prefers that we tell her stories rather than read them.  She enjoys giving us a prompt "tell a 'tory about ____" and hearing something tailor-made for her mood.   It's an enjoyable phase; a respite from Babar, Winnie the Pooh, and the other lovable, but eventually tiresome subjects of Maria's library.  But it requires more creative energy.  I'm not a practiced story teller and don't have much in the way of ready-made tales.  My stories are lumpy, Frankenstein affairs, often plagiarizing Maria's books or movies from my childhood.  Often,  I chose too complex a subject or go on for too long and find that I have lost my audience.  But now that we're several weeks into this phase, I do a bit better.  Let's see how I do here.

Our Story--the story of this post--is a tale about a tale.  It begins one evening about two weeks ago, during Maria's bath.   I had just acheived the rare tear-free hair washing, thanks to Maria being in an attentive mood.  She had requested and received two stories during her shampoo. The first had been an involved fable about a wealthy frog who was overly particular about the temperature of his bath water.  The second had been equally complex and had involved Mer-King Triton abducting Baby Louisa.  Now that the suds were out of Maria's hair, I was pleased with myself and rather tired. "Time to get out of the bath, Maria." 

Maria was unmoved by this announcement.  "I not want to get out of bath.  Tell a 'tory about Mommy in the bath."  She splashed happily.

Having learned from hard experience that Maria does not do well with sudden transitions (perhaps none of us do), I decided to give her one last story.

A story about "Mommy in the bath," I repeated as I rummaged my brain.  I couldn't remember having any exciting experiences in a bathtub, and I wasn't about to call on King Triton again.  Finally, I settled on a simple anecdote from my youth.

"Once, when Mommy was a little girl, she took a bath.  She was all clean.  Her face was clean, her elbows were clean, her legs were clean.  After she got out of the bath, she decided to go bump, bump, bump down the stair.  You see, at the time, Mommy lived in a house where the stairs were covered in carpent, and sliding bump, bump, bump, down the stairs was something that  she and Uncle Dan used to do all the time.  But what Mommy didn't know was that her little dog, Brownie, had left a poopoo on the middle of the stairs.  Now, doggies are supposed to put there poopoos and peepees outside, but sometimes, they forget and put them in the house.   Now Mommy didn't see the poopoo because it blended right in with the carpet.  So she went bump, bump, bump, right into the poopoo and got all messy.  So she got up and told Muschi what happened, and she went right back up the stairs and took another bath and got clean again.  That was it.  The end.  Time to get out of the bath."

At the conclusion of the story, Maria wore a blank, startled expression.  I read disappointment in it, and felt apologetic that I hadn't been a more exciting child so that I could tell her more exciting stories about myself.

"I'm sorry Sweetheart.  That wasn't a very good story.  What do you like better--stories about mermaids or stories about poop?"

There was a pause.

"Stories about poop."

"Well," I thought, as I toweled Maria off, "it just goes to show you that this kid always knows which answer will get the bigger reaction!"

But Maria soon demonstrated that her interest in the story was genuine.

"I think Bownie is a little black dog." 

I explained that Brownie had, in fact, been a little brown and white dog.  Maria continued to muse about "Bownie's" coloration, until I drew a picture of Brownie for her.   Maria proceeded to caper around the apartment, and saying things like "When Bownie comes, she can sleep on this blanket.  She can poop in the backyard."  Finally, the child was wrangled into bed. 

But her interest in the topic did not end with the evening.  She continued to talk about Brownie and about how doggies poop outside.  She also started playing at being a dog herself,  crawling around the apartment on all fours saying things like "I'm a doggie!  I poop outside!" and asking to be taken outside so that she could poop.

There are a number of lessons  to be learned from this incident.

1.)  children love hearing stories about their parents, especially about when their parents were young.  That mommy had a dog named Brownie and that Brownie was white and brown, is an Important Fact. 

b.) In the world of someone who is learning to use the toilet, a story about poop, especially a mis-placed poop, is indeed very interesting.

c.) More generally, simple stories about real, concrete things, can be more engaging than stories of the more fanciful variety.  (This is something I really need to keep in mind.)

But the lesson that I'm holding onto (nay, gripping) is the lesson of the story itself.  The story of me landing on the dog pile was remarkably appropriate for the state of a family in potty training.  Between Maria's mishaps and successes (we have one of those one-piece potties that requires sanitizing after each use) and the consequences of Loulou's newly hearty, fiber-filled meals (she's newly mastered getting food into her mouth), I feel like I'm dealing with a lot of poo lately.  I know that with only two young ones, my situation is in no way extreme. but for me it's new, different, and a bit tiring. 

I must remind my 29-year-old self what my seven-year-old self knew:  Poo happens; when it belongs to someone you love, it's not a big deal.   Or, more succinctly: Chin up and clean up!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Tale from the Land of Potty Trainng

I want to tell you about a recent incident relating to our state in life---that is to say, the state of  potty training.

Now, I apologize if this post is indelicate (I see my mother cringing at the mere title), but bodily functions (and cleaning up after bodily functions) are very much at the forefront of my mind. And since potty training turns out to be something of a Big Project, it earns a bit of space on this blog.

{Now switching to the the present tense in the interest of drama.}

It is early evening. I am working on dinner. 

Maria asks to sit on her potty. (Good)

I help her get situated on her little blue potty chair and leave her to do her business. While I am out of the room, she successfully makes a #1 and a #2 in the potty. (Very good!)

(Here's where I use some imagination.) 

Flushed with success, moved by a spirit of independence and self-sufficiency, Maria decides to empty the potty all by herself, without notifying her mother.   (Maybe good?)

Alas, the potty is not in the bathroom with the working toilet! A full potty is an awkward load for a three year old.  Maria knows that mum will not be pleased with a spill.  She hatches a plan. Rather than carry it through the hall and into the neighboring bathroom, Maria opts (perhaps sensibly) to tip it into the nearest thing resembling a toilet. 

What is that thing? 

 Our non-functioning bidet, of course!

Here is Louisa, using the bidet for musical purposes.  Have no fear.  It is clean in this picture.

Seeing the story in black and white, I realize it's probably not funny for most people. For me, the humor rests largely on two point. First, we have a bidet--teehee! Second, on Bad Days, this bidet is a kind of metaphor for those aspects of life in France that confound us. Dealing with the French bureaucratic social state comes to mind.* The bidet is also a metaphor for the vague, inflated expectations that people have about what it's like to live abroad in a beautiful country; expectations that through some kind of movie magic, the country will make you happier, thinner, more stylish, and provide you with a store of anecdotes involving colorful characters who have "joie de vivre" or  a certain "je ne sais quoi."**

Like the social system and the feel-good travel movie narrative, the bidet promises much. It will wash away your accumulated effluvium in an exhilarating, hygenic whirl, leaving you cleansed and ready for the next Big Thing.

But in reality...the bidet goes unused. We're told that if we turn it on, it will flood the bathroom. It stands, gathering dust and catching drips from the wash clothes that hang from the rack above--the wash clothes that actually do, with a bit of elbow grease, get things clean.

So, to me, Maria dumping her potty into this bidet is not only funny, but rather gratifying. After all, in the clean, unfettered eye of youth, it just looks like a toilet.

Sorry, I'm sure the French government is, in many respects, much more functional than our non-functioning bidet. It's just that we haven't yet seen those 300 Euro a month family aid payments and are beginning to lose hope....

Actually, to be honest, Donnie has lost weight, and I'm back down to pre-pregnancy weight. And truely, we do have friends with "joie de vivre" and/or a certain "je ne sais quoi" These are the Bad Days I'm talking about...