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...


  1. This is a great story in so many ways!

  2. Hi, I went to high school with Donnie. I stumbled upon your blog and I have to say, I've been enjoying reading your expat adventures. You really manage to capture something of the essence of the adventure of living abroad when you write.

    I'm an expat too and I know the feeling... ok, not with the poo bit exactly, but the living abroad and the French administration, and so on. The first time I lived in France I think I only got my medical card about a week before I was supposed to leave. Take heart these things do come eventually! My friends moved from Belgium (where I now live with my husband) to France and it was about 9 months before the allocation familial started to arrive. Anyway, If you ever want to visit Brussels, you'd be more than welcome to stay with us. I love showing people my adopted city. In the meantime, keep up the posts - they're great!

    1. Hey Jessi,

      Thank you so much for writing! How cool that your stumbled upon the blog. I've been enjoying your posts over at Doctorate Houswife! (I also think that's a great name for a blog :)

      We'll definitely let you know if we come to Brussels. We'd love to meet up!

    2. Thanks! When I was finishing my doctorate, I was trying to figure out what to do next and my husband (Daniel) joked that I could become a "doctorate housewife" (Desperate Housewives was really popular on Belgian tv at the time). It tickled my funny bone. So when I started the blog, I knew exactly what to call it. Do let me know if you find your way to Brussels =)

  3. I love how you see the depth in life Julia, what some parents might see as a horrible/hilarious situation, you find gratifying...and probably a bit horrible/hilarious. Much love to you my dear!

  4. Hahahaha I love this! I'll definitely think about these metaphorical implications next time I see a bidet. :)

    And that photo of Louisa is adorable!