Warning: Potty Talk coming up!
If there’s one thing I dread about raising kids, it’s when they get constipated.
From the moment they’re born, counting bowel movements on a daily basis and checking the color and consistency of their poop become your “thing” as a mother. Why? Because regular bowel movements are a sign your child is okay. Some doctors say babies can go for 3 or 4 days without passing stool, but at that point, who wouldn’t worry! Can I normal adult go 3-4 days without passing dirt?!
I know I used to worry a lot when that would happen (because it happened to both my girls several times). I would PRAY for poop. I really would. And after the agony of waiting and I’d finally see (smell) poop in the Pamper, I would rejoice. In fact, I don’t think I was ever happier.
Things got trickier as they got older, because then they had a say in their food choice. One of my children in particular (I will not divulge who!) is quite the stubborn eater. She loves cheese, milk, ice cream, juice… all the things that can easily constipate a child. For a time she loved guacamole too — like that helped. Where’s the fiber in her diet? She refused it (thankfully now she likes strawberries, but I’ll get to the history behind that in a minute).
Because I fear she will be constipated (and often enough I’m right), I try to talk her into eating better. Sometimes I’m successful and a crisis is averted. Other times, I’m not. And oh boy….
Back in Manila it happened a lot because my daughter was often left with well-meaning help who’d just give her what she wanted to eat. Of course, come pooping time, who does she scream for when belly aches and nothing comes out?
During those times I feel the most helpless. I hold her. I give her water. I rub her stomach and I rub her back. But that’s basically all I can do. She’s got to pass the poop through her system herself. Most of the time there is screaming. There are loads of tears. One time, I used a suppository. I think that scarred her for life because now she freaks at the mere suggestion of it.
Thankfully after each “episode”, we live to live another day. I hope each time that the lesson is learned, and history doesn’t repeat itself. Then again, she’s a child. And of course, history DOES. REPEAT. ITSELF. And the helpless feeling washes over me. AGAIN.
In fact it’s more than that — I end up feeling like a bad parent for letting it happen (again!). I should’ve found a way to stop it, by hook or by crook. I should find a better solution for it.
And then I think about Coach Pia’s lessons on allowing them to experience the Natural Consequence of things. Strangely these constipated episodes (that sounds weird) helped me understand this entire concept better.
As a parent, there’s really only so much we can do. We love our children and we want to keep them from getting hurt and experiencing pain. But sometimes protecting them from it doesn’t make them more capable. Sometimes it doesn’t teach them the lesson. And it’s not like we don’t warn them to begin with. Experiencing the mistake for themselves is more powerful than any parental heed you can offer. Sometimes, it has to happen over and over again for the lesson to stick. Coach Pia says eventually it will, and eventually they will get it. What’s important is that we as parents are there to see them through it, even if it means doing it over and over again too.
And so, after getting constipated for the nth time (and surviving), the lesson finally stuck. Now she heeds my warning when I try to inject some form of fiber into her diet and she refuses. She takes a pause at the thought of her “butt-butt” being “owie”. I suppose the wheels in her head have finally clicked, because she miraculously agrees to eat the food I offer, and is eager to drink MORE glasses of water.
Thankfully, we’ve not had any episode since we left Manila. And her food repertoire is slowly expanding to voluntarily include fiber. It has gotten easier, but it was quite the journey. And now hopefully it will soon become a lasting healthy habit, and I will not have to worry anymore about screaming, tearful potty sessions.
It’s funny what parenting lessons poop can teach you.