Mike thinks Myra-Jean is the next Samuel Beckett. I think she’s just fucking with our heads.
Either way, she’s been turning out some pretty interesting literature recently. All on the subject of pooping. Three books in the last couple of days, each one more cryptic than the one before. The first two can at least be understood–they are basically anti-defecation tracts, repeating the general sentiment that Myra-Jean does not, ever, want to become potty trained. But the last one? Um, can you say Rosetta Stone? As in, need one?
But I get ahead of myself. Let me say that, after she wrote the first two books, something happened. Something amazing. We had our first–our only–true poop in the potty. It was a miracle. Finally! A few months short of the four-year-old mark, too!
Needless to say we were thrilled. We sang, we rejoiced, we posted on Facebook. (OK, I did. Mike doesn’t even have an account. Which makes him, I suppose, superior to me. Except that he gets all of his dirt from my page.) We were so thrilled we would have given MJ anything. And we did. She got a half an hour of music videos. She got Halloween candy. (Yes, it’s still around. No, it’s not stale. I don’t think. I didn’t taste it. Is there such a thing as a stale Nerd?) Finally, she got a kitten. Or was promised one. Yes, a real one. I know. We’re suckers. And gluttons for punishment. As if one mentally deranged dog isn’t enough.
But the next day MJ, having accepted her rewards with great pleasure, declared she would poop in the potty no more.
“What?” I said, trying not to yell. “Why?”
“It splashed me,” she replied primly.
“The poop.” She shook her head. “I didn’t like it.”
I sat back on my knees, weaving slightly. Suppressed disappointment will do that to you. As will hours of sitting on a bathroom floor.
“Look,” I said, “poop doesn’t always splash. It almost never does.”
MJ looked at me suspiciously.
“I mean, I get a splash, like”–I reached in the air searchingly–“once a month. Or two. What happened to you was an anomaly.”
“It never happens. Splashes do not happen.”
“I felt one.”
“No, I mean–you did. But it was a freak accident. Please try again.”
She wouldn’t. I begged. We went back and forth. It was a talk of epic proportions. I felt like a UN ambassador brokering peace in North Korea. If UN Ambassadors do such a thing. And if feces are involved.
We got nowhere.
Finally I had an inspiration. “Look,” I said smiling brightly. “You have to poop. You can’t hold it in forever–”
“Yes I can,” she interrupted.
“No you can’t,” I snapped. Then I took a deep breath.
“Here’s the thing,” I went on, all serenity again. “I’m willing to compromise, just to get out of this bathroom. OK? So how about I lay an open diaper in the toilet. Beneath the potty seat. To catch the poop as it falls. OK?”
Myra-Jean considered this preposterous idea. Which clearly wasn’t, to her. “So there won’t be a splash?”
I fought to keep my face placid. Staycalmstaycalmstaycalm. “No splash. Just…a gentle thwock. OK? Can we please do this?”
She thought about it more. “Fine.”
And that was what we did.
And now guess what? It’s the new normal.
And I’m about to lose my mind. We’ve been working on this one thing for what feels like seven centuries. I have bent over so far backwards to make MJ feel unrushed and unpressured that I am in some sort of permanent yoga pose. Call it “hapless parent.” And still, we are only here. Pooping into–instead of in–a diaper. I’m an idiot. Or am I?
It’s really enough to make you question your own sanity. Never mind your kid’s.
I will leave you with today’s book. Mike claims it’s his favorite yet. May I remind you, he went to art school. Both grad and undergrad.
Here’s the text, as dictated precisely by MJ moments after getting off of her new rig:
Page one: “Wow! This is actually very easy. (Sigh)”
Page two: “(Sigh)”
Page three: “I really didn’t want to do it at first. (Sigh). Huh (like a sigh).”
Page four: “I’m not sure if I really want to do it. HHHH. Sigh.”
Page Five: “Monin Gada. Monin Gada. Monin Gada. Monin Gada. Monin Gada.”
Page six: “I don’t know if it’s going to be easy or not. In the end I am going to watch all of my videos and eat all of my candy.”
What else is there to say? I’m nuts. Why shouldn’t she be? Clearly the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
But when it does fall? What a sound that makes.
It’s hard to write when you’re flooded with anxiety. Or even wading clumsily through a couple inches of it. If only there was some kind of pump. A mental wet-vac. A mop. Because let me tell you, insurance doesn’t cover it, and to say it’s messy is an understatement.
And it’s not just me. The whole house is on edge. Mike and I, we have our reasons. Unemployment–Mike’s, at present–being a huge one. Money. Dwindling. Savings. Plummeting. Confidence. Tanking.
Get-rich-quick ideas. Burgeoning.
Having said that, I still haven’t sold my wedding dress, or even completed the listing. So much for my little schemes.
Meanwhile, we need new glasses for Mike, repairs for the car, a garbage disposal, school tuition, flea medication. It’s cliche to say that such expenses bloom when it’s least convenient. Such wisdom, however, adds small comfort.
Then there are the insects. Not those around now–although we are having a strange influx of moths, whose corpses are smeared, like little silvery ghosts, on every wall in the house–but future ones. We’ve finally booked our summer trip to parts east, and my anticipatory bug-a-phobia is in full swing. Instead of looking forward with grateful excitement to a journey with stops in New Jersey, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nova Scotia, all I can think is: Deer flies. Ticks. Mosquitos. Repeat. Deer flies. Ticks. Mosquitos. Repeat.
I’ve googled how to prevent Lyme’s disease. Then stayed up ’til midnight learning how incurable it is.
I know. I have to get a grip. People have real problems. These don’t qualify. Much.
Except then there’s the cholesterol. That’s real. I just got diagnosed with high levels. So, supplements have been ordered, milkfats lowered (just shoot me), and desserts basically eradicated. Cheese–my dear friend, confidante, and snack therapist–has been given the boot. We can stay friends, but never again will we sleep in the same bed. And this is something to grieve, as far as I’m concerned. Like, Elizabeth Kubler Ross–the whole thing. I’ve said forever that I wanted to be buried in a block of Cracker Barrel. But no more. Bury me now in a rough case of rice crackers. That’s about all I’ll be eating from this point forward.
So the food thing is a drag. And there’s that mid-life crisis I referred to earlier. It’s still bustling about, wiping both hands on its well-used apron and chuckling as it bustles about the kitchen. You should have heard it snicker when I checked out “Eat to Live” from the library. Cackle, more like it. Fucking asshole. Let it eat oatmeal with chia seeds for breakfast every day. See how peppy it feels.
Finally, there’s MJ. Her anxieties are flowering like peonies at Trader Joe’s. She is worried–continuously–about pooping in the potty. She fretted when we told her we were going to San Francisco for the weekend, then cried when it was time to come home. She dreaded the fireworks last night. Until she saw them. Then she laughed and clapped her hands like a mental patient. But until that moment? You’d have thought we were dragging her off to a firing squad.
Speaking of which–and I digress–the Eastsider ran a piece today about how to tell the difference between the sounds of firecrackers and those of gunshots. “Oh, good,” I thought. “I’ve always wondered. Now I’ll know.”
Four experts later, the consensus was: there’s no way to tell.
This is life right now. It’ll improve. Or it won’t. Either way, we’ll walk through our fears, large and small, and learn that most of them are unfounded. What choice do we have? To lock ourselves in the house and never emerge, subsisting only on delivered Thai food and bottled water? I’ve considered it. But just think of all that BPA. Plus, Myra-Jean doesn’t like spices.
So out we go into the world, with its bugs, stigmatisms, and unidentifiable explosions.
Myra-Jean makes books when she’s anxious. I’ve talked about it before. This week she’s made four. Every time they’ve worked. She’s been immediately calmed, and able to proceed with whatever it was that was frightening her. It’s a magical tool, and fun, too. If only it were so simple for us grownups.
Maybe it is. Perhaps it’s time to make a few for myself. The first one will be called “Jessica does not want to end up on intravenous antibiotics after being bitten by a deer tick.” The next: “Jessica does not know how to enjoy a plant-based diet.”
From there? The list goes on. And on. And on. The drawings should be fun.
The feelings behind them are not.
And so it goes. Another visit ends. Tears in the driveway, promises of a quick return, heartfelt waves to the receding rental car…
“I want her to stay,” MJ moans.
Finally, another book.
We read it over several times. Then we contemplate our growing collection. So many feelings! So little time!
Finally we go on a field trip to the library. Nothing like it to console the sorrowful heart–at least that of my child. Many borrowed books later, we are seeing the sunshine again.
Sometimes it’s medicinal to read someone else’s stories. Especially when you’re three. And missing Grandma. And looking for a super happy ending.