It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Oh, the (disgusting) irony…

Tyler is pretty much potty-trained. He knows when he needs to go, he can get himself to the potty on time. He can get his pants down and back up again. He needs help with the clean-up, but all in all he’s independent.


He’s a ‘withholder’. He doesn’t like to poo. He holds it for as long as humanly possible. Correction: he holds it far longer than should be humanly possible. This is more than just an oddity. This is worrisome. Holding out for that long can make a body sick. It will certainly cause constipation. How Tyler has evaded that thus far is one of life’s little mysteries, but if he keeps it up, it’ll be inevitable.

He never poos during the day at my home. This is not all that unusual. It often happens that a child’s typical poop time occurs when they’re at home — first thing in the morning, or right after dinner, say. That’s called being ‘regular’. 🙂

Tyler is not ‘regular’. He’ll hold out and hold out and hold out. Then, on the third or fourth or fifth day, he seems to reach a point where he just can’t quite hold it any more. He’ll release a bit into his underwear. They’ll clean him up and change him. Fifteen minutes, half an hour later, he’ll do it again. When he’s put on the potty, nothing happens. Put him back in underwear, and, half an hour later, another dollop in his pants.

Not that this ever happens at my home. In fact, I had no idea this was happening until his mother called me one evening. She is at the end of her rope.

“Calm and unemotional. We’re tying to be calm and unemotional… and we just can’t do it any more! The underwear! I’ve bought ten new pairs of underwear, and it’s still not enough!”

My input, in our lengthy conversation, was that at this point I saw us as having two ways to go: cold turkey, which means they take away his night-time diaper, and we push his liquid and fibre intake (bring on the prune juice!). Yes, there will probably be more laundry, in the form of bedding as well as ALL THOSE UNDERWEAR for a few days. But we’ll try it for a week or ten days and see if we can push this past the tipping point. That’s one way.

Or, we could go in the complete other direction, and put the boy back in diapers for two or three months, let everyone calm down and get over what is obviously becoming traumatic, before trying again.

I really had no strong preference. I think either way could work. I’m worried, though, knowing that the longer this continues, the greater the likelihood that he’ll become seriously constipated. Then having a poo will hurt — which will only increase his aversion to having a bowel movement. And then we’ll really be entrenched in a vicious circle! So whichever way we go, we need to make a decision and get it done.

Mom did NOT want to go back to diapers. Her much-beloved son is driving her CRAZY!!! Eight, ten, twelve pair of underwear a couple of days a week would do that to a woman. Okay, then. Cold turkey it is.

We agree to really push the fluids. Anything the boy will drink, the boy can have. Fruit juice? Here you go! Nuclear green kool-aid? Bring it on! Lots of fibre, in any form he’ll take it. Dried apricots, raisins, grapes, peas… I suggested we institute a potty regimen, with a set time for pooping each day. The first will be about 24 hours after his last poo, and then we’ll stick with that time. We won’t ask if he needs to go, we’ll just tell him it’s time to poo. See if we can get the boy regulated.

Friday was Day One of Tyler’s new potty regimen. At the end of the day, I had both good and bad news.

1. The good news: Tyler had a very large poo on the potty shortly after noon!!! It’s an astonishment to me that one small boy could possibly hold so much ordure. But it was enormous and it was soft. Yay! Still (miraculously) no constipation!!

It wasn’t a struggle at all. A simple directive: “Time to sit on the potty and have that poo, Tyler.” See, he’d been complaining that his belly hurt, and, given that it had been three days since his last BM, I was sure I knew what that was all about.

“Your belly hurts, sweetie, because there’s a poo in there that needs to come out. You go sit on the potty and wait for it. It might take a while, but it needs to come out. When it does, you will feel so much better!”

So he went, and he sat down, and he waited. And he waited. And he waited. I gave him a few books, and a soft toy, but I largely ignored him. I’m suspecting part of this is power struggle and/or attention-seeking, so, while being cheerful, positive, and supportive, I am also leaving him to do the work on his own. I checked in at intervals.

“Has that poo come out yet?”
“Well, what a silly poo!” [Mary leans down a bit and calls out in the general direction of Tyler’s belly-button.] “Hey, you poo in there! Get out of there! Time to come out and leave Tyler alone! Come on, lazy poo! Out you come!”
By now Tyler is giggling. I hand him another book and leave for another five minutes. (See? No pressure, just cheerful support. But also minimal attention. No sitting and reading to him for 25 minutes.)

And… 25 minutes later, an enormous, gigantic, gargantuan poo. I was afraid the top of the goopy pile would scrape off on the bottom of the potty seat when I removed the bowl, but we managed to escape that extra mess. It was a near thing, though.

“There! All done! Don’t you feel better??”

He didn’t. Apparently his belly still hurt. Pfft. I know this boy. If he thought it would lose him a point to agree, he’d argue black was white. Yes, he feels better. He’s just not going to admit it. So, having cleaned and watched him get back into his pants, upstairs I go, to dump the ten-pound potty into the toilet.

When I come downstairs a minute later…

2. the bad news…

He is throwing up. All over the place. ALL over the place. Astonishing quantities of stuff. Solids, liquids, in between, splattered all over the dining room floor. I arrive on the scene in the middle of the second heave. There are two more after that. My dining room floor is awash, and the stench is making my eyes water.


“Tyler. Sit down right where you are. Don’t move, okay? I have to get the babies out of the way.”

He plonks his butt down, blinking blearily. I scoop one, two, three babies, toss them into highchairs, and scatter Cheerios on their trays. I grab my bin of rags and swab the floor before turning my attention to Tyler.

And I strip the boy down. Because everything is saturated. His sweater and the shirt underneath it stick to his skin. The thighs of his jeans are spattered with chunks. His woolly slippers have absorbed enough of the puddle he was standing in that his socks are also damp.

In fact, the only item of his clothing that did NOT require changing? Well, take a guess: After days of many, many changes of pooped-in underwear per day, guess which was the ONLY item of clothing that did NOT need to be changed after the puke of the century?


(Afterword, because who wouldn’t be wondering about this: The puke and the poo were in no way related. He pooped — yay!!! He had a stomach bug that lasted the next 30 hours or so — boo!!! Total coincidence.)

February 28, 2011 - Posted by | health and safety, potty tales, Tyler | , ,


  1. I just hope he doesn’t think the two were related. It might be back to square one.

    I have the same worry. He doesn’t come on Mondays. We’ll have to see how it goes tomorrow!

    Comment by jwg | February 28, 2011 | Reply

  2. Wow. That is impressive… and ironic.

    I hope he doesn’t associate having a poo with NOT feeling better at all…

    I know. That would be Irony #2, and one I could live without. As I said to jwg, above, we’ll have to see how it goes tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

    Comment by rosie_kate | February 28, 2011 | Reply

  3. Oh boy does that take me back. Daughter was the same way about pooping when we started potty training.

    Unfortunately, she did end up very constipated and we had to resort to glycerin suppositories more than once. Not fun for anyone involved.

    And I can so relate to the underwear issue – so many pairs, what I wouldn’t have given for a Costco membership back then.

    We also opted to just go ahead and not put her back in diapers but it wasn’t easy and it wears everyone out.

    On the bright side, she’s 15 now and such traumas are but a distant memory. Thank Goodness. 😀

    I’ve seen this degree of fortitude once before. You do get through it, but, yeesh. Some kids, they just seem to need to do it the hard way… 😛

    Comment by Sheri | February 28, 2011 | Reply

  4. My granddaughter pretty well bypassed the potty and much preferred the loo with a child’s seat insert. She seems to associate it with being a big girl rather than a baby.

    I have one of those, of course. I wonder if it would make a difference? Worth a try! It could probably be helpful that his big sister uses one here.

    Comment by Z | February 28, 2011 | Reply

  5. We opted for prizes. Sticker charts, small toys as prizes for pooping on the potty. Might get him to stop holding out. (After the stomach bug is gone of course).

    How old is he?

    We use Smarties. He loves Smarties. He doesn’t get them for pees any more, but he gets FIVE for a poo! He is quite excited about that part… 🙂 He’s three, just turned.

    Comment by lynn | February 28, 2011 | Reply

  6. Jude was and is the same, he withheld to the point that he damaged the nerves in his bowel and stretched his bowel, google encoperisis, Judes nearly 10 and still passes giant painful poos and leaks at times.

    Don’t need to google, know what it is. Ugh, poor Jude. I’m hopeful that because Tyler is now beginning to do poos for me that poos at home will follow, and we can avoid that whole unpleasant possibility. I haven’t mentioned it to his parents because they’re already stressed out enough about it, though I have expressed my concerns re: constipation. His mother’s a nutritionist, though, so I doubt she needs me to tell her!

    Comment by jenny | February 28, 2011 | Reply

  7. I was scared that they were related. Whew. My middle child (of course) was fine on the poo end but wet her panties all the time because, I think, she just couldn’t be bothered to stop what she was doing. Nothing worked. Nothing. I put her back in diapers and she was done with that nonsense in a week. I hate potty training. Worse than anything.

    The timing of the two was not exactly serendipitous, that’s for sure! I sure hope poor Tyler doesn’t make that connection.

    I’m not sure if Tyler would be humiliated to be back in diapers, or just relieved, and we wouldn’t know for sure until we tried it. Little bum would probably be perfectly happy to trundle around with a million flies in his stinky wake…

    Comment by Bridgett | February 28, 2011 | Reply

  8. I had this exact same thing with my son. He was trained for a month and then all of a sudden, wouldn’t poop anymore and had “smears” or “dollops” every few days, just like you described. We went back to diapers for about a year and then tried it again, this time with a daily dose of metamucil mixed with some apple juice. Ta-da! He became regular and then we weaned him off the metamucil and now there are no problems. Definitely a long process of trial and error.

    Comment by Angie | February 28, 2011 | Reply

  9. My kids did this for years. Years. We still have to TELL my TEN year old to go sit. Every.Night.
    Otherwise, they just had/have better things to do.

    With the eldest, the doctor told me that after enough holding/constipation–rectum can actually stretch so then they have accidents because they don’t feel/notice that they’re having accidents!!?!?!

    (My youngest has gotten the hang of the whole potty thing, just yet. We’ll see!)

    Good Luck! Fiber + Routine. Repeat. 😉

    Comment by LoryKC | March 1, 2011 | Reply

  10. Oh dear!

    Comment by IfByYes | March 2, 2011 | Reply

  11. […] has not yet pooped at my house, after last Friday’s dramatic episode. HOWEVER, he is pooping at home in the evenings!!! Are we out of the woods with this? Since […]

    Pingback by Update, Tyler « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | March 2, 2011 | Reply

  12. […] is still not 100% potty-trained. In fact, given his withholding of bowel movements and our increasing worries about the possibility of him developing encopresis, we’ve put him […]

    Pingback by The boy needs a memory aid « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | June 24, 2011 | Reply

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