“Daddy, I need a wee-wee”. Shit! So there I am, stuck in a supermarket with a trolley FULL of groceries and my daughter needs a wee; where’s mommy you may ask? At home. So it’s me, my daughter, the trolley, aisle upon aisle of stuff, and one mission...get this child to a toilet and FAST.
Yip, it seems to be that time when the transition from nappies to panties is the order of the day. She is currently really good at informing us when she needs a wee, but poo’s, that’s a different story all together!
Anyway, back to the wee in the supermarket. I find a quiet corner at the back of the supermarket to “stash” the trolley, haul my little girl out of the trolley’s child-seat and start running across the store. I pass till number thirty-six, then thirty-five, then thirty-four, then thirty-three, you get the picture...and then... I bump into a work colleague. It was literally the quickest “hello” and “goodbye” I have ever pulled off. Not only was I on a mission to get my daughter to a nearby toilet, but I had the added incentive of trying to avoid the store intercom system announcing “mess in aisle twenty-eight, can a member of the cleaning staff please assist”.
Out the supermarket door, up a flight of stairs, into the grubbiest public toilet this side of the equator, strict instructions about not touching anything, leggings off, panties down and now she is balancing over the toilet whilst I hold her firmly in a hovering position...and then...the phone rings. It’s mommy! Please can you pick up another jar of artichokes? Sure thing babes is my hurried reply; and then, the sweet, gentle sound of my little one’s voice “Daddy, I don’t need a wee”. Classic! A fond parenting moment! Pull up the leggings and panties, move in a stealth-like manner past the grubby doors (no, don’t touch that, it’s not a mini basin, it’s a urinal), down the stairs, back into the supermarket, passed till number one, two, three...all the way back past thirty-six, down the aisle, to finally be reunited with our beloved trolley once again. Relief!
But the weeing is not the problem (unbelievable I know). It is the pooing. We just can’t get her to go to the toilet to do a number two. She holds it in until we put a nappy or pull-up on and then almost immediately we’ll have to change her again. Trying to understand this behaviour has been a tricky one, but I keep coming back to the explanation which Freud offers in the second stage of his psychosexual stages of development...aptly named the anal stage.
Once weaned, Freud believed that a child’s focus shifts from the mouth (Stage 1 – The Oral Stage) to the anus. At this stage (aged between 1 and 3), children are either Anally Expulsive (where they take pleasure in defecating) or Anally Retentive. This is where the colloquial term “Anal” comes from when describing someone as overly orderly or obsessive. The easiest explanation as to why children might have trouble going to the toilet when it comes to pooing is simply this: for the first time in their lives, they come up against external restrictions; in other words, where and when defecation is acceptable. It is also during this time that they discover that their actions have social implications – i.e. pleasing parents or not.
In an earlier blog I spoke of these stages of development and how if a child gets fixated (stuck) in a particular stage, this may have repercussions later on in adulthood. According to Freud, early or harsh potty training can lead to fixation at this stage, leading to an adult personality dominated by the three anal personality characteristics: Stubbornness (retentive), Orderliness (retentive) and Generosity (expulsive).
...or maybe some kids just get "stage fright"!