People who equate truth with fact are missing the point.

Poop Troubles and Panic

Or Why I’m Always Half Asleep When I Drop Carter Off at School

We have a poop issue in the mornings before school. Not every morning, but more than half of the time, there is panic about poop.

Carter needs to poop before he goes to school. Needs.

With a history of acute constipation that still occasionally gives him trouble, he’s understandably nervous. No one wants to sit on the toilet and scream and holler in pain at school. No, that won’t do.

Especially since there is a great deal of cussing involved. These days, I know Carter is constipated (or having “poop trouble” as he calls it) when I hear this coming from the bathroom: Stupid fucking poop you’re hurting my fucking bitch ass butthole! Get outta there aaaaaaah….. nuuuuuhhh….. bitch ass fucking shit get outta there you asshole fucker poop! Nuuuuuh…. Aaarrrgghhh…… Come outta there you fucker ass poop!

As you can see, he knows all the cuss words but doesn’t hear them enough to use them right. Hence “bitch ass” and other odd constructions.

I’m so proud.

The good people who run the tiny school in the Presbyterian church might not appreciate this. Carter knows he’d get in trouble for saying (shouting) all of that at school, but swears that there’s no way he could get the poop out any other way. And as we all know (we, who have repaired appliances, changed tires in the rain, and stepped on Lego pieces in the dark), certain situations require certain words.


We taught Jacob, Abbie, and Spencer that hate and stupid were bad words and that they were never allowed in our house, along with all the usual disallowed words. With Carter? We’re thrilled that he’s not had the opportunity to learn any racial slurs. Controlling what comes out of his mouth would require liberal applications of duct tape. Duct taping a child’s mouth shut is (I’ve heard) a bad parenting technique.

Also? There is the issue of little guys in the school bathrooms. Really, if I knew there were darkness balls or lava monsters in the bathroom, I’d want to run in, pee, and get the hell out as fast as I could, too.

Hence the daily need to poop before school. I’m pretty sure that my kid is the only one in the history of kids who regularly begs for a suppository. “Put the medicine up my butt, Mom! Please, Mom, I need the kind that will make me poop right now!” he pleads. I refuse while stirring Miralax into his milk.

Now you will understand why, on the mornings when Carter jumps into the bed with me and crows, “Mom! I pooped! A whole lot of poop!” I’m about as happy as a mom whose kid just got his Ivy League acceptance letter.

I love easy poop mornings.

But then comes the drive to school.

The troubles on the way to school don’t have anything to do with poop. Even if Carter did not successfully move his bowels before we left the house, he leaves that issue behind in favor of plain old free-floating anxiety.

About going to school.

Where he is happy.

Because anxiety is not rational.

I love to watch people try to get Carter to tell them why he’s afraid to go to school. Are the other kids mean to you? Do you have teachers who you don’t like? Is the work too hard? No, no, and no.

People want (very badly want) things to be rational. Logical. Spock is only funny because we’re all so much like him.

On the way to school I channel my inner new-age guru. Who knew I had one of those? Not I. I’ve been making fun of that shit since it made its way into the mainstream in the 80s. She’s in there somewhere, though, because I do this whole meditation, calming thing every morning as we drive.

First, he puts a bravery in his lap.

Wait, you need to know what a bravery is. I mean, other than an ordinary old bandanna. Which it most definitely is not. Have I told this story before? I can’t remember; I’ll tell it again now because really, it was one of my most inspired parenting moments. I like to tell the stories that make me sound all genius-y and inspired. They offset the flying coffee cup stories.

On one of his first days at his current school, Carter was panicking. “I can’t go! No, Mommy, don’t make me go! I can’t do it! We have to homeschool some more!” he screamed, and I knew damn well that homeschooling one more day was not an option. I thought, he needs a talisman. I have to give him something to hold.

And there it was: a bandanna hanging over my too-bright digital alarm clock.

Next? The mythology. I spun hard and fast: this was not a bandanna but a bravery, and I carried it to school on days when I was scared, as did my dad, and his mom, and countless other little boys and girls. Every person who carries it takes out all the bravery they need and puts even more back in and isn’t it all so magical and lovely?

Which is not entirely a lie because I was an anxious little girl and I totally would have carried a bravery if anyone had thought to tell me about them.

Obviously, the story of the braveries should be the truth, which is very much like the actual truth.


Besides, I left the cult of I Never Lie To My Children behind long ago, so whatever.

Someday? I will write the whole family mythology here – about the tooth fairy and her unreliable cell service, and why Santa’s elves wear brown, and the meetings that every new parent attends at the north pole. But later.

Sigh. My own distractibility makes me tired sometimes.

Anyway, when we get into the car, Carter gets one of his braveries (He used to carry one, then two, and now he stuffs his pockets full of as many as will fit.) out of his pocket and smooths it open across his lap. Then? I channel that inner new-age guru for the visualizations and breathing techniques she provides and away we drive.

Smooth the bravery on your lap, Carter. Deep breath. Slow, deep breaths. That’s good. In through your nose, good. Now slow, slow, blow out through your mouth. Close your eyes and look at your fishes. Is the fire fish playing today? Look for the rainbow fish.

I speak all monotone and soothing, just like those meditation recordings that people loved back in the day, and by the time we’re halfway there? Carter is only sort of holding himself together, barely managing to avoid hyperventilation. I, on the other hand, am in very real danger of falling asleep.


Apparently I’m pretty good at this new-age guru stuff, but only if you’re already calm.

I don’t think there’s any money on helping calm people get calmer.

When we arrive at school, there is clutching and screaming, occasionally begging. Some days it’s not so bad; other days it’s a nightmare and by the time I leave, I’m crying almost as hard as Carter is.

Within five minutes? He calms down. He feels fine.

Happy, even.

If he has to poop while he’s there, he’ll feign a stomachache so that his teachers will call me. I’ll drive over there, take him to a bathroom at the other end of the church, and let him cuss his face off.

I’m all about the subjectivity of good parenting.

Except for duct tape. Just say no to duct tape as a parenting tool.

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46 comments to Poop Troubles and Panic

  • Renee

    I am always amazed at how you can make me laugh while living your life.

    My daughter, with only very mild anxiety issues, has often needed the scarf I wore that morning as a “bravery”. She really would be fine without it, but some mornings she needs that extra scent of me to make her feel happy and comfortable, and I always want to make her feel happy. We’ll often switch scarves in the winter, so I go off to my job with one of her delightfully fluffy, bright scarves, and she goes off into her classroom with my very elegant paisley scarf 🙂 When I stop at Panera for my latte, I get compliments regardless of whether it’s my scarf or hers that I’m wearing that day.

  • our family understand poop issues. obviously not to the extreme that Carter does, but there is MUCH panic about pooping before we go places for someone in my family. And long discussions of how we will make up excuses to leave if poop needs to happen WHILE we are away. And? I love the bravery. I will steal this someday. Yes. I will.

    • Poop trouble…go figure. I never knew such a thing existed before Carter! For me? Unless I’m sick, I just go when I need to go.

      Yes, braveries are the bomb. Make sure you have some that are EXTRA magical.

      • well, we have the opposite of constipation around here. I just go when I have to go too…but others? They have problems. I may stock up on braveries NOW.

        • Well THAT I think would be a little bit worse. Because of the urgency, you know. I am sad for these others. Have they heard of bananas?

          Yes, stock up on braveries now. Who knows when a talisman requirement will reveal itself?

  • I’m fortunate that my kids don’t have to deal with this — I can’t imagine much worse than having constipation ON TOP OF sensory integration issues. :/ My cousin’s son, who is on the spectrum, takes some meds that cause him constipation so he gets a daily dose of Miralax to keep things moving. Even so, it doesn’t always work.

    I absolutely LOVE ADORE CELEBRATE your creation of a talisman. Huh. My son may very well be clutching a Bravery on his first day of school this fall! Brilliant!

    • Oh, I know. The constipation on top of SID combined with all the migraine and insomnia stuff…can this kid not get a break? Sheesh! Our lives changed when Miralax went OTC, though. A tiny daily dose keeps him comfortable most of the time. If only the medicine could make him poop every single day at 7 am!

      Yes, a talisman has been a wonderful thing. A bandanna has been perfect because he can keep it in his pocket and touch it for comfort whenever he wants w/o the other kids ever seeing it.

  • I feel his pain more then anyone can realize. I don’t cuss but boy I would like too.

  • My oldest has poop issues but on a way smaller scale. He’s completely anal retentive in every sense of the word. I have been giving him miralax every day for the past year and he still tries to hold it in and let me tell you, there’s poop everywhere. If I don’t give him miralax we end up having to use an enema. YIKES. The doctors have all said that he doesn’t have any real physical issues, so I can blame myself 100%.

    Thank goodness for your “braveries.” Like Mrs. Sluiter up there I might have to steal that one. You are a most excellent mommy. And I love you!

    • Oh, the enema. The horror! The screaming! The laundry!

      And don’t blame yourself, not for one damn instant, because what the hell ARE you, some kind of sphincter wizard? (An excellent blog name, BTW: The Sphincter Wizard.) No, you are not. Shit happens. Or doesn’t. You don’t get to be at fault for that!

      Use braveries in good health!

      Much love right back atcha, mah dear. Much, much love.

      • Know this. I am not about to wash someone else’s shit out of anything permeable. That was not something I signed up for. So don’t worry about me and the laundry. I have budgeted for a monthly supply of underwear. I refuse to put a pull-up on a nearly-5-year-old kid.

        The Sphincter Wizard. That is brilliant. I think I’m going to go and make that my new tagline right now.

  • kae

    carter sounds like me on the potty
    when i was pregnant

    also? i totally use bitch ass as that part of speech

    • Yes? So bitch ass is not unique to Carter. Who knew?

      You two belong together. Send Godzilla baby over here and I’ll send one foul-mouthed red-headed boy back to you!

      • kae

        um, you would have to take both of them
        to truly meet the
        76 lb
        2 headed best
        which is the WHOLE GODZILLA BABY

        but yes, me and carter?
        peas and pods, my friend
        peas and bitch ass pods…

        • peas and bitch ass pods…

          Scrambling for an award to give you for that… Like it’s so hard, right? The Bitch Ass Award! It is hereby invented and hereby awarded!

          Dude…they really ARE huge! Carter, all by his lonesome? 70 pounds. What the hell; I’ll throw in a dog. That way, YOU get the bargain!

  • Oh man, we are no stranger to poop issues around these parts either. There is cussing on this end too, but under my breath.

  • AmyLynn

    We used to have constipation issues with my daughter. I found it listed as a side effect from one of her antidepressants. We used to have her swallow a tablespoon of mineral oil every day and it did help. Now at age 19 she takes miralex too. Also she would freak out when I dropped her at preschool……amazing the similarities..wish I had thought of a talisman. Good work Mamma!

  • you are amazing. that’s all.

  • I’ve never discussed poop as much as I have since becoming a parent. Now I have daily conversations about it.

  • The bravery thing and the soothing talks?

    During the worst of my panic attacks I would’ve given anything for that, instead I’d pray I could get to school before breaking down.

    And poop? I talk about poop. It’s my job to ask people about their poop, to look at poop, and sometimes? Sometimes I have to scoop their poop into little containers.

    • Well I’m not happy one bit that no one was there to give you soothing talks and a talisman for your pocket. You can ride in our car ANY morning you want for just those things.

      I’m not too squeamish about poop and other bodily sorts of things (I refer you to one manual disimpaction by way of credentials), but my mom and my sister? They go too far. Often, at holiday meals, we have to tell them to cool their jets.

      Otherwise, though, I’m all good. As they say, everybody poops.

  • Has he been tested (biopsied) for Hirschprung’s Disease? I ask because it runs in my family (my grandmother, my mother, me, my oldest son …).

    This rare disorder results from the absence of nerve cells at the end of the large intestine. This prevents the muscles of the wall of the intestine from moving fecal matter through the intestine. The feces accumulate through the area where the nerves are missing, causing significant enlargement of the intestine.

    The condition is congenital (present at birth) and tends to run in families. It is more common in boys than girls.

    Severe constipation and abdominal discomfort are evident early in life, usually from birth . The infant oten does not grow well, and may be anemic.

    Diagnostic tests include barium enema. To make a diagnosis, the doctor may use a tube to measure the lack of pressure exerted by the intestinal wall muscles. A biopsy of intestinal wall tissue from the affected area can show if nerve cells are present or missing. Surgery that removes the abnormal portion of the intestine and rejoins the healthy parts is usually successful.

    — Harvard Family Health Guide

    • Yes, that was one of the gazillions of tests he had when he was a toddler. Best explanation we have is that his constipation is related to his hypotonia, so it’s muscle-related rather than nerve-related.

  • Holy Crap! No pun intended. That is a big poop problem. Your issue with cussing is well understood here. Taz has not learned any real swears yet, miraculously. But he’s been saying “butthead” and “stupid” for a long time now. What’s funny to me is that people (even ones who have children) continually ask me where he learns “this language” (especially when referring to his violent thoughts about blowing things up and killing people). It just perplexes me that people really ask this. Do they think Dh and I are calling each other stupid poopy buttheads when we argue about cooking dinner? Or that we tell each other we’re going to blow the house up when we’re frustrated with all the cleaning? Honestly. Where does he learn it? Let’s see….the playground, his older cousins, birthday parties, the neighborhood kids, preschool, TV…I could go on and on. It drives me crazy!

    And yes, to get him to stop would have to be taping his mouth shut, which I’m sure may qualify as child abuse. Something about stopping the flow of air into the lungs but, you know…whatever.

    Taz’s most recent insult of choice is something I’m pretty sure he picked up in the hospital. Or else he’s been watching 50’s gangster movies while we’re sleeping. Because he now calls me a “dirty rat” when he’s mad at me. It’s actually pretty hilarious. Imagine a pint-size 4 year old screaming, “Okay you dirty rat!!!” when he has to do something he doesn’t want to. I try to show my amusement.

    • Oh, that cracked me up! Yes, I’ve heard that question often, and we both know the subtext: your kid wouldn’t talk like that if you people were more appropriate. Oye. Carter has teenage siblings, so he learned all the cuss words early. Lucky us, right?

      Dirty rat – that’s just awesome.

      Always amazing how much control people think we (they) have as parents, isn’t it? We all think kids are “good” because of good parenting. It’s lousy, learning the lesson we’ve had to learn. Too bad people keep shoving it at us. And by “too bad,” I mean “tragic” because it affects the kind of care our kids get.

      Every time I think of the treatment you got while Taz was in the hospital, I feel my blood pressure rising.

  • LOL! We too have gone from “stupid” being a bad word to letting the bad words slide. So far all he knows is the B-word, it scares me when he learns the other words. Also I was just thinking that this year is the year that he learns the truth about santa, he already suspects it and he’ll figure it out at school this year. But how do I stop those words from coming out of his mouth and ruining his little brother’s Christmas experience during his next rage? So duct tape is definitely out of the question?? (just kiddin’)

    • I’m just pleased as punch that Carter now understands that will get him in trouble when we’re out and about! Holy cow, it’s not pleasant at home, but in the grocery? At Grammy’s house? At SCHOOL?!? Oye. These days, he can control (somewhat) the language he uses unless he’s in the midst of a genuine rage, and thankfully, his med cocktail is working well enough that those rages are few and far between.

      I dread Carter learning about Santa, too. By the time they were 8, all his siblings knew, but Carter is so young for his age, he hasn’t caught on quite yet. He probably would have figured it out last year but we were homeschooling. This year, for sure someone at school will tell him. Ugh.

  • Seriously? You . . . are just one of the best moms ever.

    That is all.

  • Uhm, mostly I don’t have through-put issues. But sometimes Things Go Wrong (TGW). It is distinctly unpleasant, and I don’t have any issues about toileting outside the home.

    I’d rather birth another baby than have more than one day of TGW.

    I’ve learned that what works for me is 1/2 a Metamucil wafer + 8 ounces of water repeated every 2-4 hours. You can consume those things up to 6 wafers per day. Having the constant, erm, bulking up prevents (for me) extreme TGW outcomes.

    This may not work for Carter, cause the wafers aren’t really delicious. But maybe you could get him to try. I like the cinnamon — it is both bland and cinnamony. Works for me.

    About the talismans: mine are “Dad rags”. My father died 18 years ago — I kept his handkerchiefs and bandannas. When I have to do something hard, I carry them with me. He never failed in his support and it’s like I have his encouragement.

    • Hey, that’s a great idea! If Carter is willing to do something as unpleasant as allow me to give him a suppository, he would most likely eat something that was less than delicious. He really, really hates to be constipated. Thanks! We’ll give it a try.

      I love the story of your Dad rags. I’m in general very un-sentimental, but I have just a few things that I love to pull out when I need encouragement. I carry my grandpa’s glasses in my pocket if I need to remember someone who loved me 100% unconditionally.

  • Himself has had similar issues through his life. He thought it was a shameful thing.

    Along comes me, madame-worked-in-hospitals-her-whole-life to whom it was nothing but a unique way for a body to function (and not all that unique, really).

    There were tears as he realized a woman loved him who would not mock his body or how it needed to work.

    And I hated his ex-wife for giving him that baggage.

    Carter, for all his poop-troubles, at least will probably feel little other than “well, this is how my body works…” because his mom never treated it like anything else.

    And there have been plenty of times in my life when I could have used a bravery, only to have left it in my other purse.


    • Oh, I can’t imagine mocking someone for such a thing! What a ridiculous thing to do! Now I’m happy that Carter views his constipation as a fact of his life, something that is a total pain in the ass (heh), but nothing else.

      Yes, I have a variety of braveries. I never thought of them that way until I gave some to Carter, but we all have those little things that give us comfort, I think.

  • Heather

    I can not believe the bitch ass part – my son has been saying that one for a LONG TIME! Toooooooo funny. He gets all his cuss words mixed up too. He called the nice policeman that came to the house after he called 911, BITCH as well. He doesn’t really get that it’s really a female word. Ahh, good times.

  • I gave up rationality a long time ago when I couldn’t logically figure out my daughter’s RAD. When I finally set logic free…is when I finally was able to truly help my daughter start to heal.

    So sorry I am behind on my reading…I’ll catch up soon.

    • Oh, yes. It’s so hard, to let go of the expectation that things will make sense, but you’re right; I can’t really be present and help the child who is in front of me until I do that.

      My husband still gets caught up in trying to convince Carter that his fears aren’t rational, but even he is learning that the fear is real even if it makes no sense.

      And don’t worry for one minute about being behind. I’m so glad that you’re back! I get the idea that the summer wasn’t easy at your house. I hope things are quieting down now that the kids are back at school.

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