2.06.2009

The Nonchalantdad: the Poo hits the fan....


OK, I know what you're thinking...."oh, I just knew, sooner or later, ol' Nonchalantdad couldn't resist the topic of poo." But, it's not true. It's not like I sat down with a smirk and thought....hmmm.... how can I factor 'poo' into a story. No pun intended - these things just need to come naturally. And, anyway - with this story, it was going to be hard enough to come up with an accompanying image.

My six year old son announced to me (by way of our usual free-form conversing style while he was taking a bath) the other day that one of the boys in his class told him, and a few other kids in the class, a story. Apparently, and just as casual as can be, he recounted that this boy told the other kids that his brother kissed his butt and then ate some of his poo!!! OK, OK.... yes.... it was just like that. Of course, I was busy lathering my son up with soap as he told me this. So, naturally I sat back, and for a moment we just looked at each other. Time has a way of elongating at moments like this.....

My son's face reminded me of how I must have looked when I was near his age. I remember that we used to have this kid on our street who, for a brief time, took pleasure in finding you playing somewhere on the street and, just as casually as can be, invited you to come over to his house to show you his recent poo in the toilet. Listen, I recall even then, it didn't take much to realize this kid had a special problem. But, as kids often do (and a small group of us did) we were intrigued enough to all start walking over to his house to see what all the fuss was about. Of course, on the way over, who should we all bump into? Well, as memory has it, it was Mrs Havenshaw (of course, I changed the name to protect the innocent... but I still needed something close). It was THE Mrs Havenshaw who stopped us. Now, I don't expect you to know who Mrs Havenshaw is. But, she was pretty well known on our little street at the time, only because she was one of those ladies (and every street seems to have one, no?) who was... well... let's just say she was pretty anxious. In fact, she was one of those people for whom everything seems to be cause for worry and who would always stop you at length and lecture you about it. In this case, she was out front of her home and wondering why this small group of young kids was moving quickly in one particular direction. So, as you do at that approximate age, you answer a direct question with a direct answer - something like this:

Mrs Havenshaw: "children, children, SLOW DOWN! Where are all of you little troublemakers off to so fast anyway?"
Me: "We are going to look at Sammy's poo..."

Well, no sooner had I shared this basic information than there was the sound of a large, and abrupt, inhalation on the part of Mrs Havenshaw. "You WHAT!" she exclaimed. And, again, I answered (obviously not quite aware of the 5th amendment as yet) - this time being slapped on the back of my shoulder by one of the older children in our group who obviously DID know about the 5th amendment. Needless to say, as quick as you can say 'Bobs your Uncle' we were all marched to our respective homes one by one by the 'kindly' Mrs Havenshaw. Before reaching home I got to witness a few of our group being marched up to their homes first. It became a recurring theme of that same abrupt inhalation on the part of the respective parent, a quick grab and then the kid would disappear into the shadows of the entry way and the door slamming shut. So, by the time we had reached our home with Mrs Havenshaw, my sister and I were definitely thinking we were going to our own funerals.

At the door, Mrs Havenshaw quickly described to my mother what happened. I was only wishing that it had been my father who answered the door, because his english was dodgy enough that you at least stood a small chance he wouldn't understand Mrs Havenshaw's clipped and hurried tones. BUT, to our surprise, and Mrs Havenshaw's apparent disapproval, my mother laughed and laughed. What Mrs Havenshaw failed to remember was that my mother was one of those English mothers who can only best be described as wearing an apron, with a scarf tied on her head, and a rolling pin in her hand...... like one of those old English war films. Salt of the Earth, my mother. And, worse for Mrs Havenshaw, my mother was an English nurse. And anyone who knows a nurse knows that they are pretty unflappable when it comes to do with anything bodily.

So, I guess I'm telling you this because what I did in that next second, with my own little guy looking at me like he had just foregone his fifth amendment right, was look my son straight in the eye and pretend like it wasn't a huge and suspicious shock. I suppose I did what I had learned from my mother. In order not to make the situation something exemplary, or just plain outrageous, I casually started asking questions back like I was curious, more than anything. The strategy is a simple one: instead of making an issue out of the thing, thus bringing more special attention to it, and possibly encouraging my son to think of it as outrageous or something that elicits horror (so that he thinks twice about sharing 'questionable' material again in the future), you direct the conversation to gradually explain that such behaviour (if even true in the first place) is not acceptable. So, we started talking 'poo'...... Listen, I'm not going to get into it. Suffice to say, that in a roundabout fashion, I explained that kissing someones butt is not really going to taste very good (and to demonstrate, I made alot of 'YUCK YUCK YUCK' sounds) and is not something people generally go around doing - unless you just started a job. And further, that eating someones poo can make you sick sick sick (more audible 'YUCK YUCK .... ARRGGGH YUCK' sounds). In the end, we both were making the 'YUCK' sounds and agreeing that such behaviour is just not right.

I suspect that Mrs Havenshaw wouldn't have agreed any more with my approach, or lack of reprimand or immediate dismissal, than she did on the doorstep that day with my mother. But, my point is this: the more you make of something, the more your child will think of it as special. And, as my mother knew, the body and its numerous functions don't need to be thought of as an exception. They are normal. I don't want my child to be shocked by poo, no more than I am. And, I don't need him thinking that poo is something that requires extra special condemnation. Poo is natural - as are many things in this world. And, I don't want to set up a precedent by which my son will think that some topics are best not discussed with Daddy or Mommy. But, I don't need him thinking that this behaviour is acceptable either - and hence, my attempt to steer the conversation into the YUCK factor.

What my mother taught me by experience that day, and others to come, was that the best way to often deal with young people is not to outright dismiss a subject or possible behaviour just because it is uncomfortable. You have to get inside the subject, or idea ( like riding a wave to shore) and direct it knowingly where you'd like it to go. Nobody is offended then, and nobody gets hurt - nothing shocking. You casually make your point and perhaps teach a lesson.

I prefer to take my mother's path in this regard - because to take Mrs Havenshaw's would mean that I'd spend the day at my window looking out, just like she seemed to do all the time.... waiting, just waiting for something bad to happen! And, yes.... you guessed it - I get to end with this little ditty: Life throws up lot's of crap! Deal with it! hah!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

How do you comment on 'POO'! We didn't have anybody obsessed with their own feces on my street growing up. I suppose that little boy is now a congressman! (just teasing). But, you reminded me of a lady on our street who was just the same as your Mrs H. She hated us playing near her property and would call our parents for the smallest infractions! I find it distasteful when adults are so mean to children, just for being children. Funny story - good lesson!

Thx! fran b.

lesley said...

This is very funny... what a great reminder to listen to our children even if everything inside of us is thinking something else!