It's Not Fair

We toilet trained Teddy over February break. After months of him refusing to sit on the potty and give up his diapers, we finally did it by bribing him (cookies, TV, promises of camp).

The actual training was pretty quick. A day of peeing all over himself, and then it was over. He got it. He went on the potty, got his rewards, and that was that. It was so painless I was glad we’d waited and hadn’t pushed him.

But a few weeks ago, he started to relapse. First he had a couple pee accidents at school. Then one day my nanny walked into his classroom and saw him, sheepishly sitting in the corner eating his grilled cheese sandwich and smelling like a homeless guy who craps on himself on the subway.

It turns out he’d pooped in his underwear as he was eating his lunch.

It was pretty gross, for everyone involved, and Teddy was embarrassed enough about it not to do it again—at least, not in public. But at home, it was a completely different story. He started refusing to go on the potty again, or he’d go into the bathroom, kick me out, and then saunter out a few minutes later claimed he’d peed and demanding an Oreo (it took a few days of this before I caught on to the fact that I was being bamboozled by a 3 ½ year old.)

And there were accidents. Many accidents.  Big, poopy accidents, after which he’d race up to me and screech at the top of his lungs, “Mooom! Change me!!!!”

“Teddy,” I would say to him in exasperation, “you can’t do this at camp over the summer. They’ll send you home.” I figured that would have to get to him. He can’t stop babbling about camp.

He rolled his eyes.

“It’s only March, mommy,” he said incredulously, as if he were dealing with the village idiot.

“So?” I asked, genuinely confused.

“Camp’s not until June,” he said, clearly disgusted by my cluelessness. “That’s three months away. It’s no big deal if I have accidents up until then.”

He got me there. My brain’s been dulled by years of anti depressants and pregnancy hormones and there’s no way I’m a match for my son.

Then last week, I met with Jo Jo’s educational consultant to discuss, among other things, Jo Jo’s potty training. Unlike Teddy, my daughter is great about sitting on the potty and actually doing something on it, but she won’t indicate when she has to go, and, unlike my son, doesn’t seem to care if she’s sitting in damp underwear.  Needless to say, we’ve been still having our share of accidents, and needless to say, I was at a loss.

The consultant and I brainstormed—she had some good ideas—and as she was leaving, I said, almost as an afterthought, “I’m having some issues with Teddy. Do you have a moment?”

“Sure,” she said, and I told her what was going on.

“He’s a super bright little boy,” she said when I had finished. “Do you think he sees Jo Jo still having accidents and figures it’s no big deal if he also has them?”

I nodded.

“What you need to do is not make it so easy for him,” she said, and then basically told me the next time he crapped all over himself to make him clean it up himself.

So a few days ago, that’s exactly what I did. Teddy came up to me after lunch smelling like a wino, handed me a clean pair of underwear and pants, smiled sweetly, and said, “change me, Mommy.”

“Pee or poop?” I asked, although I could clearly sniff the evidence.

“Poopie,” he said solemnly.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said in my nice Mommy voice. “Mommy doesn’t change poopy underwear anymore. Please go into the bathroom and do it yourself.”

He stared at me, totally incredulous. “Change me,” my little Jewish prince demanded.

“Oh no,” I said. “You’re such a big boy you can do it yourself.”

Let’s just say the s—t hit the fan. Teddy began bellowing like a wounded bull and eventually I ended up in the bathroom with an irate preschooler.

“I don’t want to touch the poopy, mommy!” he wailed, tears streaming down his face. “It’s yucky!”

“So what makes you think I want to touch it?” I asked, simply wondering.

“Wipe my tushie, Mommy!” he screeched at the top of his lungs, his face red with indignity. “Wipe my tushie, now!”

Then he stopped and stared at me. “This isn’t fair,” he said abruptly, changing tactics. “You don’t make Jo Jo change herself when she has accidents.”

Whether he was trying to manipulate me or was simply stating the obvious, Teddy was right. And it really got to me.

“You’re right,” I said, sighing, as I helped him get his underwear off. “I don’t.”

He stared at me balefully, crossing his arms. “She even still wears a pull up sometimes when we go out,” he remarked.

Yup, she did. Sometimes if she hadn’t peed in a while and I knew we’d be out running errands, I’d slip a pull up over her underwear in case she had the inevitable accident.

I didn’t know what to say. I still wasn’t really sure how much Teddy had really figured out about Jo Jo. We’ve never really talked about the fact that she has Down Syndrome. It’s not that we’re avoiding it, it’s just that it simply hasn’t come up. He’s never asked why it takes her longer to do things, why she still has trouble riding her tricycle while he cruises up and down our street effortlessly, or why he can recognize all his letters and knows all the letter sounds while she can’t even recognize her name.

“Teddy,” I said hesitantly, “It’s harder for Jo Jo to do things sometimes. It just takes her a little longer. Jo Jo sometimes can’t control that she has accidents. But Teddy, I know you can control your accidents and that’s why I expect more of you.”

He just looked at me. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking. “Will Jo Jo be able to go to camp this summer if she still has accidents?” he asked.

“Jo Jo is going to have someone with her all the time to take her to the bathroom and make sure she doesn’t,” I told him.

He nodded sagely. “Good,” he said. “I want her to go to camp with me.” Then, “this wasn’t so fun, Mommy. Maybe next time I’ll poop in the toilet.”

And since then, he has.

I wanted to say more to his son, but he’s still too little to understand. He’s right. It’s not fair. It’s not fair that Jo Jo has such low muscle tone she can’t always control when she has to go. It’s not fair that she doesn’t have the expressive language to convey all the thoughts my middle son articulates so effortlessly. It’s not fair that she loves books but it will most likely take years for her to learn to read. It’s not fair that she has a twentyfold risk of developing leukemia compared to other, typical kids her age, or that she’ll inevitably develop Alzheimer’s, most likely by the time she’s in her 40s.  

I could go on and on, but at the end of the day, it’s not fair that she has 3 copies of her 21st chromosome, while he has only two.

He might not grasp that concept now, but eventually, I know he will.