Monday, August 1, 2011

GBE2 Challenge: Instinct

I don't want to jinx anything, but dare I say that the summer is two-thirds over here in New York state, and our older son has yet to use the back yard as a urinal?

Yes, I've cleaned up an immeasurable amount of BMs, but I have no problem with that. It isn't as though our son WANTS to have those accidents. They are so humiliating for him. He simply can't help it.

But, watering the back yard with his personal garden hose? He can sure help that! Nobody even try to tell me how wonderfully typical this action is, I won't entertain the notion! I'm perfectly prissy about the fact that I'm mortified by my son marching outside to go to the bathroom.

It was a few years ago-- I can't remember exactly when-- that he opened up the door in our kitchen which led to the back yard.

"Are you going out to play, buddy?" I asked as he walked past me and through the door. Giving no response to my question, he unbuttoned his pants as he stepped onto the patio and, without hesitation, he dropped his drawers and emptied his bladder into the grass as though this is something he has done his entire life.

I was shocked. My bottom jaw fell downward, and I watched in disbelief as he pulled up his pants, buttoned them, turned back around and came back inside.

No ornery look to me.

No giggle.

He carried out the action as though he had done it a million times before--only I know that he hadn't!

"Modeling" is a term used in child development to refer to performing an action in front of a child with the hope of that child learning the action by imitation. And, for the record, nope, there had been no modeling of the back yard urinal in this house at any point in time.

Our son enjoyed his new potty. That summer, he chose it above all others. It got to the point that when he headed toward the back yard, I just assumed going to the bathroom was his goal, and I quickly directed him to our inside loo.

Families living with autism have all kinds of dirty little secrets concerning bumps along the road of development, things that are kept behind closed doors and steadily worked upon until they can be shaped into something more desirable.

I had decided that I could work on this new habit quietly and steadily until it was a distant memory; however, that was not to be.

"Amy," my mother-in-law said to me after my husband and the boys spent an evening at their house. "He walked right outside onto our patio, pulled down his pants and peed like it was the most normal thing in the world. Has he ever done that before?"

Ugh. "Yeah," I answered.

"Does he do that a lot?" she asked.

Ugh. "Yeah," I answered.

And, not much later, at a team meeting at his school, I was confronted with a similar question.

"We're having a little playground issue," his teacher said. "It seems that he wants to pull down his pants and go to the bathroom when we go outside. Is that something you have noticed?"

Ugh. "Yeah," I answered.

"Does he do it a lot?" she asked.

Ugh. "Yeah," I answered.

"Is that behavior modeled for him at home?" she questioned.


"No. It's just instinctive. He just does it like it is the most natural thing in the world." I was at the end of my rope.

It's true. He loved it. He OWNED it. Our son was at one with the back yard urinal.

We did not model it at home. His grandparents did not model it for him. His teachers did not model the behavior either. The only thing he watched on TV were Baby Einstein videos, and I'm certain he wouldn't see it there.

That summer, the act was as natural as breathing. He was doing what boys have done since the beginning of time: Exposing his goods to the world and watering the flora and fauna around him.

I was fighting an uphill battle. I'm stubborn, but I won't win against a primal instinct. And, so, those summer months were a lost cause. When I felt strong, I redirected him to our bathroom. But there were also times when I averted my gaze and let him do his thing.

After all, in this house, we have bigger fish to fry than the back yard urinal.


  1. This is quite fascinating, well for sure for you it is sometimes frustrating. But still this is instinct!

  2. Ha! He's just at one with nature. :O)

  3. I see this as a case of "others" having the problem. As you say, "in this house, we have bigger fish to fry than the back yard urinal." All of my boys (3) did and probably still do this, without the pants needing to at the ankles!

  4. One person's instincts can be another person's frustrations?

  5. When my daughter was younger (She has pdd-nos) she used to bolt out of doors. While that isn't exactly becoming one with was very frustrating. It seemed if she got upset by something an instinct would have her bolting through doors at the school, store, home, elsewhere. I had locks put on my home door and an internal bell so I knew when the door had opened. At school...she bolted in front of a moving bus or vehicle more than once. One time I had to get my driver's license renewed and she bolted when my eyes were in that machine for the eye test! Right into the parking lot in front of a moving car. She eventually out grew that phase and she's older now--we work on other things :) Wonderful post!! Jenn

  6. I wrote a post back in the beginning of this blog similar to this Jenn--actually a couple of them. Our older son is a bolter. We have gone through all manner of locks and have a hard-wired security system with noise/glass break detectors (thank you New York State). Plexiglass on the windows. Some doors and windows nailed shut.

    He's gotten out. There is no fear like actually losing your nonverbal child in this big world.

  7. My son is the same way, but only if he is already outside, then he will gravitate to his favorite tree and baptize it. I can finally say he is pretty good at going in the toilet and has it mastered. There was a time though that he thought the perfect place to relieve himself was in the heat registers. What a lovely smell that created when the heat kicked on!


  8. lol! I lived in the rural country for the first 11 years of my life and I sometimes peed outside when I was little--mostly when I'd got rather far away from the house and didn't feel like going ALL the way back, thereby interrupting my exploration. heheh! That was only at home, though.

  9. It's in his WV genes, lol! You need one of those WV lawn ornaments...the toilet used as a flower pot or better yet, maybe a good ole fashioned out house, lol!

  10. I'm with you, Amy. Toilet matters are for behind closed doors (Preferably inside the house!) and private. The thought of the men in my house peeing in the back yard makes me physically uncomfortable!
    Not wanting to increase the jinx chance ... *distracts gods of outside peeing with a toilet roll* I really hope your first sentence is a very good sign! *hugs to all of you*