Monday, October 29, 2012

#GBE2: In My Bathroom

"I'll pay you a dollar to find out where your brother is right now," I said to our younger son recently.

It was in the first hour or so after school, and our older son was upstairs.  While we have video monitors installed to capture some of his activity in case we can't be directly with him when he is on the second floor of our home, not every room can be captured by those monitors.

Little Brother looked at me.  I looked at him.  We shared an understanding without speaking a word.

"Okay, two dollars, and you don't have to clean a thing," I bargained.

A look of satisfaction crossed his face.  Yes, this worked for him.  Lulled by his love of cash, and with an air of importance, that trooper spun on his heel and marched up the stairs to investigate what I simply could not bear to face in that given moment.

Heaven help me, I'd been battling it for a good month:  pre-teen defiance. I guess as parents, we all deal with it.  It's just that, in this house with special needs, that defiance takes a slightly different form. And, lately, it was playing out in my bathroom.

Our 11-year-old son had stopped having his bowel movements in the toilet.

It was volcanic.  It was horrific, and it was entirely intentional.

Currently, unless I catch him with his pants down, his practice is to walk into the bathroom, drop his drawers, hold onto the basin of the sink and simply let it rip.

The first time I saw him standing naked in a puddle of his own waste, my instinct was to protect him from the shame I was certain he felt.

The second time it happened, I was confused but still determined to help my innocent baby boy.

Endurance carried me through the next few happenings.

Frustration set in by the sixth or seventh time.

I started to curse somewhere in the double digits.

Soon after that, I cracked.

"Listen, son," I commanded, "if you are going to decide to stop using the toilet, then I'm going to decide to stop cleaning."

He looked at me as though I'd lost my mind. Perhaps I had, but I was going with it. One-by-one, I chucked paper towels his way and demanded that he deal with the same yuck he'd been leaving me on a daily basis. It was the raunchiest bathroom smack down the two of us have seen. Yet, in the end, he cleaned his mess.

He cleaned his mess, stormed to his room in a fit of tears and proceeded in the days to follow to withhold his bowel movements completely. Both at school and at home, he decided that his answer to all of this was to not poop at all. And, when that became painful, he just decided to reduce his dietary intake.

It's moments like this, when mother's intuition fails, that I really wish he could talk.

Certainly, I'd tried the picture schedules, the social stories, the incentives and minor structural modification. He had his own plan. But, what was it?

"Do you have an issue with pooping at home?" asked the Ace Up My Sleeve, our son's speech therapist upon my request one day. Their discussion came home to me on a sheet of paper in his communication notebook.

This therapist was the only person who can tap into his thoughts on this kind of level. With hard work, incentives, determination and two simple "yes"/ "no" picture symbols, she has helped me learn that there is much more to our son than what meets the eye.

"Yes," he answered.

"Are you trying to say something by pooping on the floor?" she asked.

"Yes," he responded.

"Are you mad about something?" she continued.

"YES!" he replied emphatically.

Frankly, at this point, I was angry with him as well.

Our son admitted in the transcript that at home he did not participate in the "yes"/"no" system of communication, the only form of communication that provides us with a two-way discussion. He said that he knew using the system would be a good way of getting what he wanted. Still, using the system requires work for him. It requires engagement and motor planning. It requires effort in the home environment--his place of relaxation.

I don't know why he is angry.  Their conversation ended before the mystery was solved. However, more importantly, I am certain that he is probably more bothered by the fact that I don't know why he is angry than he is bothered about whatever made him angry in the first place.

After all, Mom is always supposed to know everything.

Unfortunately, as our low-verbal child grows much beyond his communication skills, it is increasingly more difficult for me to read his mind.  I simply can't always know.

Watching our younger son that day after school as he trudged upstairs to scout out potential acts of defiance in my bathroom, I  marveled at the challenges that have waited for us around every corner along our journey with special needs, understanding very well that the journey had really just begun.


This entry was written in response to a word prompt from the Group Blogging Experience 2 (GBE2).


  1. OMG - I feel guilty for poor, strong thing! Thank you for sharing!

    1. You three are troopers for visiting my poor, neglected blog! Thank you!

      It's ok, I find it funny at times, also. It's most funny when I catch him before he does any damage.

  2. Bless your heart. I don't know how you cope with things like that. You are a remarkable person to be sure.


    1. Hi, Kathy! For a large part, it's just my normal. I promise you'd do it also--really.

    2. However, perhaps this in part explains why my blogging has been scarce lately?? lol.

  3. Like Beth, I feel guilty too, but T does a way about him! You never cease to amaze and amuse me. Hugs to all and I sure hope that ace up your sleeve can convince him to COMMUNICATE !!!!!

    1. He certainly does have a way, that kid! His SLP has been WONDERFUL. She's doing her job. I think the responsibility falls to me. I need to increase communication demands at home. It's a matter of chipping away...

  4. Ugh! You certainly have your hands full in the bathroom and everywhere else. Best of luck for getting this little guy under control.

    1. I've been cleaning poo since he was born. It isn't my favorite thing, but it isn't a deal breaker, either. What is more of my challenge is getting inside his head and figuring out how to get him more in synch with our world.

      I don't want to change him; but, let's face it, he can't go around eliminating on bathroom floors to prove a point.

  5. Always good to read another of your blog posts Amy

    1. Thank you! I hope to get back into my old routine. :)

  6. You're made of strong stuff, Amy. I hope T finds it in him to put forth the effort to communicate at home the way he does at school. It would certainly make your life easier, but most importantly--for him, in the big picture--it would open his life up, too.

    1. I can't imagine how it sounds to "the outside world". :) As I've said, I have never gotten out of doing the BM routine. Most people deal with it for a couple years and happily leave it behind them. So, for me, there is a BIT of normalcy to it.

      Yet I won't pretend that 11yo BMs on the bathroom floor are normal for any of us--even him. And, he knows it. He's being a stubborn mule. I hope we can clear this hurdle together and figure out how to close that gap as well. He's a smart guy. I have faith.

  7. At 13, we still have accidents from Spencer, in his underwear. Never at school, and not when positive reinforcements are in place, but sometimes we just give it all a break and see where we are with it... It returns.

    So, what do we know? We know he gets involved with what he is doing and tends to ignore when nature calls, especially at home where someone will help him out... We know if he has something fun to earn he will pay better attention to "nature calling", and we know he has monster poops and makes it to the bathroom ALWAYS when they're due. It is the non-monster poops that cause us the problem. At school, the presence of peers and having to get adult help must be enough deterrent to either make him hold it, or get to the bathroom...

    Kinda makes you want to not be available to him at home, but we haven't gotten there yet...close, but not yet... Tested it verbally with him, but just couldn't imagine him doing a sufficient cleaning job of himself... UGH!

    I know it isn't on our floor, and we have language, but truly, at 13, what a pain this has become... I feel your pain and cleaning shame! We ride a fence on whether we bleach and clean minor underwear issues or just throw them away... You buy diapers, we buy underwear. UGH!

    Guess who! (AGC)

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