I'm convinced that 2 must be the most dangerous age in a human's life. Two-year-olds have the strength, agility, imagination and tenacity to do so many things. But they have no caution, forethought, no sense of what is wrong or unhealthy or dangerous. Everything around them presents a unique opportunity for experiment -- the pasta on their plate. The overturned laundry basket next to the highest (no longer safest) counter. Their diaper full of turds. Why not? It's there.
I'm very grateful to have had Tim home the past two afternoons, because I don't know if could have coped with this alone. I don't have the stomach for it. I've been brought to my knees by the horrors I've seen in this house.
We always tell Delaney to yell if she has a poop. She almost always poops during quiet time, no matter what time quiet time is, but then she never tells us. Or she'll tell us she has one when she doesn't. I actually thought we were all set this time because she'd pooped before quiet time started.
When her two hours were up, I went in there, and was surprised to see she had a poopy diaper. I reminded her that she should tell me right when she has it so I can change it right away. As I opened the diaper, I wondered, 'What are those brown streaks on her belly? Oh, please don't let it be what I think it is.. Oh, but it is.' I changed her, and as I did, I wiped her anywhere I saw a trace of brown. I got a good look at her fingers and fingernails, and I saw -- oh no, no, no no nononono...
I was really upset by now, and once I got her new diaper on, I hauled her to the bathroom to scrub her hands. Her stepstool is not high enough so I have to hold her up with my arm under her belly. Back in her room I ordered her to stand in the corner while I surveyed the rest of the room. I don't know what made me pull back the curtain, but it's a good thing I did. Delaney's artwork was all over the windowpane. I nearly gagged.
Tim came upstairs and helped me clean up, and as we did so, we told Delaney she'd done a very bad thing. We said over and over, Yo-Gabba-Gabba - style, "We don't play with poop." "We don't play with poop." We got her to say it too, with enthusiasm.
But no matter how forceful our tone was, no matter how abrupt we were with her, one thing was very obvious. She did not feel any remorse or shame for what she'd done. For her, this started out as boring quiet time, and turned into a party with Mom and Dad. She said cheerfully, "I'm sorry," and you could tell she was loving every minute. We've never been so frustrated.
She did become upset when, once cleanup was over, we turned off the lights and closed the curtain again, and told her not to move until the clock turned yellow. We wanted her to know this was not 'get out of jail free' time. Tim stood guard out in the hall. First he had her sitting on the floor in time-out, not allowed to move. As long as she was crying, he figured that she understood that we were angry with her because she'd done something bad. Then she became happy there, talking to herself, and he realized it was useless. He then allowed her in her bed, and there she stayed until the clock turned yellow.
The next day I put her in quiet time, and we went over the rules. "You yell if you have a poop." "You don't play with poop, you understand?"
I checked on her a half hour into it, and everything was OK. Tim was home, and eager to talk about the day's events with him and just relax, I let the rest of the two hours slip by, and they did. Quickly.
If you could have seen my face when I opened her door, it would have looked a little something like this:
This was only 40 minutes before a potential babysitter was scheduled to arrive for an interview, mind you.
Tim and I were a very efficient team. He whisked her to the bathtub without delay, and scrubbed her head to toe, while I descended on her room with plastic bags, all-purpose cleaner and baking soda. I picked up at least 25 turds. I gritted my teeth and vowed to embarrass her with this story one day. There was hardly a spot in her room that had been spared. The bed was stripped. The stuffed animals were sniffed, and immediately quarantined. Books were sprayed and wiped down. Bedding was thrown into the washer. Every surface was scrubbed.
The madder we got, the more cheerful Delaney became. I said to Tim, "I'd slap her silly if I thought it would make an impression on her. But the only impression would be the one left by my hand on her cheek!" (OK, the truth is I'd never slap her silly, but it felt good to say.) She just didn't get it. In fact, later, she asked Tim for another "bubble bath." I said, "Bubble bath? We don't have any bubble bath." Tim said that he'd used so much soap, the bath was unusually bubbly. Her takeaway from this incident and our reaction: a bubble bath.
So, let's try to examine this from Delaney's point of view. She plays with her poop, and thinks to herself, 'What will it be this time?' Mama and Daddy running around my room yelling? A bubble bath? All this fuss over little old me -- what fun! I'll just do something new with my poop every day, and wait for the show to begin. Quiet time has never been so interesting.
The last two days have taught us that she is incapable of being disciplined because she only lives in the moment. Unless we catch her red- er, brown-handed in the act, there is no disciplining. So today, I will finally do something smart. I will sit outside her room at quiet time, with the door open a few inches. I will get comfy with a pillow and throw, and a book. I guarandarntee you she will not play with her poop with me just outside the door.
Oh, and taking the advice I found somewhere on the Internet, I will buy some Play-Doh so that she can get her fix of playing with mushy things at other times during the day.
Do you think there will ever be a time when she does the right thing without me watching?