Potty- My Nemesis, Part 2

I do believe it’s time to revisit the potty stories!  As I have mentioned before, potty has been a struggle for Cameron, but he gets better every day.  In fact, just recently we had a full month with no accidents!  This is something he’d been working on since the beginning of the summer, so it was a huge victory when he made the 30-day mark, after about six months of trying. My husband, Jon, told him that if he made it 30 days without an accident, we’d go to a water park.  Although I thought this was a bit unattainable, he did it!

The potty issues have been a part of our lives for a long time now. To reiterate what I’ve said in past posts, this was one of the first missed clues that Cameron may have a sensory issue.  He was having frequent accidents (like four or more poop and/or pee accidents per week) and had only one or two dry nights in his life at the age of six.  On numerous occasions, I would see a giant wet spot on the front of his pants and would tell him he peed his pants. Always argumentative, he’d say, “No I didn’t!” look down, touch his pants, then say, “UUUGH!”  I had told his gastroenterologist that I really didn’t think he knew when he had to go or when he went, but I felt a bit unheard.  So, when we finally got the Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID) diagnosis, I told Cameron that the therapist said he really can’t feel when he has to go to the bathroom, just as I’d suspected. Cameron’s response was, “Yeah! I know!  Tell Dad that because he doesn’t believe me!”

Jon is not a dad who rules with an iron fist, but he was frustrated.  Mother Theresa would be frustrated with our situation.  It’s really hard to have a son who poops and pees his pants after being potty trained for years.  There’s constant cleanup, non-stop stinky laundry, dozens of destroyed underwear thrown into the landfill (because sometimes, I am just not trying to wash that out!)  There’s a lot of emotion that accompanies an “accident-prone” child too- guilt, empathy, anger, sadness, etc.  It doesn’t seem like it’d be this big of a deal, but trust me, it is!  It’s also difficult to believe that someone doesn’t feel when they have to go. Potty-ing just seems like a human function that doesn’t need teaching beyond a certain point.  Like feeling hunger, for instance—no one has to tell you you’re hungry, you just are! No one should have to tell you that you need to use the bathroom either, but such is the nature of the SID beast.

When Cameron was almost four, Jon went away for the weekend.  Our daughter, Amelia, was four months old, and Cameron, who doesn’t transition well, was still adjusting to having a baby in the house, and was now angry that his dad was gone.  This was one of the worst weekends of my life.  For real.  Besides my grandma’s memorial being that weekend, Amelia could have suffered a traumatic brain injury if I wouldn’t have stopped Cameron from hitting her over the head with a folded up play baby stroller.  I stopped him inches from her head; I am pretty sure it’s a miracle, because I’m still not sure why or how he was able to stop, or why or how I turned and looked at him at that exact moment.

The icing on the already despicable cake was when Cameron was supposed to be napping, but was instead fighting.  When Amelia was a baby and Cameron was a preschooler, I occasionally tried to nap when they did; however, whenever I did this, Cameron refused to sleep.  He’d say he didn’t want his blanket, then he wanted it, then he wanted to be covered, then he didn’t, then he wouldn’t stay in his room… Grrr.  On this particular day, after making an encore presentation to my bedroom a half a dozen times, Cameron once again came into my room, where I was attempting sleep, and said, “Come look at this.” I begrudgingly got out of bed and let him lead me to his room.

On the floor, there was a wet spot.  “What’s this?” I asked.  I looked over at him, with his smug smile and devious eyes and asked a question I already knew the answer to.  “Is this pee?”

Cameron, still smiling, pointed to another place on the carpet and said, “Look at this.”  I should add that there was a distinct smell of poo, as well, but this exhausted, post-partum mother could not take any more at that moment.  So, I did what any sensible person would do at times like this.  I put myself in a time out while I cried, thinking, “What is wrong with my child?” Cameron came to watch me for a while, as if I was trying to win an Academy Award.

“What’s wrong?” he asked… As if he didn’t know.  Honestly, I don’t really remember what happened after that.  I think I may have post-traumatic stress disorder.  I’m sure I did not get a nap; I know I cleaned up the pee, like my son was a dog who piddled on the floor because he was excited to see me… Or maybe he was marking his territory.  I mean there’s that new sister thing—he may have wanted to make sure his room stayed his room in case she decided to come try to take it over.  Anyway, I did eventually figure out that the smell of poop (which I really should be immune to now, but I’m not) was coming from Cameron’s WINDOWSILL.  He smeared it.  On the windowsill.  It kind of blended in, so it was pretty hard to detect.  Really.  Do other parents have these stories?

Let’s return to the present, and celebrate how far we’ve come.  No more trying to kill his sister–if he does, she can fight back now–no more marking his territory, no more smeared feces like a monkey in a cage, and, most importantly, no more surprise accidents.  Cameron’s accidents are much less frequent—in fact, at the risk of jinxing us, I think his accidents are what could be considered “typical” for a seven-year-old.  Frustration, empathy, sadness, and anger have been replaced-most of the time, anyway- with pride– Pride in Cameron, and pride in our family for persevering.


Auld Lang Syne

Tears of loss.  Screams of sadness.  Flails of anger.  Cries of frustration.  A Badger fan’s reaction to their second Rose Bowl loss in a row?  Nope, it’s just Cameron’s New Year’s Eve.  Let’s reminisce…

After a lazy day of too much TV time, Jon and I were informed that it was New Year’s Eve.  We thought it was December 29, which is what happens when you’re on vacation—you lose track of what day it is.  We were enjoying a relaxing day, planning for our friends to come over the following day, on what we thought was New Year’s Eve.  Our front door opened, and in came my father-in-law.  “Happy New Year,” he said.  “New Year’s isn’t until tomorrow,” was my response.  “No… It’s today,” he replied.  I added the days in my head and realized that it was, indeed, New Year’s Eve, which meant that we had a lot to do to prepare for our friends.

I let Cameron play a game on my phone (adding to his day of too much screen time) while I scurried to prepare.  Then, I watched as his ginormous meltdown began rather slowly.   I had just put his sister, Amelia, on the couch to become more lucid after her nap.  Suddenly, Cameron, playing the phone game with intensity, absentmindedly sat on Amelia.  He was in a zombie-like trance, and plunked his skinny butt directly on his sister, whose face smacked the back of his head.  “OH MY GOSH, Cameron,” was my unplanned response as my mouth hung open in utter disbelief.  Both children were crying, and I tried my best to calm both with two arms (in times like these it would be nice to be an octopus).  He wasn’t hurt, but was crying because I yelled at him.  I tried to tell him that I wasn’t angry, it was pure shock that made speak louder than usual, but I hadn’t yelled.  I decided that the phone game needed to be put away, and so did Cameron.  I calmly asked him to go to his room to relax and read until I was ready to leave for the store.

He came to the store with me and seemed better.  We bought a fun New Year’s dinner for the kids with Cameron making most of the food choices.  Upon return home, the kids ate their special dinner while we waited for two very good friends to arrive.  We were planning to have a Wii bowling tournament with Cameron’s brand new Wii.  Both kids were so excited that we started playing before our friends even arrived.  As the night went on, we realized that even though we’d been playing the Wii for awhile, we were not going to have enough time for a full-blown tournament.  This, in combination with the fact that Cameron was losing some bowling games (losing graciously is not one of Cameron’s strengths), caused Cameron’s wheels to start coming off.  He started to cry.  When I gave him the choice (Love & Logic) to either stop crying and play one more game or keep crying and go to bed, he kept crying.  I had to pick him up to get him to move to his bedroom, which is not something I’m going to be able to do for much longer—he’s a long, noodley 7–year-old!

Apparently, this unleashed an uncontrollable beast.  Tears, screaming, uncontrollable sobbing—the worst I think I may have ever seen, but this time Jon was there to help, so we tag-teamed the situation like WWE wrestlers in front of our extremely non-judgmental friends.  In our attempt to put out this super-blaze, we spent nearly two hours doing what we could to help Cameron; we took turns rolling over him with a yoga ball, hugging him, brushing him, talking to him, etc, but nothing was working.  In retrospect, we were trying to put out a fire that we should have been preventing all along.  During hour two of the fiasco, Cameron came out of his room for what seemed like the hundredth time while we were trying to make dinner for the grown-ups.  “Please, just stop crying and go to bed,” I pleaded. “I can’t control myself” Cameron sobbed. “I can’t control myself either, and I’m about to go postal on you if you don’t get back in your room right now!”  Yep.  I said that.  I turned around to see our friends laughing at me.  “I’m not sorry I said that!” I exclaimed.  There goes that Mother of the Year trophy once again.  One of the things I was thankful for that day was that he has no clue what “going postal” means.

What went wrong? A lot.  It was winter break, and we didn’t do enough to keep his senses in check.  Sometimes we forget to do all of the things that we need to do with a child who has Sensory Integration Dysfunction.  Let’s review our mistakes:

1. Overstimulation: Let’s face it; we’re all over-stimulated during the Christmas season, but most of us have strategies to help us deal with the assault on our senses.  My preferred strategy is wine and avoidance.  We should have provided Cameron with breaks from the chaos for whatever amount of time would’ve worked.  We also should have increased the amount of times we used the sensory brush with Cameron to once every two hours during the break..

2.  Screen Time: When Cameron watches too much TV or plays too many computer or video games, he turns into a sassy, disrespectful monster. To help with this, we limit the TV-watching, and also set timers for 30 minutes when he’s playing video or computer games.  This helps him so that he’s not surprised when it’s time for him to stop.  Over break, since we had just given him his new Wii, we were relaxed on the rules, and allowed him to play for longer than we normally would.  We should have enforced the timer rule!

3. Sugars, Dyes, and Preservatives: I have a confession: I would rather eat Cap’n Crunch and Pop Tarts for breakfast than something healthy.  I am a big fan of empty calories that are provided by sweet and sugary things.  I even love circus peanuts, the nuclear orange squishy non-peanut candy that most people think is disgusting. I am aware that I’m a hypocrite, but we try to limit dyes and preservatives from entering our kids. It was Christmas, though, and there were piles of bad-for-you foods wherever we turned.  Especially red things– red dye, in particular, really does affect Cameron’s focus and behavior–but we didn’t really set limits because it was Christmas, after all!  We should’ve made sure Cameron was full of protein before heading into the Christmas treats war zone, especially for breakfast.  Protein helps kids like Cameron focus.  We also should have made sure he sat and ate even during the intensely exciting pre-present opening.  Due to the fact that I was over-stimulated and couldn’t focus on one thing for too long, I didn’t monitor his food intake like I should have.

4.  Structure/Schedule: Cameron thrives on a schedule, and malfunctions when we throw a wrench in what he’s expecting. While I am not the most organized person, we generally try to keep somewhat of a schedule, but this did not happen over winter break.  We, like so many people, were trying to meet with several different families and friends, do as much as we could, and relax all at the same time.   Our semi-structure didn’t stand a chance.  Even though it was chaotic, each night we should have written a schedule for the next day’s plans so there weren’t any surprises for Cameron.

5. Exhaustion: Our kids go to bed close to the same time and do the same routine almost every night, even on vacation. Unfortunately, we were a bit more flexible than usual over our winter break, allowing Cameron to stay up later to be with family or friends.  This made him progressively more tired so that by New Year’s Eve, he was an exhausted wreck.  We should have stuck to a routine and got that boy some sleep!

The good news? We have learned from our mistakes.  I’ve heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  In some ways, I am insane because I’m pretty sure I did some of that over break.  On the other hand, I will remember this winter break, and don’t plan to have a repeat next year (or during spring break).  I just read on the ever-reliable Wikipedia that “Auld Lang Syne” symbolizes endings and new beginnings.  So here’s to a new year of new beginnings and understandings of my sweet Cameron!


My mother-in-law asked me if “we were writing things we shouldn’t be writing” in the blog (even though I’m the only one writing and “you” may have been a better pronoun).  Clearly, I am an open book, so I do not feel as if I’m sharing any more or less than needs to be shared, but she did make me think about what Cameron will think when he reads this.  How will Cameron be affected by what I write.  So, I decided to tell Cameron about this blog of mine.  

We started at bedtime, his favorite time to talk– probably because he gets to postpone the sleeping part of bedtime for a bit longer.  After a quick explanation of what a blog is, what it means, and who can read it, I told him I write one about him and his sensory issues.  I started to tell him why I write, when he interrupted and said, “It’s so you can help other kids like me, right?”  Wow.  I have one insightful kid!  I said he was right, and continued to let him know that it was to help kids, but  I’m also writing to help parents and families who have kids who struggle like he does, and I’m writing for me because I feel like I’m a better mom when I can express my feelings. 

I told him I wrote about his poop-hiding, and he laughed.  “Funny now, not funny then,” was my response.  

He then said, “Did you write about my handwriting, because my teacher yelled at me about my handwriting today?” 

“That was the last blog I wrote, Cameron!”  There’s that insight again.