This morning my son Cassius, of his own free will, ripped off his pants and diaper and sat on the toilet. Nothing happened, but he was jubilant and it was at this moment that I knew it was time for potty training boot camp.
For Cassius, a boy born with just one extra 21st chromosome, many things in life come more slowly. This includes the knowledge that hucking small, hard objects across the room, while lovely to watch, may not be in the best interest of others in the room. It includes the understanding that running with wild abandon away from those who love and want to protect you, should not be done with any regularity, if at all. It also includes a slowness in understanding one’s own body functions. And so it is.
With most things, Cassius is full of feeling and joy, but needs much reminding of consequences. Potty training then, comes later, age 4-8 for most with Down Syndrome, and is something that requires Herculean patience and repetition for all involved. Potty training boot camp for my daughter lasted a mere two days. For Cassius, it may be two months. It may be longer. It starts today.
I set the timer for twenty minutes. He wears his first pair of boy underwear and nothing else. We load blocks into his dumpster. I attempt a few halfhearted attempts at an awkward exercise that promises to undo what gravity has done to my behind. Cassius climbs on top of me. I cease my gravity defying exercise, mid-lift. The timer goes off. We go to the potty. I embrace a false excitement.
“Look!” I say with glee, “Potty time! Potty time!”
We pull off pants. I sit him on the potty. His ice blue eyes look up. “Potty,” he says. “Yes!” I’m enthusiastic, “Potty!” Then, nothing. A long time of nothing until I pull him off porcelain, dress him and reset the timer. Cassius jogs upstairs. I resume the exercise of promise.
Why am I doing this? Because I am bored and I’m still of the mind that someday I’ll have the peachy bum I once had.
Three minutes have gone by. I go upstairs and hear grunting. Cassius squats by his train set, fully immersed in his body’s functions. I grab him and we hustle to the potty. I rip of said boy pants, point to the potty and make gesticulations that undoubtedly lend one to the conclusion that I’m having an epileptic seizure. I get out a few words, “Poo poo,” I say, grinning madly, “Poo poo on potty, Cash, on POTTY!”
We dump the debris and I reseat my boy. Something has indeed happened but it’s the what and not the where. I pretend at success. We sit. I again redress Cassius and again reset the timer. I do not attempt any exercises. I begin this story.
It’s at this point that I think of writers in the French Symbolist movement. One in particular whose name I can’t recall, spent much of his writing time trying to capture each and every moment of his day in it’s most minute detail. He included the slight slant of sunlight moving in increments across the bare floor, the mist of crumbs falling from his mouth during lunch, the slow lumber of white and slate clouds across the deepening red horizon.
I remember that reading this required book was a painful task. I found nothing moving about the book and even in theory, I felt an abject pain at its efforts. Today, I feel much the same way. The day lags, every minute accounted for, every chime signaling a task that I can only hope will be Pavlovian for my son – the task, not the chime. If he needs a chime to go potty at sixteen I may well kill myself.
The timer goes off.
We run to the potty and I read Toot, Toot, Chug, Chug without irony. I realize that the only benefit to boy underwear thus far is that Cassius has great freedom in reaching his boy jewels. He’s finding this particular day extremely pleasurable. I attempt to remove his happy fingers so his unit can hang, unperturbed, into the potty. I am watching my son’s hands like said clouds across the horizon. I’m not sure I’ll make it through the boredom of this day.
And the innumerable ones to follow, the one’s I haven’t even seen yet, how will I move through these days with joy and humor? I attempt a Buddhist perspective. This moment, moving my son’s hands away and away again, is the only moment that I have. This very moment.
“Penis, Cassius. Penis.” Lovely.
This does help but Cassius doesn’t pee. I again dress him. Pavlov sets the timer. Three minutes later, an ecru hue spreads across the front of his boy wear. I say, “Wet. Cassius, you’re wet.” He looks up at me, ice blue, glacier blue eyes.