We toilet trained Archie while on holiday in Queensland when he was two and a half. He lived nude for two weeks in the warm weather and roamed the apartment depositing his fluids and solids onto the tiled floors with a crude kind of freedom us adults can only dream of.
We’d point at his accomplishment and say, wow look at that and if there was music playing – and there most often was – I’d do a celebratory dance and say whoop whoop or pretend I was riding a horsey around it and then we’d put him on the toilet to show him where it should go.
He returned home a nappy-free kid and it was such a successful treatment of the toileting issue that we decided to do the same thing with toddler Lewis when we flew back up to Queensland for a holiday a few years later.
Five days into the holiday and the boys have been living the nudist lifestyle and it’s been going great and although Lewis hasn’t quite cottoned on to the toilet thing yet he is fully aware of what his body can do now, watching as the stuff comes out and pointing as we dance around it whoop whooping.
So as I walk out to the balcony to drink a coffee in the balmy morning weather on the shaded balcony I’m head-bopping with a feeling that RM and I are doing okay at this parenting thing and I even feel a sense of duty to write an educational story about it to inspire the pooped-up masses when I find the two nudes standing at the balcony railing.
‘What are you boys looking at?’ I say, sing-song.
Archie turns around to say, ‘Lewis pooed.’
‘Did he?’ I say, scanning the balcony floor. ‘Where is it?’
‘Over there,’ Archie says, pointing over the railing to the steep three meter embankment that ends at the edge of a communal footpath.
‘Over there?’ I laugh, disbelieving.
Archie turns back to join Lewis in staring intently through the railing and whispers, ‘He threw it away.’
‘Oh,’ I say, smiling wide and pressing my teeth together, chimpanzee-style.
To give myself a few moments of avoidance I throw my head back and close my eyes and like a lamb at the petting zoo biting at an artificial teat in a feeding frenzy, I drain the entire cup of coffee.
When my eyes open my gaze falls directly on the poo which is sitting at the edge at the foot of the embankment, right on the edge of the footpath.
‘Well, there’s no way I can dance around that,’ I say, which reminds me that I have to somehow address this situation without freaking Lewis out and setting his toilet training back months or even years.
When I squat down to his level and say, ‘Hey mate, did you do another poo-poo?’ he looks at me wide-eyed and excited and points, saying, ‘Over dair’ and I see the remnants on the directional finger and lining the palm of his hands and, on further inspection, find a trail down his legs and, oh gee, look how he’s mired the railing with his efforts, and suddenly this holiday apartment feels a little dairy-farm-ish at milking time.
‘Who wants to have a shower?’ I say.
The boys scream yay! and I grab Lewis by the wrists to guide him through the house to a packet of wipes but as we pass through the sliding doors I glance over my shoulder one more time with the thought that I really should head around at some stage and kick some dirt over the poo but then I see a man there battling to stop his dog from eating it and even though I feel totally embarrassed about the mess we’ve made I’m also hopeful that another animal will happen along to just make it go away.
An hour later the boys are watching cartoons inside while RM and I are eating bacon and eggs at the table on the balcony. The sun has eased its warmth into the morning and the birds are chirpy and there are people out jogging and pushing prams and walking in their holiday daze and the poo is still there.
A woman walks past hand in hand with her husband and looks directly at it but then looks straight ahead, saying nothing.
‘Do you think it could pass as a dog’s?’ I say.
‘I don’t know,’ RM muses. ‘It somehow looks human.’
‘Do you think we should just leave it there like that?’ I ask. ‘I mean, really, it’s our responsibility, isn’t it?’
‘Probably. You’re even supposed to pick up your dog’s poo…’ she says, as Archie and Lewis swing the sliding door open and run straight for the railing.
Lewis points and Archie comes to tug at my arm. ‘Daddy,’ he says. ‘It’s still there.’
‘I know mate,’ I say, kissing him on the head. ‘It’s a dilemma.’
‘What’s a dilemma?’ he says.
‘It’s a poo at the foot of an embankment,’ I say, as I stand up and head inside.
When I get back I have a plastic bag and even though I have steeled myself for the task ahead I’m a little jazzed by the craziness of the situation.
I’m going to climb the railing and I’m going to get that poo – because it’s my son’s and it’s the right thing to do – and once I’ve got it I’m going to look back up the embankment at my family. I’m going to point directly at Lewis. I’m going to wave my free hand over my head like I’m winding up a lasso. I’m going say whoop whoop three of four times. And I’m going to dance.