When a mother of young children complains about how hard it is taking care of babies and toddlers, some mother of teenagers will invariably pipe up and say that it doesn’t get any easier as the kids get older.  In fact, it gets harder.  From what I’ve heard, raising teenagers is the innermost circle of the parenting inferno.  You are Judas, Cassius and Brutus, and they are three-headed Satan, gnawing on your noggin(s) for (what seems like) eternity.  As the years go by and my kids get older and new and different parenting challenges arise, the more I think that parents of teenagers are people who just haven’t changed enough diapers lately.

Now, believe me, when I think about what my teenage self put my parents through, I shudder–and I was an angel compared to most of the kids I knew.  When I reflect on what a narcissistic, moody, immature whiner I was, I marvel that my parents didn’t slap me silly every day of my life.  I’m convinced that the main thing I had going for me during those years was the fact that I was finally toilet-trained.  And as far as I’m concerned, when my own kids are teenagers, I don’t care what they do–back-talking, skipping school, breaking curfew, vandalism, piercing stuff, hanging out in back of the 7-Eleven and smoking the cigarettes they rolled themselves–so long as they’re not still pooping in their pants, I’m good.  Heck, they can even get pregnant and expect me to take care of their babies while they take classes at the community college because babies are supposed to poop their pants.  As long as they are doing their business in the toilet like people over the age of five are supposed to do, they will be keeping up their end of the bargain.

Those of you who have teenagers are probably shaking your heads at the computer screen and muttering, “This girl has no idea what she’s saying.  If only it was as easy as changing a diaper.  I’d change a thousand diapers every day if it meant that I didn’t have to stay up nights wondering if little Susie is dead in a ditch somewhere.  Mark my words, in about five years or so, she’ll be begging to change diapers again.”

Well, mark my words, know-it-alls, in five years I will probably STILL be changing diapers, and I’ll be begging for someone to leave ME in a ditch somewhere.  Methinks you have not spent a good 35 minutes scraping fecal matter out of a seven-year-old’s 28 pairs of underpants lately, so maybe you can go soak your heads.  Yeah, I’m surly, like your teenager, and if one more person tells me that I should be grateful for the opportunity to change two sets of diapers and launder a third set of underpants being used as diapers, I’m going to pierce my eyebrow and run up their cell phone bill–yeah, their cell phone bill:  with text messages like “BYT ME.”

Princess Zurg, God bless her, has always been a handful, and her problems get more complicated and worrisome as she gets older.  But I have never–NEVER, a thousand times NEVER–waxed nostalgic for the days when she was taking dumps in her pants instead of physically assaulting people.  Is parenting her easier now than it was then?  No, I guess not.  I guess it’s harder.  But I haven’t had to think about Princess Zurg’s bodily waste for about six years now, and you know what?  That’s awesome.  That’s what saves her life some days, let me tell you.  I have NEVER stopped being grateful for PZ’s ability and willingness to use the toilet for its intended purpose.  It took her four-and-a-half years to master the skill, but as of now she’s my toileting prodigy and you bet your sweet bippy I’m proud of her.  I might just go out and get her a freaking medal today.  That’s the kind of mood I’m in.

It might be different if my kids pooped once or twice a day.  I think I could handle that…psychologically.  It’s this all day, every day, pooping-every-time-I-turn-my-back business that makes it so…heart-breaking.  Did I say “heart-breaking”?  I meant “soul-crushing.”  Some of you might be thinking now that my children must have medical issues, and I should talk to their pediatricians.  DO NOT MAKE ME LAUGH.  I’ve been to the doctor.  I’ve been to doctors.  No one cares about my problems.  All the doctors I know are parents of people with normally-functioning digestive systems–or of teenagers who don’t talk to their folks about digestion anymore.  Parents of people not under an illusion that there’s something charming about a life steeped in doo-doo.

These are the same people who told me not to push toileting on kids who were resistant.  That it had to be their decision.  That’s what all the toileting experts say, and it seems intuitive–you can’t control another person’s sphincters, can you?  Well, can you?  These good people would make it all seem so simple.  Just have your child sit on the potty for a set amount of time every day.  At certain times of the day.  Once an hour, every twenty minutes, whatever.  Have them sit on the potty, but never force them to sit on the potty against their will.  I confess I do not understand how this is accomplished.  How do you “have” a child sit on the potty without “forcing” them to sit on the potty?  Why would you need to “have” a child sit on a potty if there weren’t a conflict of wills at issue?  What exactly do they mean by “have”?  Do they mean “ask”?  Do they mean “tell”?  And what if the child says, “No”?  What if he says, “Hell, no”?  Do you put him in time-out?  On the potty?  Without forcing him?  My head is spinning.

I rue the day I bought into the notion that you shouldn’t have power struggles over the potty.  If I had the proper restraints, three of my four children would be chained to our three toilets right now.  I have had it with protecting their delicate self-esteem(s).  I have had it with love and patience.  I’m tired of my hands smelling like poop all the time.

Riding home in a squad car at 3 a.m.?  Bring it on, people.  I’m ready for the next stage of life.  I’m ready.

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