The key thing is – communication is the transmission of information from sender to receiver. It can’t happen in a void, or with just one person.
The funny thing is, when I worry about how communication works, I’m usually worrying about the Monster. But it just goes to show that you can’t forget, in the heat of the struggle, about that simple rule above.
Just to warn you here – this is a blog that involves toileting. You’ve been warned. But I’m using it to talk about communication, honest.
So, you all know that we have two kids – the Monster, certainly, but his little brother R. R is precocious in terms of his reading and communicating – he’s voracious in how he consumes information. He reads everything. He’s vociferous about his opinions, especially when we don’t want it. He tries desperately not just to make himself heard, but to try to convince us of what he thinks that the Monster wants (which usually is what he himself wants, but again, that’s being four).
Neither child is fully potty trained. The Monster can take care of most things himself in the bathroom during the day, and night time’s been a struggle that we’ve given up on for the time being. On the other hand… R is fully pee-trained, day and night. It’s poop that’s a problem, and he just won’t go in the damned potty.
At three, that’s not such a big deal. By the time we passed four and he wasn’t going… well, you get frustrated. We’ve tried everything. Charting. Scheduling. Bribes. Punishments. The last was absolutely the worst, with the ‘disappearance’ of Moo, his cherished stuffy-best-friend, who ‘ran away’. But still, no change. The real pressure for this has been because the four year old program at his pre-school requires him to be toilet trained, as does this summer’s camp, and he’s not showing any sign that he’s going to make it to that point…
Throughout the time, he’s been his usual feisty self… which means that he’s pushing buttons left and right. A familiar refrain in the house around dinner time, for example, is his insisting that he doesn’t want to eat because ‘his tummy hurts’. (Strangely, we never hear about this when it’s a hot dog. Hmmm…) And that when he’s pooping in his pants, it’s because his body didn’t tell him that it needed to go, and that he doesn’t know why he did it. In the meantime, the increasingly harsh books are talking about how children at his age are more being willful, and doing it because they know it pisses you off, and exerts their control over their environment…
Enter Doctor Google. My wife, at her last shreds of sanity over this and faced with a potential summer of having R thrown out of camp, discovered something called ‘encopresis’ (involuntary defecation) which is often caused in children by… chronic constipation leading to a blockage. Because, as mentioned, we’re at our wits’ end, we scheduled a visit to the doctor, who sent him across the street for X-rays…
R’s just not been telling us in a way that’s coherent or consistent that he’s having trouble or discomfort. We’ve not been understanding well enough that we should check other things. (Every symptom we could think of wasn’t present, after all – he was pooping, he didn’t complain constantly about pain, his belly didn’t feel unduly firm or distended, and he was eating…) Apparently, a couple of months with laxatives to empty him and and get his body flowing right enough to learn the feeling, and he should be fine and toilet trained.
So what have we learned from this? Don’t assume that a child who can communicate is going to do it effectively. Don’t assume that speech is the be-all-and-end-all for communication. Remember that children are children and can’t tell you clinically what’s going on. And… when all else fails, pull your stupid assumptions out of the equation and approach it as objectively as you can.
In the meantime… our lives are literally going to be shitty, apparently, for the next few weeks.