How to Train Teenage Boys to Clean Up Poop Painting

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Category: Valuable Life Skills

At nearly sixty years old, my diaper changing and potty training days are well behind me. Incidences of poop-painting are funny now, especially when they happen to someone else. One Saturday morning, I opened my laptop and sat down with my coffee, to see what my friends and family were up to on Facebook.

“Nothing like trying to get out the door on time for an appointment only to find your daughter has poop-painted herself and her crib. Ah, what a morning!”

That was my niece’s posting. My first thought, after I seriously laughed out loud was, “This must be genetic.”

Rumors are, and I say “rumors” because no proof exists, that when I was a toddler, I did the same thing not once, but twice. Technically, one job wasn’t “painting” per se, so it shouldn’t count. It was more like “plopping” which, had I been a puppy would have garnered me high praise. I “plopped” onto my dad’s brand new album cover. In my defense, the cover was on the floor. An obviously bright child would have interpreted that as a target, just like a puppy, right? I rest my case.

My other alleged poop-painting incident was said to have taken place in my crib. According to my mom, I poop painted my hair, the walls, the crib, and my entire body. Since I am a creative person, I’ll accept that said poop-painting incident probably did happen.

Fast forward thirty-nine years. The phone rings. It was my fourteen year old son, who I left to babysit his nineteen month old sister.

“Mom!! When are you going to come home? She painted! There’s poop everywhere. What do I do?” (If you’re following this correctly, “sister” is second cousin of the first painter above).

It was my daughter’s first poop painting incident, and I wasn’t there for it. I couldn’t believe my luck.

“Don’t panic,” I said through my poor attempt to muffle my laughter. “Just put her in the bathtub.” I added the word “just” as a shot at minimizing the situation and calming a freaked out teenage boy. It didn’t work.

“Wait. What? No way! I can’t touch her. It’s everywhere.”

“Well, I’m not going to be back for another two hours.” My tendency for strategic planning kicked in. I had intended on being home within half an hour, but I thought this would be a great opportunity for him, for several reasons.

First, my son was starting to notice girls, a lot. I thought this incident could be used as birth control incentive.

Second, he needed exposure to real life, right? Kids poop. Somebody has to clean it up. Why not him? More birth control incentive.

Third, it created a great bonding experience for brother and sister. He has gotten a lot of mileage out of that incident. Most recently, he referred to his sister as Rembrandt, which sounds like a compliment to anyone not knowing the reference. I take some credit for this.

Fourth, I didn’t have to clean her up. If I was being completely honest, this should probably be listed as number one, but since this happened seventeen years ago, I can say that I don’t remember my real motives back then. People generally buy that.

My son continues shouting on the phone, “I am not going to touch her. No way.”

“You have to. She can’t stay like that. What if she eats it?”

“Gross. I think I’m going to throw up.”

“Listen. Calm down. It’s not the end of the world. Just go in there, pick her up, and carry her to the tub.”

“I hate my life.” End of conversation. I smile and go shopping.

When I arrive home, she’s clean, he’s looking exhausted and resentful, and keeping her at a minimum of twenty feet away from him, but he still has enough energy to re-enact the the whole event as soon as I walk in the door.

“So, how’d you get her to the tub without touching her?” I’m dying to know.

“Like this,” he says as he walks with his fingers out.

“I don’t get it,” I respond. Of course I get it. I’m just trying to encourage his acting skills and bolster his confidence.

“Under her armpits. By the armpits!”

“Ah, clever. So, it did work out. Good job, son. I knew you could do it. And you only got two fingers dirty.” I can’t be certain, since this happened seventeen years ago, but I believe a dirty look was given, followed by some stomping off to a bedroom.

I walked in to my daughter’s bedroom, to inspect the damage I suspect is still waiting for me,  and find the poop-smeared crib my son didn’t clean up. These kinds of lessons generally start slow with the beginner not always getting it completely right the first time. Fair enough. 

My son is engaged now and I assume that grandchildren are in my future. These kids will have my genes. The risk is high. I will have to kick into high gear and put a plan into place when the time is right, which will be as soon as he announces their first pregnancy. I’ll calculate the months until the toddler phase hits, and mark my calendar “Gone Shopping/Can’t Babysit.” It just might work. And, when his own kids poop-paint, he’ll be ready. I trained him for it, and I’ll be right there to take credit for their creativity, his ability to clean them up, and my strategic planning that allowed me to smile about it from somewhere in a shopping mall.

I could just tell him that the solution is to never leave a kid by themselves, in just a diaper. Everyone knows you should lock toddlers up in a jumper that they can’t self-remove, but then what would be the fun in that? He might even figure that one out by himself, and when he does I’ll calmly respond with, “I wish I’d thought of that.”

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