Theo has discovered toilet humour. So that’s awesome.
He’s actually a little late to the poop party – most kids discover it around the time they get toilet trained.
I understand. I am a thirty-four-year-old woman and I love a good fart joke. But most of the time, I don’t want to listen to a preschooler sing ‘poop poop poop!’ at the dinner table. Some of the parents and carers I know are really keen to shut it down, but to be honest, I’ve been surprised by how little I care.
What I HAVE been surprised by, on the other hand, is how vehemently I care about my kids’ ability to read the room. I don’t mind if he talks about poop. But my line has been ‘I’m not interested in talking about poo, Theo, so let’s please talk about something else.’
It turns out toilet talk isn’t an issue for me, but instilling in my kid the sensitivity to change the subject definitely is – in fact, it is one of my Core Parenting Values. Talk about poop with your friends, kid. Don’t talk about it with me.
Most of my revelations about parenting have come that way: I establish a policy about a fairly prosaic part of everyday life, only to realise that it stems from something deeply held. For example: you can go up the slide instead of down, but not if someone wants to use it properly. Not because I care about slide etiquette, per se, but I care about having a child who is aware of other people and will be respectful of other playground users.
Broadly speaking, I came to parenting with my Core Parenting Values fully fledged: I want my child to be kind. I want my child to be respectful. I want my child to be feminist and generally anti-discriminatory. And there were a few specific things I felt strongly about, mostly drawn from my own childhood: I wanted girls to have my name, for example, because I have my mother’s. I felt strongly about not propagating ideas about Santa Claus, because duping children for the amusement of adults seems gross to me. I didn’t want my son to have clothes with cars on them, because I think that’s weird, sexist, outdated and unfortunate: I hate cars (I’m an urban planner).
Like any parent, many of my strongly held beliefs have disintegrated in the face of, well, reality. My daughters DO have my name, but Santa Claus is a losing battle: I haven’t endorsed the myth, but Santa made appearances at nursery, at my husband’s office party, the Christmas market, and pretty much everywhere else, too. And cars – well, yeah. That didn’t happen, either. I’m hardly the first parent to give birth to a kid thinking I can control some aspect of their life, only to find myself proven fundamentally, laughably wrong about five minutes after the kid was born.
And as someone parenting a preschool boy and baby girls, I find myself navigating new territory in terms of gender expression and identity. The onslaught of sweet frilly things has proven way harder to resist than I expected, because it turns out I like sweet frilly things way more than I expected and I like NEW frilly things even more than that. I thought that putting my kids in gender neutral clothing would be an expression of Core Parenting Values – but actually it turns out, what I care about is that my children not feel oppressed or constrained by their gender, or frame their sense of self-worth in terms of their private parts. I don’t think the adorable pink overalls I inherited from a friend are going to factor in, long term.
I let this post marinate for a while now – I started it back in October – because, you know, who cares, right? In parenting, you learn by doing. Shocking surprise twist. But I think the takeaway for me is that in parenting, the personal is political, in that everything is a proxy for a more deeply held belief that I often have not thought to articulate until it is expressed via a stupid or seemingly trivial rule.
Don’t talk to me about poop, kid. Talk about it with your friends.