Art. A beautiful reflection of the human soul. It can move us to tears. It can cause joy to well up inside of us. It can cause us to experience something almost divine and awaken us to the realisation that we are part of something so much bigger than ourselves. The artist can use many mediums to express the inexpressible. And sometimes the choice of medium causes us, the viewer, to have a new insight and appreciation for art. But what if the choice of medium is poo?
It was back in those beautiful days of early parenthood. Just one child. One child who still slept in a crib and couldn’t climb out of that crib. We could wake at a reasonable hour and wander down to Sam’s room, ready to pick up our very huggable bundle of one-year-old cuteness and chatter on about how great it was to have a new day…until the day said cuteness discovered poo as a desirable medium for crib art.
I was horrified. His room reeked. His hands, face and hair were covered…with poo. The sides of the crib were coated. Sheets and blankets had received their fair share of daubing. Even the walls were not immune. He had obviously been enjoying himself. Mummy may have uttered a few choice epithets. Realising his predicament, Sam started crying and held out his chubby little arms wanting me to pick him up and hug him. Not to be, buddy. I picked him up at arm’s length, turning my head to try and avoid the rank smell getting into my nostrils and marched him down to the shower, expostulating the whole way. I recruited my husband who took it upon himself to start the clean-up process in Sam’s room. It is not easy to get poo off a squirming toddler. Running a shower over a poo smeared body does not result in nice easy removal. No, poo dries and sticks. You have to get your hands dirty to get it off. Gross.
I thought it would be a one off. But, no. Pint-sized Picasso had discovered his favoured art medium. Over the coming weeks, we faced poo art several times a week. After a few episodes, my husband and I were like a Poo Swat Team. “Right, I’ll clean the kid.” “And, I’ll clean the room.”
I wondered what diabolical mental illness my child was harbouring and researched on the web. This latest escapade was not something I was inclined to boast of to my mummy friends. Google received such entries as “toddler playing with poo”, “poo smearing”, “how to stop your child playing with poo”. I struck gold one day when I found a whole forum devoted to this topic. I was not the only one with a monster child who repeatedly dipped into his full diaper and smeared the contents over himself and his surroundings. My favourite response on this forum was a young woman who dobbed in her brother as a poo painter in his toddlerhood. He had grown to respectable adulthood and now held a PhD. And was relatively normal. I found out something else too – poo play is not a sign of depravity or mental illness. No, toddlers see poo as little different to play dough – a nice squishy substance they can manipulate and mould.
But how to stop it. There were many suggestions, from gaffer taped nappies to giving your child opportunity to play with other substances such as mud and play dough, to remaining calm and unemotional when confronted with a poo smeared toddler and telling them,”Poo is yucky. We don’t play with poo”. The best suggestion was to put your child in a long legged onesie, but to put it on back to front so they couldn’t access their diaper. I purchased a black and white striped number. He looked just like a cute little jail bird. And it worked. Poo play came to an end…for the time being.
We were blessed with yet another period of poo play when baby number 2 arrived. Sam took the opportunity during ‘nap time’ to play with poo in his room, now at age two. It was gross. I wondered how long it would last. But it passed. Yet another glorious phase of parenthood survived. And I swore I would keep these tales alive and well for his 21st birthday!
(NB. Sam has since moved onto more acceptable mediums for art work, favouring collage and painting. I have since met another mum whose child also went through this delightful phase. We are now in recovery mode, having formed our own support group – POPPA – Parents of Poo Painters Anonymous.)