Theories of Potty Training

June 23rd, 2010 7:40 pm cmt bgky

With the war going on in Afghanistan and Iraq, our con­cept and appli­ca­tion of war has changed from 60’s cold-war tank columns and nukes to coun­terin­sur­gency: the idea of apply­ing as much fire­pow­er at one time and place has mor­phed to restrain­ing fire­pow­er as much as pos­si­ble. This got me think­ing that our whole pot­ty train­ing thing has got to be rethought, in light of our con­tin­ued fail­ures and the loss of too-many-to-count dia­pers and stained car­pets and fun­ny smelling cor­ners and the obvi­ous odor of a house that con­tains kids.

So I googled “pot­ty train­ing” and sur­pris­ing­ly google’s first sug­ges­tion is “pot­ty train­ing boys” and not “pot­ty train­ing” which you think would’ve appeared first, a bad omen. Go ahead and try it your­self, if you don’t believe me. Turns out the Inter­net is sur­pris­ing­ly spare in advice or the­o­ries; most posts offer a few pieties, clap you on the back and wish you good luck.

So. We have to rethink our approach and maybe reclas­si­fy what exact­ly is going on.

Freud: Did you know that call­ing some­one anal reten­tive actu­al­ly orig­i­nat­ed with Freud. The idea is that if a child holds on to his poo and nev­er lets go because his pot­ty train­ing is too severe, he will grow up to be com­pul­sive­ly neat and neu­rot­ic to unim­por­tant details, hence anal reten­tive. Neat, no? As for the oppo­site, that’s more of a let down: he’s anal expul­sive. Any­way, it has mer­it and makes you won­der how much of what you are now is depen­dent on those first few toi­let flush­es. (An extreme­ly exis­ten­tial­ist point of view, which we get to lat­er. sort of.) Any­way this does­n’t actu­al­ly help in fur­ther­ing my under­stand­ing of what is going on oth­er than mak­ing sure the poo­ing expe­ri­ence is calm and enjoy­able but not going overboard.


Marx­ist pot­ty train­ing the­o­ry: This might go some­where. Just as the work­er is unjust­ly pre­vent­ed by cap­i­tal­ist pigs from enjoy­ing all the fruits of his labour, so maybe we need to think what’s in it for the boy. He clear­ly owns the means of pro­duc­tion but he is asked to pro­duce in only very cir­cum­cised cir­cum­stances; even dogs have more free­dom. So maybe we need to let him form his own rules, his laws. But this would lead to total chaos where any­thing could be used for a toi­let and no, this is head­ed in the wrong direc­tion; it would even­tu­al­ly lead to the total col­lapse of soci­ety and to rule by Anar­cho-syn­di­cal­ist soci­eties. I just want to have him pot­ty trained.

Cap­i­tal­ist, Pavlov­ian the­o­ries: pret­ty self-explana­to­ry and not work­ing at all

Fou­cault-ian his­tor­i­cal analy­sis: Maybe a deep and pen­e­trat­ing study will reveal that the his­to­ry, tra­di­tions and rites of using toi­lets are not just bio­log­i­cal­ly based but serve to main­tain the ingrained and enslav­ing pow­er rela­tion­ship of men over women. Maybe Mac is real­ly try­ing to help us sun­der these chains. Why are toi­lets round or oval shaped? Oval is derived from ova which is plur­al for ovum, a women’s repro­duc­tive core, and we men sit­ting down, doing “our busi­ness” from top, des(f)ecrating all over them. It has mer­it, but I don’t have time to spend, strong bit­ter cof­fee to drink, a small poor­ly-lit french café to sit in and those blunt, incred­i­bly foul-tast­ing Gaulois­es to smoke in order to engage in seri­ous Saus­sure­an struc­tur­al analy­sis nor Der­ri­daen decon­struc­tion­ism to reach some con­sen­sus just so I can end up just putting a sign on our toi­let: “Ceci n’est pas une toi­lette.” and teach him that the exis­tence of his poo is its own exi­gency and to just poo in the dang toi­let, already.

Neitzche: “Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stark­er.” Trans­la­tion: “That which does not kill me, makes me stronger.” I kind of like this one. He was prob­a­bly pot­ty train­ing his own boy when he thought of this one and said it to his boy or to him­self. I imag­ine it was dark time for him and his boy when he said this. And so at some point, when every last ounce of parental duty had been worn away to just bone and the thou­sand-yard stare has set in, I will find myself sound­ing like the God­Fa­ther and mak­ing Mac an offer he won’t refuse. I am not proud of this.

A Hei­deg­gaer­ian approach: If Mac would only real­ize that his poo is already a Being-in-the World and that he already knows what to do with the poo, under­stands its zuhan­den, its readi­ness to be han­dled by him in the appro­pri­ate man­ner, then poo­ing will be as sim­ple as breath­ing and we won’t need to engage in high-lev­el ana­lyt­ic dis­course. So maybe all I need to do is teach him that there are no Pla­ton­ic forms, no ideals stand­ing behind the real­i­ty of what he sees and get him to under­stand his own Dasein and thus do the doo.

Any sug­ges­tions on Pot­ty train­ing will be appre­ci­at­ed. Please be sure to cite sources and to pro­vide a Pré­cis of the the­o­ret­i­cal frame­work of said suggestions.

PPP&P part deux

PPP&P part deux :

Because this week­end Mac has essen­tial­ly declared that he will not poo in the pot­ty and has had at least two very recent mishaps that defy the law of physics (I’ll spare you the details.1 ) and has drawn his Mag­inot Line in the sand, writ­ten in yel­low so to speak. The results of our assault are Gal­lipo­lian in nature. So, I do want to report that Scar­lett, on the oth­er hand, seems to be right on pot­ty-train­ing sched­ule. She has respond­ed pavlo­vian­ly to the lol­ly-pop bribe, and a time or two now has lit­er­al­ly peed on com­mand when remind­ed what was in it for her.

Need­ing no bribe, Jack­son can always be relied on to pee the moment he is sans couche.

  1. OK, OK, in one he was able to pee in the mid­dle of a fur­ni­ture store by seem­ing­ly spir­it­ing his pee past his pull-ups and shorts in order to cre­ate a very large pool of pee on the con­crete floor. The sec­ond, he again some­how over­whelmed his pull-ups with much less desir­able con­tents and results. []