Squat toilet found in Chiang Dao, Thailand.
Squat toilet found in Chiang Dao, Thailand. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As both a traveler and a parent, poop is something always on my mind.  As a traveler in a new land there is the perpetual threat of “travelers diahorrea”; quickly followed by the following three questions:

  1. Where is the nearest bathroom?  (Just in case.)
  2. Will it be a western commode or an eastern squatter?
  3. Will there be toilet paper?

As a parent with one child just starting the potty training process and one still firmly in diapers thoughts of poop are quickly followed by these four questions:

  1. Did I pack the diapers?  (Did I pack the wipes?)
  2. Will he tell me he needs to poop before proceeding with said activity?
  3. Where is the closest baby changing station?
  4. Do we have a change of clothes?  (Just in case.)

Traveling by myself, or just with my wife, we really don’t get too concerned with the poop questions.  We are very adjusted to going with the flow so to speak.  There was even a time in the not so distant past where I hoped for an eastern squatter, or at least a bide`.  However, traveling with un-potty trained children is a whole other matter.

The use of diapers as a method of managing your child’s waste products, I have realized, is a cultural choice.  I had my first encounter with this while working in Bangladesh as a Peace Corps Volunteer and noticing that most of the children ran around without any pants or undergarments of any type.  This allowed for quick and clean “potty breaks” anywhere out on the side of the road.  Later, while traveling by train in northern Myanmar prior to having my own kids.  My wife and I had boarded a local train running from Mandalay to Lashio.  We got on outside of the town of Pyin Oo Lwin, a lovely old British hill station in the Eastern Shan Mountains making our way to the village of Hsipaw to explore some nearby waterfalls.  The train was crowded, dark, dirty, and full of the rustic charm that young backpackers crave.  We shared a small wooden slate bench with a young Shan couple and their baby boy.  Like Bangladesh, the majority of babies go about sans undergarments or pants of any nature; however, being on a train and not wanting their baby to poop right there on the other passengers, the parents wrapped their child up in a longi.  (A skirt-like garment used on the lower part of the body of both men and women.  Similar to a sarong.)  The baby was very cute with inquisitive brown eyes that would stare at you in such avid concentration, which also coincided with the release of waste products from both the front and rear.

The father was holding the baby in his left arm with the little boy’s head resting on his shoulder, a mere four inches from my own head.  That inquisitive look with avid concentration was then followed by a few grunts of effort and it seemed to me that icky yellow goo exploded out of the child.  As the boy was in the longi, it definitely didn’t explode on me; but it began to ooze down the leg and out of the longi.  His mother was there to use extra fabric from the longi to help “manage” the mess and keep it all clean and tidy…right next to me.  As a parent now, I can look back at this and laugh and feel real empathy for those young traveling parents.  But, at the time I was trying really hard not to get sick.  The heat and smell of the train was already wearing on me, and now the possibility of being contaminated by this yellowish ooze was pushing me slowly over the edge.  Luckily, for both my weak stomach and fellow passengers, the family got up and stood in between two of the train cars.  There they took the longi off, put it into a bag, and began to poor water over the little boy’s bottom as he hung over the edge of the moving train.

Diapers please!!  And no, I am not looking for a nice set of environmentally friendly diapers where I will have to clean them out of their poop content.  No, I will take the trusty old disposable diapers any day.  So, for my youngest son, that is what he has; but, now I am moving into potty training phase with K.  The questions I now ask are:  ‘Do I put him into a diaper or trust him with underpants?’ or ‘Will he tell me that he needs to poop or just let me know after the fact?’  As we are in the first couple of weeks of this process, one that he has fought every step of the way, I still opt for the diapers.  I will send him to his half day of pre-school in underwear.  The teachers are trained professionals and can handle any accidents that might come their way; but, I am an inexperienced stay-at-home dad that has a proven track record that clearly demonstrates that diapers make the poop much less messy.

But on this point I will need to change very soon.  So, if you have any tips or thoughts on how to effectively transition a reluctant and strong willed boy from diapers into underwear successfully, please respond and share your wisdom.  Or, if you have a humorous poop story (either child or travel related) please feel free to share.

And thank you for reading.

7 thoughts on “Poop

  1. Once you began the training from diapers to big boy pants. You need to trust the K will know he is in big boy pants and go potty. If you go back to diapers you are telling the child I do not trust you. Nap and bed time you can use diapers and tell K since you are asleep you wear diapers. I though away about 4 pairs of big boy pant while training my son. Some days it just make my life easier to through them away and not hassle cleaning them. Throw the dirty pants out allow me to keep my cool and just say ” o-well next time you ‘ll make it to the potty.” Letting K play outside nuke from the wrist down will help him remember to go potty too. Do not let him run around inside nuke – could be very messy.
    My humorous story – my son was 4 and he ran inside the boys bathroom at Target I normally would taking him into the lady room so I could help him. I waited outside the door of the men bathroom and waited and waited, he was taking a long time so I ask the guy who was heading inside to check on him. He come out saying “Lady he yelling mom come wipe me!”.

    1. Hi David! One of the mysterious 459 friends here, procrastinating on my dissertation writing by reading your blog. I recommend for potty training starting early with your other one. We started putting our daughter on the potty at 10 months and we haven’t changed a poopy diaper since she was about 14 months. Mostly it was us initiating the process, but now she tells us when she has to go. There’s a book called diaper free baby that was fairly helpful. Our daughter is 2 years now and we only only occasionally have pee accidents and never poop accidents. At home she wears underwear and we use diapers when we go out just in case. We have a travel potty for outings that is awesome that you put a plastic grocery bag in. Our friends waited until their kids were a little older and they have encountered lots of resistance to using a potty, but for Sophia its always been an option and I love the lack of mess. Good luck!

      1. Hey Patty!! Not so mysterious, I do believe you will make it through the weeding. Thanks for sharing, I am pretty stunned (and in deep envy) that you have not needed to change a poopy diaper from 14 months. It sounds a bit similar to the Asian method as well, except of course they don’t use diapers. But lack of diapers and with enough family around, the parental/grandparental figures are able to really hone in on when the child needs to poop. I suppose its like training a puppy. You either catch them and condition them to use a certain spot, or they will continue to make a mess where ever. M has already impressed us. For a few months, every time he would be in the bathroom, he would poop. Perhaps we should try this approach. Thanks again.

    2. Thanks Sandy. Starting this week K is in underwear all day, except when sleeping, and has done a great job thus far. As for running round outside nude…might be a bit cold for that now. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I got on a plane and realized that in trying to get 2 kids ready (2 kids are too many!) I’d forgotten a change of clothes for the baby. I ended up leaving the plane with a baby in only a diaper since I managed to get poop EVERYWHERE in that stupid, stupid, stupid changing “situation” in an airplane bathroom. I felt awesome as we were 1. on a domestic flight and really, I should know better and 2. in America where you NEVER see people walking around airports with children dressed only in diapers. grrrrrrrr….there you go–child, travel, AND poop related!

    1. Thanks Kristy!! It is very interesting how traveling with children in different countries really changes the experience. (A future post will address this.) S, K, and I were in Bangkok, just leaving Siam Paragon via taxi when K had a big poop. As we were had been waiting for a taxi for quite some time, we decided to just get in and change the diaper when we got back to the hotel…until we got caught in the horrific BKK traffic. After 20mins of sitting, we noticed that the poop was creeping and crawling up and out of K’s pants, moving out of the diaper, under the onzie and an emergency taxi change had to happen. So we stripped K down, and proceeded to do our best to clean him up in the back seat of this cab. But being in Bangkok, the taxi driver didn’t even blink an eye. (Luckily he didn’t have a sticker indicating no diaper changes in this cab.) In the states, I am sure that would have gotten us kicked out.

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