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:
- Where is the nearest bathroom? (Just in case.)
- Will it be a western commode or an eastern squatter?
- 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:
- Did I pack the diapers? (Did I pack the wipes?)
- Will he tell me he needs to poop before proceeding with said activity?
- Where is the closest baby changing station?
- 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.