After Jeff and I had been together for awhile, I pretty much told people that my favorite topic of conversation was sex. I was probably a bit, I regret only a little, insufferable about how fun my life had become. But you know how it is - when something takes up a lot of your brain space, it becomes your Primary Topic of Import.
I still consider the aforementioned topic to be a fabulous one, but it has been way eclipsed in my life by another topic in terms of Brain Space required. (In fact, it's lucky that we put in the time Way Back When on things related to That, because if It currently required so much thought I'd be Out Of Luck, if you know what I mean.)
Anyway - what I wanted to discuss today is not related to romance at all (although regularity enhances life in many ways, so perhaps one could note a correlation? But only in a sort of six degrees of separation kind of way, rather than a causal link), but rather to traveling with four children. Specifically, pooping while doing so. The topic is important at home too, but takes on new levels of challenge on our current journey.
And I know, you probably can't understand why pooping could possibly take more time than sex, which is why I'll give you a quick rundown of a Sample Daily Poop Timeline over here at the Amaral Matilsky campsite, just for example. (Sorry, you're on your own if you're looking for help figuring out a reasonable schedule for Other Things.)
Pooping generally starts in the a.m. around here, and with the bathrooms located down the path comes the need to plan ahead. One scenario: Jeff needs to poop bright and early, at which point either I might need to also, so we get to arm wrestle to see who gets to bring Ivy, OR (much more likely these days) my sphincter implies something similar to "holy cow, if your kids are as hungry as they were yesterday, forget shitting and get cooking!"
If I'm lucky, Ivy will wait for her poop number one until there are more hands on deck or Jeff is back. It's also especially useful to have two adults around at all times anyway, due to the mathematically impossible odds that predict how often (nearly 126% of the time) our two youngest need to poop simultaneously. At these times, at least Jeff and I can commiserate with equally haunted eyes, since we each know exactly how much the other currently feels like running away.
On the other hand, this scenario is better than things used to be when Ivy was chronically and inexplicably constipated, back when we lived in a house. Or when she's gotta go but has a temporary aversion to making anything at all easier, on any planet, for her parents.
At these times, we get to play a similar game to the one Jeff overheard in a men's room way back in 2003, ten days before Ben was born: a father, entreating his child in wheedling tones, to "pleeese make a poo for daddy!" With Ivy, you just know she has to go; SHE knows she has to go, and yet....the problem is: where should she do it?? I mean you know how it is: why use the readily available potty that someone is waiting to slide under your butt at moments' notice, the better to receive your poo?? No no, it's much preferable to wander the campsite (or better still, the road, if you can get away for a second or two), the better to find the Perfect Spot To Squat. Ivy further tries to ensure that I am either in the middle of cutting up a chicken, about to burn something, or dishing out food, at the point when she and/or the campsite and/or her pants require Attention.
But anyway. This brings us to a discussion concerning Number Of Poops per day that happens in a family of six. If asked to guess, you might legitimately presume that approximately six poops happen per day, give or take. But if you were to presume this, you would be dead wrong. In our family, each person needs to poop between one and ninety-five thousand times per day, give or take a couple of poops. This doesn't even take into account the times when people say they need to poop...but by the time they are taken to the bathroom, or the entire expedition has re-routed to the hardest-to-locate-rest-area-off-exit-Eight-South-Route-Fifty-Seven-North, they don't actually have to. Or the times when they sit on the toilet (with you in the stall with them, by special request), for fifteen minutes and Similarly don't Have To. Or the times when one or more family members have diarrhea, and exceed the daily average by a factor of 4.38. Plus, babies just poop more than other people. It's part of being a baby.
Have I mentioned how incredibly active babies can be? Ivy is more active than they are. She loves to explore, and nothing stimulates her baby imagination more than figuring out things to do that are not related in any way to whatever we're doing, like...running into the road. Climbing up anything. Running back into the road. Eating things. Emptying the clean dishes into the dirt. Running back into the fricking road. Finding a pooping spot that is very far away from the potty. Running back into the goddamn road.
So, you can imagine that when there comes a moment when I might finally need to - ahem - poop, you can be very sure that Ivy has other plans. There is nothing quite so relaxing as shitting in a public restroom while holding a yelling, wriggling toddler on your lap. And I mean nothing.
You might think that older kids are easier, because they take themselves to the bathroom and take care of the wiping, but it ain't necessarily so. For one thing, older children can still be prone to sudden attacks of Bathroom Anxiety, during which times they want a parent to accompany them to the restrooms. Alternatively, they may display uncharacteristic independence, and assure you that they can navigate an unfamiliar restroom All By Themselves...leaving you, the parents, after ten minutes of grotesque imaginings featuring your child in a grimy cement building with some perverted awful terrible person who is doing awful terrible horrible things that Oh My God What A Terrible Parent You Are For Sending Your Child To The Restrooms Alone!!! You should go follow them into the shitter to make sure...
...And while you stand stone still (rather than making lunch/dinner/breakfast/whatever chore you were at first relieved to have more time for, due to your child's Bathroom Independence), your child comes bounding back, feeling much Lighter and pleased with himself, and of course completely unscathed by his uneventful bowel movement in the brightly-lit, friendly bathroom.
Older children are also prone to completely obliviously skipping their chance to poop--available to them throughout ALL the morning's packing festivities--and waiting until the drive has started, and the baby's asleep, before announcing an impending and urgent Movement.
Yet another variation: two older children need to poop at Exactly The Same Time, "Really Bad!", with only one available toilet. Or, they might have Delayed Post-Snack Poops, which can be problematic on extended drives that feature snacks.
Some of you have heard me expound upon the importance of good gut flora, and why daily pooping is a really important thing. Well, it really is important. And sometimes, when my poor pavlovian sphincter has been so worn down due to so very many Other Things needing attention during the times when, in my previous lifetime, I would have just (duh!) gone to poop, it just sighs and decides it is Too Tired to try again today...and I wish for some of my children's youthful Digestive Speed and Frequency.
Except seriously: more than three poops per day is a bit much. Three is healthy, for sure (so long as the consistency's good and the belly feels well. Nice to empty the colon after each meal and stuff. But do you realize that with six people averaging just three poops per person per day (allowing Ivy's baby digestion to make up for my beleaguered Motherly one), and even excluding diarrhea events, we are talking about Eighteen poops per day?!?! That is a lot of shits. A lot of logistics. A lot of parental brain space. So very many hours per week spent in making sure everyone gets to shit safely, cleanly, optimally, and often.
Let's face it: four children is plenty!! Maybe that's how we have come full circle. Imagine how many kids Jeff and I might have if all the time we currently use for Poop Logistics was once again available for, say, Spontaneous Nookie??
The gods say unto us: time to take a child to the restroom right now!