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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Hally the Diaper Rebel OR The 50,000 TZ Shilling Stooge

Kids in Tanzania are potty trained from the time they can walk. What with disposable diapers being so expensive and cloth diapers being so messy and creating so much work, there is little reason not to potty train. Plus, in many quarters here, it is perfectly acceptable to let your one-year-old run around with no bottoms, peeing and pooping at will. I see it all the time. I don’t know a single 2 year, 8 month year-old Tanzanian child who isn’t trained. And many ex-pats here take their lead and potty train early. Forget all that American nonsense about waiting for signs of “readiness”. We are potty wimps.

Jaden and Rowan have been potty training for the past six months. Sort of. The truth is, unlike many parents, I’m in no rush for the kids to be using the toilet. It seems like a lot of trouble to me – what having to worry about peeing and pooping all the time and rushing to the potty to avoid accidents. Not to mention, but many bathrooms are hardly clean around here. I can’t imagine putting Rowan’s pristine white bum on a dirty filthy toilet the next time she has to go. Not only that, but I can’t even bring myself to picture the 26 hour trip back to the US next week without diapers.

They are so easy! I love diapers!

I guess I’m just lazy. Plus, what will I do with the $1500 of diapers and wipes waiting for us at the Port of Dar – for the day when my work permit actually comes through? There are so many of them they probably filled a whole shipping container – at least they filled my whole living room before the packers came and sent them on their way to TZ. (Come to think of it, where will I store them in my teeny tiny little house?)

But my happy-go-lucky attitude about diapers came to an end on Monday when the kids started back at their first day of school. Secunda (who doesn’t seem any more in a rush than I am) informed me on Monday night that the teachers are demanding that Jaden and Rowan be potty trained immediately. They are in the “big kid” class now. It is time for underwear.

That actually pissed me off. Who are they to tell me when to tell my children where to pee???? So Tuesday AM when I dropped off the kids at school I went in to talk to the head teacher, Jenny. I informed her that Jaden and Rowan were not yet potty trained and that I could bring them in underwear, but they would pee and poop on themselves and that wouldn’t be any fun.

Jenny responded: “What, Jaden and Rowan are STILL not potty trained?” At this, all the other moms in the vicinity turned and looked me up and down… me, the mommy potty deviant. A quick survey of their children revealed lots of flat butts. None of them were in diapers.

Me: “Well… no.”

Jenny: “Just bring them in underwear and pack lots of extra clothes and we’ll train them for you.”

Me: “Well… I only have one pair of underwear for Rowan (Elmo) and two pairs for Jaden (one Thomas the Tank Engine and one Spiderman). I don’t think I can bring them in underwear until my shipment is released. I’ve got lots of Dora the Explorer and Sponge Bob Square Pants at the Port of Dar.”

Jenny: “This is Tanzania, not the moon. You can buy underwear here.”

At that, one of the other moms took pity on me and pulled me aside to tell me where I might find plain white underpants for both boys and girls.

But I spent the day yesterday with a heavy heart. I was convinced the kids weren’t ready.

Still we took a chance. We let them run around the yard in their underwear yesterday afternoon. Jaden took it upon himself to pee on a tree. I guess he may get that tree peeing is his God given right.

Then this AM, Jaden peed in the toilet. He said, “Mommy, potty.” And so he did it… well aimed and all.

(Although Rowan has asked to sit on the potty many times, she only rarely actually peed on it and had several accidents yesterday.)

But this AM I was so proud of Jaden! My big boy. I wanted to do something special for him so I went to a store near my office owned by someone who travels to the US and brings back things from Target. The store is filled with Avent bottles, Superman dinner sets, and NY Yankees onsies.

I bought Jaden a set of Sponge Bob underwear and Rowan a set of Dora the Explorers. So filled with pride was I that I didn’t even realize what I had done until I got home.

I paid 50,000 TZ shillings, equivalent to $39.00 US, for six pairs of underwear that are about to be peed upon and shat upon by my 2-year-olds. That is more than most people in TZ will spend on underwear in their lifetime. And I am humbled by that fact. But I also feel guilty about all the pressure on them to go when and where society demands. After all, they have a whole lifetime to pee the potty. Why here, why now, when clearly I’M not ready.

Nevertheless, I guess this potty rebel is throwing in the towel. Bring on the TP, good-bye wipes.

I hear there is a great underground ex-pat market for Size 5 Pampers! I plan to donate $39.00 of the proceeds to Tanzanian children in need of underwear.


Anonymous becky said...

talk about peer pressure! good luck with the potty training!
i like the this is tanzania, not the moon comment.

5:44 AM  
Blogger Mothering Mini said...

Hang in there, Hally. Margot's twin cousins, who are four days younger than J & R, are not potty trained yet either AND are diaper-removing-poop-smearing children at that. So it could be worse...

2:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hally, thanks for making me laugh so hard.

Inspirations?: You will quickly learn not to miss those diapers. Trust me.


5:22 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Look at it this way - you've got the school potty training your kids! how awesome is that? I say you pass on the undies, the kids and a roll of paper towels and run away as fast as you can.

3:34 PM  

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