Poo is the shin­ing avatar of our child’s well­be­ing

The Irish Times Magazine - - WE LOVE... - SEÁN MON­CRIEFF

Ihave four daugh­ters and a son. ( Yeah – in your face, sus­tain­able planet.) And, just like real peo­ple, they have their own ways of com­mu­ni­cat­ing. But daugh­ter num­ber four is the trick­i­est, mostly be­cause, at 20 months, words have yet to be her thing. There’s a few.

She can say thank you as in­sin­cerely as any mil­len­nial. Boc- Boc is bot­tle. Beep- Beep is car. And Peppa Pig – usu­ally de­liv­ered in the voice of a bit­ter man at a bar de­mand­ing one more drink.

Be­cause of this lin­guis­tic in­ad­e­quacy, she de­pends on ges­tures and calls to re­veal her in­ner life.

She points. And if that doesn’t work, she can throw her­self on the floor and let out a few yelps. This is, of course, a clas­sic tod­dler strat­egy, but one she has yet to fully mas­ter. None of it is done with the ne­c­es­sary aban­don.

The yelps are pretty half- hearted and she doesn’t fling her­self on the floor so much as se­dately take a po­si­tion there; like she’s set­tling into a sun lounger on her hol­i­days.

But, like Kim Jong- un, she knows that all her pro­nounce­ments, no mat­ter how crazed, have to be lis­tened to. There’s still the Ul­ti­mate Weapon. Un­like Kim ( at least at the time of writ­ing), she’s pre­pared to use it.

You can tell your­self that rais­ing a child is some tie- dyed jour­ney into the mir­a­cle of per­son­hood.

You do that. Keep smok­ing the St John’s Wort. The truth is the op­po­site. It’s a help­less fall back into the rank sludge of our pri­mor­dial past, a shame­less state where you’re pre­pared to hold your baby aloft and jam your nose into its back­side, just to be sure.

It’s about poo. It’s al­ways been about poo. In our house the ques­tion “How’s Baba?” sin­gu­larly trans­lates as: “Did she poo yet?” “When did she poo?” “In what quan­ti­ties?” Poo is the shin­ing avatar of our child’s emo­tional and phys­i­cal well­be­ing.

This is an ac­tual thing: the Bris­tol Stool Chart. Look it up, if you dare. It has pic­tures. Doc­tors use it to rate, on a scale of one to seven, the var­i­ous it­er­a­tions of defe­ca­tion.

Daugh­ter num­ber four reg­u­larly cy­cles through all of them, from “lumpy” to “wa­tery”, each ver­sion throw­ing up its own eye- wa­ter­ing odours and trou­bling ques­tions.

Why does it look like that? Is she teething again? Is she eat­ing enough veg­eta­bles? Why is it pur­ple? Are there peanuts in there?

Ev­ery day we’re rat­ing and fret­ting about what she de­posits in her nappy, while she, to coin a phrase, doesn’t give a crap. It’s the Mad­man The­ory of baby mind­ing. Just like North Korea, she could drop the bomb in any place, any time.

In the car. After she’s gone to bed. Just after you’ve said there couldn’t be any more poo to­day. You can never let down your guard.

Yes, I’m be­ing a grump. There are golden days, when she doesn’t wake too early and eats all her break­fast and doesn’t de­mand the TV.

She pro­duces the pre­ferred Type Three poo on sched­ule and doesn’t wrig­gle or try to put her hand in it while you change her nappy. We’ll put her in dun­ga­rees or a pretty dress and say: let’s do some­thing. We’ll bring her to the park and then go for lunch.

And she’ll sit in her high chair and gab­ble away and wave at all the other cus­tomers. They wave back, faces beam­ing. There will be some­thing she’ll agree to eat and some­thing nice for us too. And just as we take our first fork­fuls one of us will hiss: do you get a smell?

Why is it pur­ple? . . . Ev­ery day we’re rat­ing and fret­ting about what she de­posits in her nappy, while she, to coin a phrase, doesn’t give a crap

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