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Couch Cleaning Martyr? Not here!

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A recent discussion on unschoolingbasics has led to some serious parental pondering on my part. First, I want to thank the mama with whom I so distinctly disagree, for bringing this topic to the forefront of my mommy-mind. Here’s the original message
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My son was almost 4 when he decided he wanted to wear underwear instead of pullups. We handed him a bottle of upholstery cleaner and a rag and taught him how to clean up after himself in case he had an accident. He thought it was cool. But about a week, and several accidents later, he decided that cleaning up after himself was too much trouble and he never had an accident again.

Was that coersive? I would say not. It was just showing him that decisions have consequences and that we must adapt.
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One obvious cure for enuresis (in this mama’s mind) is merely a responsibility to clean up after one’s self. Whatever shame the child may have felt is a *natural* consequence to peeing on the sofa.

I’ve spent many days poking this issue in my mind, holding it in the middle of my lake so that I can see a 360-degree perspective before deciding which shore I want to land upon… especially this past weekend as I saw, heard, tasted and smelled hundreds of kids who could benefit from the wisdom to be gained from this inquiry.

As I clean sofa cushions for the 5th time in a week-or-so (I’m not marking the calendar), with our wonderfully scented enzyme cleaner, after my 9.5 year old’s bouts of nighttime enuresis, a great many thoughts dance around my mind, vying for my attention.
Seeing couch-peeing as a vindictive act by one’s child is certainly a valid perspective. Not at all what I’d consider a pleasant, team-building, SelfHonoring perspective, though I’ll still give it the title of Valid. For mama, however, this sets up victim thinking; one more way mama is victim to her child and their messes. By golly, she’s not gonna suffer this one.more.minute. alone, anyway.
Nearby is the shore where thinking the couch-peeing is just one more thing an already over-worked mama has to do; call it Martyr’s Cove. The cushions are clean and the kids have a newfound fear of the work required to be a mama. An exasperated mama is certainly one step closer to peace than the victim mama.
Not so much farther, though possibly all the way across the lake, is the perspective of Honor and Service.
I have a son. He trusts me. My son pees the couch. I can take steps to protect the sofa AND my son’s feelings about himself & me & his body’s functions. Me. I get to decide if Hayden is ashamed or empowered. I get to decide if Hayden’s peeing is accidental or vindictive. I get to decide to happily clean up or martyrly clean up or force him to clean up himself … or, or, or…
In reading “Loving What Is” by Byron Katie, some of the exploration questions are How do you feel when you think that thought? Is there any stress-free reason to continue thinking like that?
When I think Aaarrgghh Hayden’s made more work for me! it hurts; my heart, my head, my all-important feelings. BUT when I think I’m going to clean this up because I never want my son to feel bad about a body function he cannot control -or- I am honored to be this child’s partner and I want to do whatever I can to ensure he trusts me HOLY CRAPOLY! I feel *so* much better, all the way around. So does Hayden. This is the shore upon which we want to set our Life’s Camp.

We just talked outside about this, with the cushions drying in the morning sun… I apologized for ever, ever making him feel bad. That’s alright and I know he means it; that (thankfully infrequent) mama-possible sure makes the (far more frequent) mama-present look, feel, sound and seem much more pleasant in comparison. We talked of Papa’s stories, the stories he never shared between our childhood spankings for bedwetting, about his own struggle with bedwetting until he was a teen. And the story of his sister who was much older than he before outgrowing her nighttime enuresis issue. For them, they were shamed and beaten; same for me. When my dad saw the horrible tradition end with my child, he opened up about his own childhood! Hayden even told me my sister-in-law told him she peed the bed until she was 16, just to make me feel better about it. I asked if it worked, do you feel better knowing other people’s experiences? Yes!

Wanna make kids feel uniquely human today? Treat them as such. Our human peers.

About hahamommy

diana isn't enough of a description for ya? I am a fully, completely, perfectly flawed human being. And that's just fine by me.

6 responses »

  1. My husband doesn’t share much about his childhood, claims not to remember most of it and probably has chosen not to, but I still have this sad little image in my mind from one story that he did share – himself at 12 wetting the bed and frantically washing his sheets and replacing them in the middle of the night so no one in his family would know what he’d done. See, he had learned “consequences” by then. Love to you, love to Hayden.

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  2. I’m all choked up after reading this beautiful post. Thank the higherpowerwhogoesbymanynames there are people in the world like you. May the gentle waves of your ever-mindful words spread far and wide and touch as many people as possible!

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  3. You know I dealt with this with Jess until she was a teen, tried to make it no big deal but there were days that I didn’t do the best that I could have. Now a decade later I have another child who pees the bed. I have found it works best to respect her and her decisions. She would rather wear a pull up, and won’t go to bed without one because she doesn’t want her bed to smell or her clothes to be wet. She likes that she can decide when she drinks something, and if she drinks it right before bed, I don’t care. She knows, mom, dad,big sis, and Grandpa all peed the bed. She is confident that she will stop on her own time schedule, since we all did, she doesn’t feel shame or disapproval from us, she just feels loved and respected because we let her decide how to handle a situation that involves her body.

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  4. (hugs)Your posts always leave me thinking….thanks.We have a couple of kids, still with the night-time peeing. I love how you see the issue from all angles, but yeah, martyrdom sure does feel validating, huh? But being a trusted mom feels so much better. We’re trying desperately to break the cycle here. I could tell you stories…but then again, I might just be trying to validate all the crap I’m still digging through.

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  5. This beachbum has dealt with this for many years, as well. We also co-sleep, so there is more to it than just big K’s space. I keep telling him that he did and is doing so many other things, this may be something that takes a bit longer than he would like. He doesn’t ask anymore why. It just is. He sleeps so soundly, he knows not that we get him up at least once a night, change him when he’s wet and put towels down so he doesn’t have to sleep in it. Things we can’t control should not cause trama. I agree with you, our zen approach is what makes it not a traumatic experience. Thanks for posting this one!

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  6. I was a bedwetter, it was very embarrassing for the longest time, I stopped when I was twelve. I never really understood it. I think it’s something that just happens, and you grow out of it eventually. I think that simply accepting it as a fact of life, like rain or straight hair or fish is probably the best thing. As a child, to be made ashamed of something you have no control over is very damaging. I believe you are approaching it in the best possible way, and wish you all luck.

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