One day when L was 22 or 23 months old he asked to poop on the potty. Positive that nothing would come of it, I said sure and popped him onto the toilet. To my utter amazement, he pooped and peed and asked for underpants. So began L’s potty training. We went to the store that day and bought some underpants.
To encourage his potty interest, I rewarded him with 1 m&m for pee and 2 for poop. We spent the next few days at home, drinking lots of juice, spending waaaaaaay more time than I liked in our tiny downstairs bathroom, and having m&ms.
The m&ms were a huge hit. He had never had any candy before and I think they blew his mind. For the next several months, I continued with the m&m rewards. L was only too happy to go to the bathroom back in those days! But that’s not the point of this story. Unintentionally, I ingrained in his mind a very strong association between m&ms and going potty. I don’t think it ever occurred to him that m&ms exist outside of that paradigm. Until, one day, I took him to a puppet show.
This was a huge mistake. The whole endeavor was a disaster and I should have known better. At 2, L was even less capable of sitting still or following a plot than he is now. The show was a marionette version of the story of Perseus. WTF was I thinking? We arrive and hit the potties first thing. On our way back to our seats we pass the concession stand; feeling generous and still naively excited for our outing, I bought L some chips. L is so excited to be in the theater. He’s barely big enough to hold the folding seat down, but he’s determined and he sits, waits, and munches on chips. This is going to be great!
Waiting has never been one of L’s strengths. Soon he’s restless and bored. He notices two girls, maybe 11 or 12 years old, sitting in the row in front of us, but 5 or 6 seats down to our right. They are eating m&ms. (Were you wondering how this was going to tie in?) A whole big bag of m&ms. L has never seen a large bag of m&ms, never seen m&ms aside from the 1 or 2 he’d get for going potty. He was amazed, fascinated and wanted to know everything. “Mommy! Look! Doze girls go potty?” “Shhh, L.”
I can’t stop what happens next. The lights begin to fade. L leans over the chair in front of him (yes, it’s occupied) to get the girls’ attention. “Girls! Hey! Girls! ‘Cuze me! You go poop on the potty?” This is loud. Everyone is looking, including the girls, who are mortified. I pull, I hush, I hold him on my lap. I try to make him (and everyone) pay attention to the show that’s beginning on stage. But L is determined to find out how one gets hold of a huge bag of m&ms. What exactly does he have to do on the potty to get that? He needs to know.
He continues to harass the poor, humiliated girls. “Was it big poops? Pee too?” It couldn’t get worse for these girls. I was able to distract him for a few minutes with the show, but he quickly realized that he didn’t know wtf was going on, and he was too young to even get wtf marionettes were. Somehow, naturally, all the other kids in the audience were watching quietly.
We stayed for maybe 20 minutes. Definitely 20 minutes too long. Every couple of minutes he lurched forward again to re-humiliate the girls by asking detailed questions about their bowel movements. Of course, no one had any idea why my son was so curious about any of this. This m&m association is just his own. Those poor girls.
I finally dragged him out of there while he screamed “BUT I WANT TO KNOW IF THEY POOPED!” I yelled at him the whole drive home. I promised I would never take him anywhere ever again. And we soon stopped the m&m reward system altogether.
I was reminded of this story today when a friend offered some m&ms to L. He’s now seen them here and there and the association has worn off. Stupidly, I will probably take L to another marionette show at some point in his life.