She can't be alone. Not ever. Not for an inhalation. Not for sneeze nor sniffle. Yes, she would love for someone to watch her pee, brush, chew, sleep, scratch. She wouldn't get out of bed this morning. You heard me. My 9 year old refused to get out of bed.
She didn't go to school.
I spent the day alternately flabbergasted and ambushed. One minute I'm mired in introspection and despair, the next I'm commandeered. "Mom!!! I see that I'm alone! Where are you!!?"
Then I remembered the poop. When Scarlett was three, she decided to stop pooping (she'd been out of diapers well over a year). "Mama, I'm never going to poop again."
After about two weeks, we started dribbling caster oil and prune juice over her food. She stopped eating. At three weeks, she noticed her water tasted strange (that's called a laxative, honey!). She stopped drinking.
I brought our starving, dehydrated, constipated, tummy-distended child to the Emergency Room where she got an IV for fluids and an enema. Don't even try to imagine this.
When we got home, she said, "Mama, I'm never going to poop again."
This time, after 14 days I called someone smarter than God, our Early Childhood and Family Education teacher, Saint Atonement, even though it was summer and this woman was on her well-deserved vacation. I told her the story-- how Scarlett wouldn't poop and how we were trying to intervene. Actually, normal life had ground to a halt long ago. We lived on the potty.
Without hesitation, Saint Atonement said, "Three is a big time for individuation. This could just be her attempt. Ask her who is in charge of poop - Mom or Scarlett."
I asked. I stood in the hallway, out of view, while Scarlett was in the bathroom killing time. Hey, kiddo, who is in charge of your poop! Casual, like 'how's the weather in there?'
"You are, Mama. You are in charge of my poop."
I am now on the floor, tallying future psychiatric bills and ready to rip out my own bowels. But instead, I do what I always do under parenting duress. I behave exactly the opposite of my own self -- I channel Saint Atonement. My voice is a melody of calm, simultaneously caring yet professionally disengaged.
"Scarlett. You are in charge of your own body. You are in charge of what goes in, and what comes out. Nobody can force you to fall asleep, poop, pee, or eat. You are in charge. I have my own body and I'm 100% separate."
Pause. "Oh," she says. And she poops. Flushes. Comes out and asks for crayons. And never, ever does that again.
Later, I recount the entire exchange to Saint, hoping to get a grip on Scarlett's psychological fate.
She contemplates, then whistles. "To control a bodily function like that. What will. You have to kind of marvel at that kind of will. It will be interesting to see how things develop."
Why aren't I writing about the other two?