I told you on Monday that I got a note from Kai’s teacher. The note was in the form of Kai’s home-school journal, a notebook that is supposed to go back and forth between home and school (sorry if that was super-obvious) and let me know what’s going on with Kai.
I haven’t seen the journal in a while, but his teachers have been writing in it, so I took the time to leaf through the entries, and one thing stood out.
Kai seems to spend a lot of time in the bathroom.
Last Friday, he spent so much time in there that his teacher sent her assistant in to check on him. When Kai still hadn’t returned after 30 minutes, she sent a student in there after him. The student went to the wrong bathroom, reported that Kai wasn’t in there, which resulted in a Code Yellow while everyone searched for Kai, whom they presumed to have wandered somewhere. He does that, you know.
Anyway, when he finally turned back up, he looked at the clock and brightened.
“Oh,” he said. “I only have to do this work for another five minutes and then it’s time to go home!” At which point all the adults looked at him and then looked at each other, understanding that they had been played.
It is clear that Kai goes to the bathroom for 30 minutes on a regular basis to get out of doing work.
And he’s got us all between a rock and a hard place.
I don’t know how long it takes an average person to, you know, poop, so I searched the Internet, as you do.
Here’s what I got from Yahoo Answers:
“When I’m on the toilet it takes me 2-5 minutes.” Posted by Naomi
“For me, maybe 2 minutes.” Posted by Anonymous
“For me about 3.5 hours, which is why I love Farm Heroes on my cell phone.” Posted by Jeff.
I’m pretty sure that Jeff works at the DMV.
Please believe me when I tell you that you wrongly accuse your child of bluffing when they say they have to poop only once.
I won’t tell you which kid, but I will tell you that I was much later to work and MUCH more traumatized than I would have been if I had just found a nearby establishment with a bathroom in which the kid could poop. This is something I now take very seriously, and it is for this reason that I can rate the cleanliness of every gas station restroom off the Eisenhower Expressway (pro-tip, the one at 17th Street is to be avoided at all costs. At. All. Costs.).
It is also for this reason that Kai’s teacher and his aide are at a loss. I mean, on the one hand, we’re all pretty sure he’s in the bathroom to avoid doing his work. He never has to take a 30-minute poop during recess or lunch or art or math or any of the things he likes and he’s good at. He takes a 30-minute poop during writing. Which he hates the way Indiana Jones hates snakes.
But then, on the other hand, they can’t really tell him that he can’t go to the bathroom. Like I said. You only call a bluff like that the wrong way once.
Further Googling turned up this gem:
“It takes Hubby around 20 minutes to poop...once in the morning before work and once when he gets home from work (doesn't matter what time of day). 20 minutes a poop seemed really excessive to me so I asked if he was spending a bunch of that time reading or enjoying alone time, but he insists that he needs the entire time to get the deed done and that he is healthy.”
And no, before you ask, I did not AskMetafilter.
I’m pretty sure that this woman’s need to manage her husband’s bowel movements is why he hides from her after work for 20 minutes, but this leads us into the mysterious land called “guy territory.” This could be a guy thing. Guys do loiter in there (see Jeff from the DMV above). I mean, that’s where they keep their magazines, amirite? On the weekends we’ll lose Kai in the house somewhere and finally find him on the toilet playing Plants Vs. Zombies.
“Kai,” Scott will say, “that’s long enough to be in here.”
“But I’m not done!” Kai will protest.
“Well, wrap it up, pal. It’s been 30 minutes.”
Kai was late leaving school on Tuesday afternoon.
“He was in the bathroom for a long time,” his aide, Dalila, told me.
“Longer than 30 minutes?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah. He left in the middle of writing his sentences and was in there until all the rest of the kids had their coats on.”
“So he didn’t want to do his work,” I said.
She shrugged. “I don’t know. Probably not. But it was after lunch, so maybe…I mean if you gotta go…”
I took the kids to get frozen yogurt after school, a rare day when a therapy was cancelled and we could do what we pleased with the afternoon.
Kai was eating his fro-yo and staring into space.
“Kai,” I said, “do you ever go to the bathroom so you don’t have to write your sentences?”
“Yes,” he said. His expression didn’t change, nor did he look at me.
“Just so I understand correctly,” I countered, “you tell your teacher that you have to poop with the intent of not doing your sentences with your spelling words?”
“Yes,” he said, with the same thousand-yard stare that has become his hallmark this month.
I nodded. I had no idea how to solve this little conundrum. I thought about something I’d discussed with my friend Quincy earlier in the day. She said that she has the best luck with her kids when she asks them how they would solve a problem, giving them some agency. It was worth a try.
“Kai, what would make the whole situation better?”
He looked at me then.
“If I didn’t have to go to school for a few days.”
And I understood. I understood that writing is hard for him, that it’s not like math that comes so easily and with such self-assurance. I understood that there is so much to this writing thing—it’s visual tracking, it’s fine motor, it’s language, it’s planning, it’s all the things that are hard for him wrapped up in to one horrible daily task that he can avoid with a carefully timed poop.
As I sat there in the frozen yogurt store, thinking about how I could help his teacher solve this problem, how we could work with a behaviorist on a plan to work on the task avoidance, his OT to work on his writing, how we were going to figure out a way to get him to come out of the bathroom in a reasonable time frame that gave him agency over his colon but didn’t sabotage his learning time in 3rd grade, I was suddenly exhausted.
I have no idea how to do any of those things.
I really don’t.
But you know what I can do? I can lock myself in the bathroom for 45 minutes, reading an InTouch and drinking a Diet Coke.
You guys, I think he’s on to something.