Tuesday, 2 August 2016

STAYING IN MESSY PANTS

One of the things which the parents of children with encopresis find most difficult to understand is how their offspring seem quite happy to keep wearing soiled underwear after they have had an accident, and carry on activities as if nothing had happened.  Typical comments include, ‘He’d sit in his own waste for hours if I let him,’ and ‘How can she carry on playing when her knickers are full of poo?’  Like many other children with soiling problems, I never told anyone when I’d had an accident and would sit, walk around or play in messy pants until someone, usually my mother, smelled what I had done, checked my pants and changed me.

Having messy pants didn't stop me
from playing.  I was quite content

to sit in my own poo.
You may think that this is a perfectly disgusting thing to do, carrying on playing with a pooey bottom and dirty pants, but at the time it seemed perfectly natural.  Some children can neither smell nor feel when they have had an accident and therefore do not know that they need changing.  This was not the case with me as, although I couldn’t smell anything, I could feel my waste in my pants and knew that I had soiled myself.

When I was very young I liked to think that if I ignored my pooey pants then they would go away.  As I got older I learnt from experience that, sadly, this was not the case, but, for a number of reasons, I still kept quiet about my accidents until they were discovered by others.

One of the reasons for this was that I nearly always got told off when my mother discovered that I’d had another accident.  Sometimes she would also shout at me or threaten to put me back in nappies.  Like the threat to get my teacher to tell everyone in my class that I messed my pants (see How I Stopped Soiling My Pants), I don’t think she would have ever done this, but I didn’t know this at the time and worried about the prospect of being sent to school wearing a nappy.  I was in no hurry to be scolded and tried to put off the event for as long as possible by keeping quiet about the state of my underwear.
Another factor was the feelings of embarrassment and shame I felt about what I had done, feelings which got worse as I got older and was still incapable of keeping my pants clean all the time.  There was also the feeling of having let my parents down by soiling myself when I knew that I should have used the toilet.  There was just no way I was going to go up to my mother and admit that I’d pooed myself yet again, and I certainly wasn’t going to tell an adult I barely knew, such as a friend’s parent on a playdate, that I’d had an accident in my pants and needed changing.  If, as a parent, you’ve felt embarrassed when your child has wet him or herself in a shop, then take that embarrassment and multiply it a few times to get how I felt.

Finally, staying in messy pants was a way of coping with what I increasingly thought of as my babyish habit.  By ignoring my accidents and carrying on with what I was doing, I could pretend that my pants were not dirty and I had not soiled myself again.  For that relatively short period I could be a normal child and enjoy playing or reading or whatever I was doing, and put to the back of my mind the fact that I was smelly and messy and had behaved more like a toddler than an older child.
Unless I was really stinky, I would
 play with other children when
I knew my pants were dirty.
My actions varied if I soiled while playing with other children.  If it felt like a bad accident and I guessed that I was really stinky then I tried not to get too close to them.  On the other hand if it felt like I only had a relatively small amount of poo in my pants then I would carry on playing with them as normal.  Sometimes they would comment on the smell, but usually they didn’t.  If they did say anything they usually accused me of having ‘trumped’ (broken wind), rather than dirtying my pants.
As for physical considerations, I won’t say that I liked the feeling of messy pants, but over time I got used to it and did not find wearing them particularly uncomfortable.
Another activity which encopretic children commonly engage in, to the exasperation of their parents, is to hide their soiled underwear, often under the bed or at the back of a cupboard.  This is something I never did, but I can certainly understand why children do this.  If they are likely to be punished for soiling then by hiding their pants they may be seeking to avoid, or merely delay, their punishment.  

Even if their parents are very understanding about their soiling problems and would not punish them, the child is still likely to feel embarrassed about the situation like I did and feel unable to report their accidents.  Eventually they are given away by the stench produced by the stash of hidden underwear or the fact that the child is running out of clean pants.  But as Dimity Telfer says in her blog The Magic Within Us about why she hid her soiled underwear, 'When your choices are to be yelled at now or yelled at tomorrow, I chose the second option.  I hid them because I wanted to live for an hour (even half an hour) as if it never happened."

11 comments:

  1. Thank you James! As always your experiences help me to understand my son's feelings and therefore help me to deal with Enco in a better manner!

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    1. Thank you, I'm glad you found it useful. 'Why does my child sit in their own poo?' is one of the most common questions I get asked.

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  2. Thank you Thank you Mr. Parkin. Your blog is a great help to me and i now have a better understanding of my child's condition. I can also explain this to her dad and my family members. Your a Godsend.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, I hope it helps you to explain your daughter's actions to your family members.

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  3. Thank you. I always say to my son, "can't you feel it?!" I feel as if I'm f***ing up my son because I get so frustrated about it. My poor boy.

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  4. thank you for helping others understand this unfortunately I suffered from encopresis for several years back in the early 70s never taken to a Dr and mom got so frustrated she put me back in diapers at the age of 9

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    1. Hi, sorry to hear that you also suffered from encopresis and were put back in diapers, which I imagine was very humiliating for you. I also grew up in the 1970s and there was few resources in those days for parents whose children had soiling problems. I was never taken to a doctor about my toilet issues either, and my mother probably thought as I did, that no other child my age still pooed his pants.

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  5. Gosh, i wish i had known about this 7 years ago. I admire your candour and your matter of fact explanation and insight into what our kiddos may be thinking or experiencing. I would do a 1000 things differently had I known. Again thank you for giving words to our children and insight for us parents.

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    1. Thank you, Lisa, I like to think that sharing my experiences is in a small way helping the children of today who have soiling problems, as well as their parents. Thank you also for all the experiences you share through the Facebook group about being a mother to a son with encopresis, and for buying my book A Boy Like You and recommending it to other parents.

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  6. My 15 year-old son has encopresis. It clears up for 2 or 3 months, then comes back. I'm very careful never to yell or humiliate him, but I just want to cry at this point. Do you think having him read some blogs/articles by others with encopresis might help him? He has seen a gastroenterologist, and a couple child psychologists (all of which gave up on him). He takes Miralax regularly (he says), but nothing seems to clear it up permanently. Any advice?

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    1. It may help him to look at blogs written by others who have had encopresis. My friend Dimity Telfer actually stopped soiling when she was 15 and has her own blog: themagicwithinus.com

      By the time an enopresis sufferer reaches his or her teenage years, the impetus to stop soiling usually has to come from themselves really wanting to become clean and willing to take the steps needed to do so. Sometimes becoming interested in the opposite sex is the catalyst to wanting to stop soiling. Parents of enco kids are probably the only parents who want their child to start dating as soon as possible!

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