Suspense and Potty Training

One of my original intentions of my blog was to use it as a platform so you could get to know me and my writing, my likes and dislikes, and sometimes random bits of thoughts. One thing I didn’t plan on blogging about much was my family. I made a choice that putting my family into the mix of my blog wasn’t something that I wanted to do. I don’t want them to be forced into my writing life, even though they are a large part of it, just behind the scenes. So I am going to do my best to draw this blog about my family into the life of a suspense writer.

Let me start out by saying this, one of my children is potty training right now. This, in itself, is an adventure. But I never thought it would be in the least bit suspenseful, let me explain.

I have a personal definition of suspense that I teach my students. “Suspense is the anticipation of the inevitable unknown.” You cannot have suspense without anticipation, you cannot have suspense without inevitability, and you cannot have suspense without the unknown.

When all three are present, suspense is only there to follow. Suspense should have you guessing at all times and it should have you full of ups and downs, thrills and chills. That being said, if potty training is not suspenseful I don’t know what is.

First there is the anticipation. Every morning, I wake before my wife to get ready for work. My first job is to check on our oldest. Since we have been potty training I wake with the anticipation of a dry pull-up. I roll out of bed and quietly walk downstairs. I push the door to my son’s room open and peek inside. I sniff the air, hoping there will be no pungent aroma that meets my nostrils. Most mornings, I push the door open further, happy that I don’t have to meet that stinky menace this morning. But it’s not over. Is he wet? Has the well sprung? I inch closer.

He rolls over and smiles at me. “Hi, daddy,” he says, a smile spreading on his cheeks.

I reach out. He sits up. “Are you dry and clean this morning?” I ask.

Can you feel that tension?

Next is the inevitability. It is inevitable that he will wake up with one of two answers. He will have either dry or wet, clean or dirty, pull-ups. This will happen, it is inevitable. I am ready for one or the other, I know it will happen but I don’t know which as I lean over to pick him up. Some mornings, I have to ask a second time and that usually means that he’s had an accident in the night. Other mornings, he is quick to answer with hopeful and joyful, “Yes.” To which he follows with “Want treat.” I would love to trust him on the answer but I must check. Like ripping off a Band-Aid it is best to do it in one quick rip, so I must check the forensic evidence. Any parent knows this is either a visual or a tactile experience. There is one answer, it is inevitable, but this brings us to the final and most menacing.

Dunn dunn dunn. The unknown. Great suspense is built upon the unknown. There is nothing more unknowable, especially in the first days of potty training, as playing the “what’s the verdict?” game of bladder and bowel control. At any minute during the day my oldest could explode or wet his pants. It could be exciting if it didn’t mean so much laundry.

There is no time where the outcome is more unknown than in the morning because on most days he’s been in bed for over 12 hours. That’s a long time for a little guy and his umm little guys. So then to the checking. After I pick him up the suspense finally pays off. I have my answer.

This morning he was clean and dry, but you never know what tomorrow will bring. And that, dear reader, is suspense.