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It's Like He's One of Pavlov's Dogs

It started innocently enough. Every night, just as he sat down to dinner, my 4-year-old would suddenly have to go to the bathroom. At first, I passed it off as an annoying habit. A way for him to put off eating whatever “disgusting” thing we were having that night. Eventually it just became a running joke. Dinner never really started until Zachary had made his nightly bathroom run.

And then we went to Disneyland and another similar phenomenon occurred. But for some reason, it took until this week for me to realize that it wasn’t some annoying preschooler habit, it was an honest to goodness psychological response.

As if he was one of Pavlov’s dogs!

At Disneyland, every time we got into a line, he had to go to the bathroom. Literally, this happened in every line. Both days. At one point, during Pirates of the Caribbean, my mom and I were so convinced that he was going to pee his pants that we discussed putting him into one of the baby’s diapers. We didn’t and when the ride ended the two of them ran to the nearest bathroom.

After two full days watching him dance around and listening to him tell us he had to go to the bathroom, we were relieved to make it out of there without having had any accidents. But we can tell you where every bathroom is in the park.

We haven’t had to wait in any long lines lately, but the dinnertime response has continued. And it occurred to me this week that it’s an honest to goodness conditioned response. Instead of dogs salivating in response to a bell, as soon as he hears me say the words “Dinner is ready!” his little body signals that it’s time to go to the bathroom. How bizarre is that?

Have your kids ever done anything similar? I know that Zachary is one of kind in many ways, but it seems like this could be something that other children have experienced as well. Right?

Read more from Meghan on MeghanGWine and From Demo to Dream.

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