Now that Elimination Communication, or understanding your baby’s peeing/pooping patterns to obviate the need for diapers, has become the rage among certain American parenting sets (see this recent NY Times article: Baby’s Latest: Going Diaperless), I thought it’d be interesting to post some photos of the split pants tradition in China. While in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, parents may struggle to pull down their baby’s pants to pee between parked cars, in China babies, toddlers, and even the occasional older child will pee in the street without a sideways glance from passersby.
I think it must be much easier to work with your child through Elimination Communication (or, if no communication, just elimination) in China, where virtually all babies and toddlers wear split pants. In the winter when multiple layers are worn, it’s not easy to see that each layer actually has a slit up the butt. However, once summer hits, more than once I’ve seen a kid, usually a boy, who let it all hang out.
One of the drawbacks of kids wearing split pants, I’ve found, is that sometimes you might encounter a toddler taking a dump on a shiny mall floor. When I noticed this the other day, I was relieved to see that the grandfather was ready on hand with a wipe as the child excreted onto the white flooring. Still, I wondered why the grandpa couldn’t have just quickly relocated the child to the nearby bathroom instead of giving me, and others, the opportunity to view his grandson’s pushing.
Another unfortunate aspect of split pants is that kids can’t be counted on not to dribble. One day a couple of months ago, my friend, Betty, and I took a shopping/lunch excursion to IKEA with our toddlers. We thought that they could play in the kids’ gazebo in the dining area, while we ate our lunch and chatted. Unfortunately, once we noticed a couple of wet spots on the gazebo’s floor, we decided to (try!) to keep our kids in highchairs. So much for the hope of a somewhat relaxing lunch!
After we observed the dribbles, I’ve been sketched out by some of the toddler areas in indoor play spaces (in Spain they’re called “Chiquiparks”). A couple of weeks ago my concerns were confirmed at Beijing’s Fundazzle when I smelled what I thought was Isabel’s dirty diaper. After following her around a bit to try to investigate, I stumbled across a few small turds on the carpet near a ball pit. As there was no one around, I could find no one to blame, but I called over one of the monitors, who quickly cleaned it up. If toddlers are going to wear split pants in such public places, the least they could do is communicate with their parents!
It seems that kids who’ve grown up wearing split pants (a Tibetan friend once told me that a common expression for having known a friend since childhood translates to “we’ve known each other since we wore split pants”) feel more comfortable peeing in urban areas than I’ve seen elsewhere. Every day when Sophia and Dylan are let out of kindergarten, several kids will run out of the gate and start peeing. Dogs peeing in bushes are one thing, but, really, couldn’t the kids have gone to the bathroom inside just a few minutes before?
While I applaud Elimination Communication, and similar diaper-free practices used throughout the world, for its environment-saving aspect (can you imagine the piles of disposable diapers in highly populated China that are kept out of landfills because of split pants?!), be warned there can be hitches, especially for your neighbors, if your child wears split pants!