Add this to the many things I don’t understand.

Ella’s a smart kid. She remembers songs — not just the lyrics, but the tunes — she solves problems. I let her do our taxes. At 2 and a half she’s inquisitive, sensitive, considerate (when she’s not acting normal).

So why can’t she recognize that she’s about to release about a quart of urine all over Trish’s lap, which also soaks the chair upholstery and puddles on the hardwoods?

She was wearing her big-girl underwear.

Earlier in the day, after about half an hour in Dora underpants — Ella decided she wants to use the words “panties” and “underpants” and not “underwear” — we were all gathered in the office and Ella slipped out of the room. Seconds later, we heard music to every toddler’s parents’ ears — tinkletinkletinkletinkle. She had gone to the bathroom on her own and peed in the toilet (and this time she even lifted the lid first).

We cheered! We heaped upon her mounds of praise for a triumphant urination. We laid roses at her feet, crowned her with a tiara of gold and ivory, told her she didn’t have to brush her teeth before she goes to bed tonight.

Remember the Mike Myers “hyper hypo” skit on SNL? Ella is surrounded by a lot of positive support.

The next time she peed, she peed on her mom.

And then, about three hours later — while wearing a diaper this time — Ella let go with an up-the-back poop. I took her into the bathroom to see if indoor plumbing would still be relevant. I removed the crappy diaper, and her shirt, and in her attempt to maneuver into better position for her old dad to clean her up, some poop smeared on the toilet. Fine. But to make matters worse, she had eaten a piece of chocolate cake after lunch and smeared some of the frosting on her clothes. She also had something resembling both frosting and poop on her hands. Since I couldn’t tell cake from poop I deposited her into the shower; indoor plumbing is worthwhile after all.

Here’s the thing — when she pooped she was standing in the same spot where earlier she recognized her bodily fluids wanted to flow and then she went to the toilet. Was there no association?

Ella remembers people’s names after meeting them once — I still get stumped on the names of friends I’ve had for years. She once, properly, told me to use a ladder, but nobody had ever told her what a ladder was. She’s brilliant!

Why can’t she recognize when she has to pee or poop? When she’s hungry, Ella says she wants to eat. When she wants to play, she communicates perfectly.

Why are peeing and pooping one of the last holdouts of toddlerdom? You would think, with all this evolution behind us, and the democratic level of sanitation we enjoy in this country, our bodies would be sophisticated enough to send an urgent message to our brains — get rid of this stuff, now! — and peeing and pooping in toilets would be one of the first behaviors we conquer, right after walking, or talking on a cell phone.

I can understand if Ella’s playing hard, or she’s asleep or stuck in the car seat, or there simply aren’t any good magazines to read.

But sitting on her mother’s lap? Awake and alert? Just a few minutes after she was reminded that Dora doesn’t absorb urine like Elmo does?

I’ve tried to commiserate. I mean, I’ve tried to be very conscious of my own sensations to pee and poop. I’ve nailed pooping. Sometimes, though, I admit, pee can creep up on me. Nine times out of 10 I amble to the pot with time to spare.
I know it’s all part of her being 2.5. Sensations are still new. But there’s something to pee and poop, something much more complex, psychological, than even Elmo can explain.

I’m going to figure it out.