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The Loneliest Runner-The Pain Of Being A Bed Wetter

Bedtime Does Not Have To Be A Nightmare


The Loneliest Runner

A young boy had a problem. He wet his bed on a regular basis even though he was a teenager. Michael continued to wet his bed until he was fourteen. As a form of punishment his mother hung the soiled sheets from his bedroom window and from the family clothesline for the world to see. She did this in a futile attempt to prevent him from wetting the bed while he slept.

Michael would leave school and run home at top speed to retrieve his bed linens that had been hung from his bedroom window and from the clothesline for everyone to see. Fear of having his friends see the yellowed sheets made the humiliated boy race home at the fastest speed he could muster to remove the linens before they could be spotted by his schoolmates.

He would sometimes set an alarm and get up, change the linens and his pajamas and hide them until he could launder them in secret. But his mother sometimes discovered where he had put the sheets and again hung them out in public. Michael never knew what he would find when he arrived so he flew home just in case.

Michael’s mother, Peggy O’Neill, also tied pieces of sheets soiled with urine to him and forced him to wear them to school. After he was grown, Michael said he considered his mother to be manic depressive (bipolar) and neurotic. Indeed her behavior toward the boy was not normal. She doted on his sister but consistently behaved abusively toward her son. She tried several times to commit suicide and once almost succeeded when she jumped off a cliff into the ocean while the family was on vacation. A lifeguard was nearby and rescued her. Michael was a witness to this and it may have contributed to the bedwetting issue.

Running was a way to save face at first but became a joy and ambition to Michael. He was a great and fast runner and the pride of knowing that helped him overcome the shame of his home life. Michael’s mother had no qualms about publicizing the problem that haunted the boy. She talked about it to her friends, his friends, in social circles and then began that practice of hanging the sheets out of his window. He had no self esteem or feelings of worth. He did have a great deal of anger toward his mother but as a good Jewish son, had no way to express it or release it.

When Michael joined the Junior track team, his coach was convinced he was a strong runner and encouraged the young boy. The physical activity gave him the release he sought and the ability to achieve recognition for his prowess. He won race after race and went on to compete as a javelin thrower also. In1954 he threw a javelin farther than any other high school competitor in the United States and won a scholarship to the University of California. His budding career was over when he tore shoulder ligaments and he had to leave the team.

This bed wetting Michael was the acclaimed actor and director Michael Landon and this really was his life in the young years of his development. His mother Peggy O’Neill really did hang his urine stained sheets out to public view and scorn. It is encouraging that Mr. Landon went on to be remembered as a wonderful family man for his portrayal of Charles Ingalls in Little House On The Prairie. This is proof that a traumatic childhood can be overcome and used as a springboard into a better life instead of being used as an excuse to carry it as a crutch.

Michael Landon wrote and produced a movie about his horrific childhood trauma with bedwetting. It was made in 1976 and is very inspiring. He played himself as an adult who is an Olympic marathon runner a gold medal winner. Several well known character actors appear in the movie including the wonderful Brian Keith as the father.

ENURESIS-Bed Wetting

Bedwetting is a serious problem for a minority of children and young people. It is classified as involuntary urination in children over the ages of five to six years old. It can happen during daytime hours also but that is very infrequent. As young children are toilet trained, they usually are put in pull-ups at night. Nighttime dryness is the last step in the development of bladder control. More than five million children have a bedwetting issue.

Some have an occasional occurrence when very tired or in a deep sleep and just cannot wake up in time. Most children have learned to respond to that click in the brain even when asleep that tells them the bladder is full. If your child has an “accident", it is not their fault nor is it the parent’s fault and the child should not be punished. If it becomes a regular happening, a determination should be made to see if anything has changed to cause stress or perhaps a health issue has arisen.

It should be noted that bedwetting runs in families very strongly but consistently decreases with the age of the child. Only nine percent of boys and six percent of girls wet the bed by age seven. These numbers are even less by age ten.

If your child is still having occasions of bedwetting by then there are steps to take.

  • Have a doctor examine the child to rule out health issues. It should be noted that a sudden profusion of bedwetting is a sign of sexual abuse in children and should be taken seriously.
  • Limit fluids in the evening hours and before bedtime. Do NOT make the child go to bed thirsty.
  • Have the child empty their bladder about an hour before bedtime and again upon before going to bed.
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  • Wake the child and take him/her to the bathroom before you go to bed.
  • Reassure the child if he does wet the bed, change the linens and pajamas for maximum comfort. Never make the child sleep in a wet bed or wet clothing.
  • Have the child go to the bathroom at regular times during the daytime. Teach her not to hold the urine for a long time.
  • For extreme bedwetting problems use an alarm. If a child starts to urinate the alarm sounds and waked him up. It can also be set to wake the parent who can assist the child.
  • Consider incontinence briefs such as Poise or even adult diapers. Assure the child that no one will know as these are not bulky and regular pajamas or clothing hides them.
  • As a last resort medication can be used, prescribed by a physician. They reduce the amount of urine produced by the body and can be very effective. This can be used occasionally if a child is at someone else’s home or has a friend for a sleepover.
  • Praise the child on dry mornings to establish and reinforce a positive environment for the day. Reassure on wet mornings that it was not his fault and lay out a plan to prevent another occurrence.
  • NEVER humiliate the child or physically punish her. This has been done over and over and is not only nonproductive but it actually makes the situation worse because the child is nervous.

You Are Not Alone-Famous People Who Were Bedwetters

Most children develop the ability to stay dry as they grow older. This troubling time should pass very soon. Follow the suggested steps listed above and above all else love your child. Give them unconditional support and help them to know this is an involuntary happening and does not determine who they are. They are not alone. Read with them the biography of other bedwetters who went on to be famous.These include:

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt- President of the United States
  • Suzanne Somers – Actress
  • Vince Vaughn-Actor
  • Mark McGwire-Baseball Star
  • Sarah Silverman-Comedian/Actress
  • Johnny Carson-Talk Show Host


I believe this issue of bedwetting can be immediately healed and stopped through Divine intervention. Prayer works in all areas of our life. God knows His child is suffering and wants to help. Here are some actual prayers (found on the internet) to get you started..

Please hear the prayers of your precious child and bring forth a resolution for this bedwetting problem. Please embrace this child and remind them of your love for them each and every day, and let them find solace in your comfort. I thank-you Father for I KNOW it is only through you that all things are possible!!! I stand in agreement here asking my prayer in Jesus Holy and Precious Name, Amen!!!!

Oh Lord, please heal your beautiful son from this hard and often embarrassing problem, just like you healed me from this nearly 6 years ago. Touch him and heal him so he can live without worries.

Lord, we thank you that you are able! We thank you this day that we can trust you! We thank you that you have promised that when we pray, you hear us and you answer all our prayers. We thank you that because you know just how much this mother loves her son, you are going to give her wisdom to find ways to help her son from bedwetting....Thank you God for being so faithful!!!!!Amen and Amen

(© Brenda Barnes) with all rights reserved


Lorri G on July 24, 2019:

I saw this movie when it came out, and thought that the direction was very clever as it showed pages of a calendar being turned, while in the "background" of the calendar, the actor (Lance Kerwin) playing the boy was seen running home. In the movie, though, he was racing to beat the bus that his crush was riding home on, to remove the sheets before she could see him. The turning point was when the wimpy father finally told the mother, "Shut up!" She continued angrily yapping, and the father bellows, "I SAID SHUT UP!" And she clams up. A very successful adulthood never validates an abusive childhood.

Brenda Barnes (author) from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on September 07, 2016:

Hello dear Always Exploring. I miss the way things used to be also. I hope you are well.

Brenda Barnes (author) from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on September 07, 2016:

Hello Carol. Thanks for the information. I appreciate being correct. I am pleased you found me here on HubPages.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on September 07, 2016:

I came back to reread this. I sure do miss all my old friends in Hubville. God bless...

Carol Morris on September 07, 2016:

Thanks, this was an excellent way to write about the sensitive subject of bed wetting. I just loved Michael Landon - as a girl I had a poster of him in my bedroom. BTW (not at all important to the story) he wasn't Jewish, his father was but his mother wasn't so therefore he wasn't either.

Brenda Barnes (author) from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on August 11, 2011:

Hello dearest skye2day. You are so good to me and make me want to show even more love every day. I do believe God's Holy Spirit overcomes me sometimes. This article was one of those. I knew nothing about bedwetting but had seen the Michael Landon movie years and years ago and knew his story. When I was led, I just HAD to research and write. It almost feels like a dream. And I pray this helps a person who is suffering to turn to God for peace, healing and indeed, everlasting life!

Thank you for your compassion and gentleness. And I love you too.

skye2day from Rocky Mountains on August 11, 2011:

hyph angel of love Blessings This is a beautiful writing. You truly have an anointing on you to write. This story is heartbreaking but OUR GLORIOUS GOD can turn all things for the GOOD and has done so in the story you have shared with that heart of love of yours.

I love how you tied this masterpiece up. GOD is the Master Healer. Nothing is impossible with GOD. Praise God sister. I pray many are led here that suffer abuse and come to believe if they do not know that Jesus Christ has already paid the price for us and overcome. He can and will if He is sought. All Glory to God. I thank Him for you. You are a treasure. Keep soaring on those wings. U will Phil 4:13

Love you sister, Hugs In Christ

Brenda Barnes (author) from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on August 11, 2011:

C-Bless, that is a wonderful story. When we take the secrecy we also remove the shame. I believe that is true for many areas of life. My little boy sleeps so hard that sometimes he barely makes it to the bathroom. Occasionally he wets the band of his underwear. We simply change it and he is fine.

Michael Landon really was a great actor and seemed to be a great man and father. I always liked him myself. Thanks for stopping by. Hyph

C-Bless from Canada on August 10, 2011:

Hyphen ... another beautifully written article. I had forgotten about this Michael Landon issue - he was one of my favourite actors.

I have a different take on the issue - there was bedwetting in my neighbourhood and the mothers spoke about it amongst themselves; the bedwetters spoke about it amongst themselves as well. No one seemed to be embarrassed - we all thought it normal and some kids learned to stopped wetting the bed earlier than others ... just like some babies learned to walk faster than others (lol).

However, there was an unspoken cut off age to stop wetting the bed. I believe it was around age 12. After that age, you were told by your peers to stop being a big baby.

As children we were always outdoors and played so hard that we all slept so deeply that some of us couldn't feel the need to go to the bathroom. That is how our parents explained why some kids wet the bed. True story (lol) ...

Brenda Barnes (author) from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on August 07, 2011:

lambservant, thanks for your great comments. The experience in your family is typical. Bedwetting does tend to follow families throughout generations. It is so hard on the kids and the punishment and humiliation can scar them for life.

Mr. Landon was a lovely man and brought much joy and encouragement into the world through his many endeavors.

I appreciate your visit. I hope many more will find this Hub and receive from it. Joy to you, Hyphenbird.

Lori Colbo from United States on August 06, 2011:

Bed wetting in my family goes back generations. My father, uncle, my grandmother and her twin sister for instnace wet the bed into their young teens.

2 of my 4 sons were late bedwetters. I never shamed my children when they wet. Especially in their teens. Although they pretty much took care of getting the dirty linens and pj's to the laundry room, if I knew they were going to have friends over after school, I checked their rooms to make sure it was done so they would not have to be embarrassed by unrine smell when their friends arrived.

I have heard Michael Landon's story and saw the movie. Indeed his mother seems to have had a mental illness. It is unfortunate that he had to endure those things. But what a great example he was to others as he grew up to be tender, loving, kind man. Yes he was successful as far as money, fame, and work go, but in my book he was a success because of the way he overcame and rose above the abuses and difficulties of his childhood. Thanks for a wonderful piece on a topic that can cause young ones a lot of distress.

epigramman on August 01, 2011:

...well I'd love to spend a vacation with you Miss B - because we host a nude beach here all summer long - and if Mister Boss doesn't seem to mind ......

lake erie time 6:51pm - where the young women always complain - oh Colin please put your speedo back on as they all start to giggle at my audacity ......

Brenda Barnes (author) from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on August 01, 2011:

Hi there Epigramman. I have missed seeing you around. Yu must have been on vacation out there by that beautiful lake of yours.

This subject is so hidden and carries a great sense of shame. I think it needs to be spoken of openly so the abusive punishments will stop. I also have loved Mr. Landon for years and always remembered his movie about his childhood.

epigramman on August 01, 2011: are a most sensitive caring and thoughtful writer whom I truly consider one of our hub treasures.

And yes you certainly me feel like a young man but I can't tell you what kind of dreams you give me.

lake erie time 4:18pm

Thank you for this brave and courageous piece - what a great title and I have always been a big fan of Mr. Landon's since his days on Bonanza and Little House.

Brenda Barnes (author) from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on July 30, 2011:

Hi Nell. More people than we realize suffer through this. I think much goes unreported.

You were so loving with your son. I wish every parent was. Thanks for the reward ideas too. They might help someone who is dealing with this issue.

I am glad you found this Hub and appreciate you kind words. HB

Nell Rose from England on July 29, 2011:

Hi, this is a terrific hub, there are so many people out there that suffer with this. My son wet the bed until he was 11, he used to get so upset, so I always cuddled him, didn't make a fuss, and as he got older, we put a chart in his bedroom so that he could write down all the times that he was dry. Every time he was dry, I always picked him up and whizzed him around! lol then he chose what reward he wanted that day. Go for a burger, take the dog for a long walk, or just munch on sweets! after putting the chart up, it only took about another two months before he stopped altogether. on the other hand, my friend was treated like dirt, and carried on bed wetting until she was an adult! says it all really, doesn't it? This was a really interesting story about michael, poor little thing, what a horrible thing to have to go through, cheers nell

Brenda Barnes (author) from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on July 29, 2011:

Hi Marcoujor. This one just came to me and I felt so fulfilled after writing it. I really believe it was spiritually directed. No doubt the shame, guilt and punishment kids suffer because of this carry on into adulthood. I would love to hold a child and reassure them so they can leave it in the past.

Thank you so much for taking time to read and comment. You are appreciated. Hyph

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on July 29, 2011:


YOU are a miracle for allowing yourself to listen for what He wants you to write about. I find that utterly inspirational and love you for that.

While I haven't worked with kids like Sunnie, I have seen the effects that this shame and guilt can take in adult years in my work with psych. How awesome that we have such role models in Michael Landon and the others you cited. This was handled with grace and I loved the incorporation of spirituality-- prayer works, I see it time and time again! Voted Up and UABI-- Love, mar.

Brenda Barnes (author) from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on July 27, 2011:

Hi Dave. I am sorry to hear that. I pray you will be healed by the blood of Jesus. You are right. No matter the age, it is embarrassing because it should not be happening. Bless you. HB

Ruby, it is a tearjerker for sure. My heart just breaks every time I see it. I think his mother was still living when the movie was made. Perhaps he was sparing her feelings out of respect. I love Brian Keith and kept wanting him to get a backbone! When he finally dais that I was like Oh Yeah. We need to have a Hub night and all of us watch it online at the same time while leaving comments. I am glad you took time to watch the whole thing. I hope others do too.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on July 27, 2011:

Brenda. I just watched the movie ' loneliest Runner ' I must say , " I cried like a baby " I was disappointed that it didn't tell more about his life with his Mother. She was so cruel, when Michael's Father told her to shut up, i said, " About time " LOL Thank you again for writing this Great story.


Dave Mathews from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA on July 27, 2011:

Hyphenbird: Indeed bed wetting is extremely embarrassing for anyone. At age 63, I suffer from incontinence, I think that's how it is spelled, anyway it is uncontrolled bladder leakage. This too is an embarrassing illness with no cure since they cannot find the cause.

Brenda Barnes (author) from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on July 26, 2011:

Ruby, it is The Loneliest Runner and can be viewed in segments for free on YouTube. The person who uploaded the one in the Hub has all of them there. It is very sad at times so be prepared. I felt so badly for that little boy, especially knowing the story is true. Thanks for validating the approach I took on the Hub. This was something totally different for me. It was chosen for me, I believe. Thank you so much for your compassion and gentle heart.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on July 26, 2011:

Oh Hyphen, I can't imagine a Mother who would do that to her child. I want to see the movie. Is the name, 'Loneliest Runner '? The way you presented this story, is heartwarming and full of good advice. I always admired M. Landon, he was so handsome. I think i was in love with Little Joe way back when. Thank you.


Brenda Barnes (author) from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on July 26, 2011:

Truckstop, I had known about Mr. Landon for a long time but not the extent of his mother's illness. I sure hope these tips help people. Thanks for coming by. HB

Truckstop Sally on July 26, 2011:

I did not know this about Micheal Landon. I had the biggest crush on him as a girl -- Bonanza and then Little House. So glad he was able to overcome the pain and embarassment. Your tips make a lot of sense.

Brenda Barnes (author) from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on July 26, 2011:

Well lily, I don't know if they work or not. But why not try? laugh

No wonder life is challenging. We enter wet, naked and hungry. It is in from there. Thanks for dropping by. Hyph

lilyfly on July 26, 2011:

And, now, Dear, one about incontinence on the other end of the spectrum? It seems we enter, and leave this world unable to control ourselves. Cross fingers, not me yet, but some of my relatives have had to deal with it. Do keigals help? I hope so.... good hub, Sweetpea... lily

Brenda Barnes (author) from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on July 26, 2011:

Hi attemptedhumor. I agree. Children have so many adjustments and we put so much on them at an incredibly fast pace. I am so glad you found this a worthwhile endeavor. I pray it blesses many people. Hyph

attemptedhumour from Australia on July 26, 2011:

I can remember it happening to me as a child, but only for a short while. Life is difficult enough as it is without adding to a child's insecurities. It's a big problem for some and needs to be handled carefully. Well done hyphen. a good issue to highlight. Cheers

Brenda Barnes (author) from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on July 25, 2011:

Hi Becky. I learned while doing research for the Hub that bedwetting runs in families. For weak bladder muscles there are corrections the doctor can make to help. Mostly it is an issue of the child making the bladder-brain connection. Interestingly, 20% of doctors were bedwetters. Maybe that created a desire to help others. I hope this Hub helps people. That must be why I was led to write it. Thank you for coming by and for your kindness. Hyph

Brenda Barnes (author) from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on July 25, 2011:

Paradise7, welcome. I appreciate your kind words. I do think the Holy Spirit led me in this Hub and I was just the person who typed. lol

My heart is so heavy for all the children who are harshly punished for this and other things out of their control. Michael Landon's story was so sad and that movie is painful to watch. It can be viewed in about 10 sections on YouTube. Thank you for being a compassionate and caring person. The world needs more like you and our beloved Sunnie Day.

Becky on July 25, 2011:

I had a whole family of cousins who had this problem. they said it was weak bladder muscles. This may have been partially true but on one of them, not the whole problem. One of them was awake and dry, when my mom stopped by my room and suggested that she go to the bathroom. 10 minutes later, the bed was wet.

This problem is a terrible one for kids and I thank you for handling it with such warmth, feeling and facts. I hope it helps someone out there to deal with the problem and eventually solve it.

Paradise7 from Upstate New York on July 25, 2011:

What a terrific hub! I'm 100% with Sunnie Day, who is an inspiration to us all, in saying that you brought style and grace in your handling of this issue, Hyphenbird. Many kudos. I think punishing, humilitating, or blaming the child just aggravates the issue and makes things much worse for everyone.

Brenda Barnes (author) from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on July 25, 2011:

Sweet and compassionate Sunnie Day. Your presence must have calmed and helped so many little children. Bless them all. Really, I know very little about bedwetting but learned a lot during research for this Hub. I had seen the Michael Landon movie many years ago. I was telling Alastar that I was led to write this. I love when God uses me. Thanks for your continual support. You are a wonderful friend.

Brenda Barnes (author) from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on July 25, 2011:

Why thanks you Alastar Packer. This Hub is the oddest thing. I do not know anyone with the problem and never have. I just had this incredibly strong feeling to write about this issue. It must have been the Holy Spirit using this article to help someone somewhere. There probably are many famous people who struggled with bedwetting. If more people told, it would not be the shameful thing society perceives it to be. Thank you for your kind comments and for coming by. Hyph

Sunnie Day on July 25, 2011:

Dear Hyph,

Such a sensitive subject but one that needs to be discussed. As a nurse..It was so embarrassing for the little boys and girls who have trouble even while at school. They were usually ones that also had trouble at night. They would come up and whisper in my ear...I always tried to handle it discreetly...years ago sheets were hung on the line to embarrass a child into not sad..You brought style and grace to this subject...


Alastar Packer from North Carolina on July 25, 2011:

What an interesting and professionally set & fine looking article Hyph. Bravo. Landon's story about his affliction and mother made for some interesting reading. And then you explain bed-wetting medically. Mark McGuire and Johnny Carson-wow, who would have thought. Prayers, yes! This should give knowledge and inspiration for anyone that has or knows a child with this problem. Well Done Ms. Bee

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