I have been working on a little project for a couple of years now and I have stalled at finishing because I am quite nervous about it. It is a book about parenting with lots of stories of messes we have made and things we feel we have done right. It's sassy and honest and, I hope, thought-provoking and encouraging. It's not perfect or perfectly written, but it's much of what we think makes our family fun. In an effort to kick-start my courage to just get it done and send it out into the universe, my husband has convinced me to share a chapter here and see what people think. So, feel free to express your thoughts, criticisms and encouragements. Oh, and if anyone makes grammatical corrections, I will assume they are volunteering to be my editor. ;) Thanks!
train or not train? That is the question. Please, please, please, if you
don’t think anything else in this book is useful, take me seriously
here. RELAX!!! Do you know very many 17 year olds that wear diapers?
There is no need whatsoever for the low grade panic that grips the
parents of 9 month olds when they realize Tommy next door is out of
diapers. Who are you trying to keep up with? Just like every other
milestone, you can not
judge your child’s progress on the law of averages. Take a deep breath,
slow down, and think seriously about your motives and your methods. A
little non-emotional common sense is in order here.
off, how do you decide when your child is ready to start experimenting
with losing the portable poop pants? Is it when your nephew of the same
age starts? How about when your mother says you did? Maybe it’s when
your child’s diapers get a little more aromatic than they used to be.
Maybe your reasons are a little more practical. Do you have to go back
to work and your child care provider doesn’t do diapers? Whatever your
reasons for starting the process, step back and ask if you are being
realistic. If your child is not ready, you will only frustrate both of
you by pushing it. This is not a battle worth picking.
are plenty of ways your child will show you they are ready. They should
be able to go a couple of hours between wet diapers and have fairly
regular bowel movements. They may start asking to wear big kid underwear
and get curious about what you or their siblings are doing in the
bathroom. Even if you have had an open door policy on the bathroom, they
may become more curious than usual about the actual porcelain
proceedings. You may have a child like one of mine who simply decides
that they are potty trained. Sounds heavenly right? wrong!
youngest just decided one day just after she turned two that she knew
how this worked. I could not keep her in a diaper. I actually tried duct
tape in desperation once. She managed to wiggle out. The thing is, she
really thought she was potty trained. She would sit on the toilet for
twenty minutes at a time then hop off and pee on the floor. I couldn’t
even get mad because she would try to clean up while her little voice
chimed, “uh oh!” What is a mother to do in that situation besides make
sure there are plenty of towels in reach in every room?
really kept me on my toes. One morning, I came around the corner to see
her reaching down with a little square of toilet paper to pick up a
little poop she had left there by mistake. She realized the square of
toilet paper hadn’t protected her hand very well. She looked up at me
with her adorable little eyes and said, “ewww Mama.” Before I could stop
her, she wiped her hand off in her hair. Needless to say, a good floor
washing and a shower for both of us followed. I am telling you this
story so that you know I have had my share of potty training
misadventures. I am not telling you to relax as someone who has had it
easy and clearly, younger children being ready to train has it’s
four children of my own and several that I have provided care for, I
have experienced a variety of personalities in every stage of
excremental success. I have spent a slightly ridiculous amount of time
thinking about ways to do it better since it seems to frustrate so many
people. There are two extremes I have observed and everything in
first extreme I have noticed is what I call the “Potty police.” They
are demanding and frustrated when their child can’t keep up. They are
impatient and insist that their child’s unwillingness to get serious
about potty training is a direct attempt at defiance. They view the
bathroom as a battlefield and their child as the enemy. There are
consequences for unmet expectations and both the child and the parent
end up at their wits end. Oh, the child still ends up out of diapers
eventually, but at what cost? Fear and intimidation have never led to
long-lasting healthy relationships. These are your foundational years.
Again, I say, relax.
other extreme is the “Poopy Party Planner.” They have the singing potty
with the color changing pull-ups. Every time their kid gets on the
potty, they stop whatever they are doing and read to them. The child
gets stickers and candy and toys for their performance as well as
applause. Eliminating waste in the proper receptacle has just gone from a
natural and expected bodily function to a production of grand
proportions. Let me just quietly ask, what precedent are you setting in
this relationship? Maybe your child is not making choices based on fear
and intimidation, and that’s a good thing, but what is the foundation
here? Could it be at all possible that the growing attitude of
entitlement in our culture may have something to do with the way we
parents have taken every small and expected step in our child’s
development and turned it into grand achievements? Pooping, for the vast
majority of people, is just a gross necessity, not an act that merits a
your parenting consists of making a big deal out of every normal,
necessary and common milestone, what will you do when the time comes to
celebrate a significant achievement? It’s not that singing potty’s are
inherently evil. I am only suggesting that if you set your child up to
be lavishly rewarded for things that are common place expectation, you
are not doing them any long term favours.
find a spot in the middle. Celebrate the milestone, but keep in mind
the reality that this is expected not extraordinary. Sometimes it is
good to remind ourselves and to teach our children that some rewards
come automatically with our behaviour. For instance, a dry bum is a
happy bum so don’t buy the most absorbent diapers. Let them have the big
kid pants and calmly deal with the messes when they happen together.
Getting to be a big kid is exciting all on it’s own. Take a deep
breath, relax, and don’t make mountains out of molehills.
conclusion, I will give you some ideas that worked for me or friends of
mine. For several of my children, I didn’t have a potty, they used the
toilet and we had a stool in front. We had an open door policy, so they
could hang around and begin to get the sense of what was going on in the
bathroom. I used cloth diapers so they could feel when they were wet.
It takes them some time to figure out how the muscles down there work
and if they just stay dry, they don’t necessarily understand that they
have caused the situation in their pants to change. If they don’t have
an awareness of what’s happening, how can we expect them to anticipate
it before it happens? That’s just downright unreasonable.
know you saw this chapter and were hoping for “three easy steps to
potty training!” or “potty train your 10 month old in 12 hours or your
money back!” I am ever so sorry to disappoint. Welcome to parenthood.
This is a world where the answers aren’t always easy and everyone has a
different anecdote to explain why you are wrong. You may have several
that oppose everything I have stated so far. I will simply repeat the
premise I started with. Examine your methods and your motives. If you
truly take the time to be thoughtful and deliberate, you’ll do fine. If
you don’t do fine and you just suck at the potty training thing, go back
and read the chapter on guilt again and then keep trying. Relax and
remember, just like pregnancy and infancy, this too will pass.