Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How to potty train your child...

For starters, don’t ask me. Secondly, if you don’t like poop stories, skip this.

Let me start by saying that I never gave this much thought prior to having children. Who does? As an adult, I’ve had to deal with my own bouts of incontinence but those usually ended with a solemn vow never to drink vodka again. Click here for more details. So when it came time to teach my son how to use the potty, I turned to my mother for advice. She started the conversation by informing me that all of her children were trained by the age of one. I hung up on her…when you’re hanging on by a claw, who needs that sort of boasting? Indeed, she had my five brothers in the space of eight years so she likely didn’t have time for much crap, pun intended. She was out milking cows and working in the field, for heaven’s sake. According to my brothers, when they were toddlers they only stopped pitching bales long enough to slurp back a bottle and change their own diapers. The hike back to the house was also uphill, both ways. But that’s stating the obvious. Regardless, both versions of the story are highly suspect.

Our journey through this uncharted territory started just before the birth of our second child - my husband and I wanted to potty train our son before the next bundle of joy arrived. Jack was two and half years old at the time, and much like us, I can’t say that he was entirely interested, although the promise of a sticker or a mouthful of Smarties was usually enough to get the both of us to sit down and have a think about it. And we would sit, and sit and sit and sit - me on the bathroom floor, and him on his little wee training potty. For the record, I would have found the entire stint cruel and intolerably boring were it not for the constant stream of commentary that would pour forth from his mouth. Here’s a sample of one such conversation:

Me: Jack, just focus and push already. There’s for sure something in there.
Jack: There’s no poop in there, Mommy.
Me: Yes there is, Jack. You just have to push harder.
Jack: No, Mommy. There’s none. It’s all gone. We’ll have to get some at the store.

Clever and creative – Jack one point, Mommy zero. A little while later, after taking a break to explain to him that we didn’t need to purchase said goods at the store if we happened to run out, I upgraded to sitting on a tiny stool beside him. We were chatting away, passing the time, waiting for a movement of any sort. At one point, he was staring at me really hard, and I was certain that this intent look of concentration meant we were on the cusp of a massive breakthrough. Sadly not - rather, he wanted to play a game.

Jack: Open your mouth, Mommy. I want to count your teeth.
Me: Uhm…OK. Let’s practice counting while we’re sitting here. Great idea, Jack!

And I smiled really wide and he started counting my teeth.

Jack: One, two, three…you got supper in there…four….

I’m not sure about him, but the whole quality-time-in-the-bathroom-thing was starting the wear thin. That, and it wasn't doing a whole lot for my self-confidence either.

And so, weeks passed (at some point, we did leave the bathroom), accidents happened, a negligible amount of progress was made. When our daughter was born, there seemed to be less time in the day to focus on making sure Jack was getting to the bathroom on a regular basis. In fact, the only time he sat still for any period of time was to watch me breast-feed his baby sister, a process he found fascinating. Little did I know he was intently watching and doing research for what was about to become his new excuse for not being able to go sit on the potty. One day, shortly after nursing Isla and putting her down for a nap, I urged Jack to go to the bathroom. I told him there was no way he could hold anything in for much longer without having an accident. He turned and stared at me with an air of motherly grace and stated, “Jack can’t right now, Mommy. Puppy needs milk.” And with that, he picked up his mangy, stuffed dog, cradled it to his chest, gazed down at it with an immense amount of pride, and proceeded to breastfeed his puppy.

Tell me please, where does one go from there?

I’m not sure exactly when, or what, the turning point was, although after a few months of effort he was successfully potty-trained. Now that he’s older, the constant battle has stopped, although the drama and commentary continue. Click here to see video footage from the one time it really got stuck. Oh, the drama. And he still deems it necessary to comment on each creation, with declarations ranging from, “Whoa. That’s a big poop to put in a little bum.” to a more recent occurrence whereby after dolefully examining a rather paltry bunny-like dropping, he shook his head and muttered, “That poor little poop has no family, Mommy. That sucks. He’s going to fly back into my bum to find his mommy and daddy.”

When your child utters these profound statements with the clarity of the Dalai Lama, there’s not much one can do other than find a piece of paper and write them down for future reference.

I’ve been thinking about this whole potty-training production again lately as Isla is now officially potty-trained. She didn't comment on the whole thing like Jack did, nor did she drag the process out. Rather, she quietly went about her business. That is, after we told her that she can't go to school if she's wearing diapers. We withheld the part about her only being two years old, and that technically she won't start school for another couple of years. At any rate, that threat is the only one that works with her. She's so freakishly excited to board that yellow "scooo-ell" bus, that if she's misbehaving, or won't sit on the potty and we're all out of ideas, we simply tell her that if she doesn't do it, she won't ever be able to go to school. And it works like a charm. Every time. And please, you don't have to tell me I'm a genius, or that my parenting skills blow your mind. I already know.

I'll leave you with this video clip of Isla, when she first starting showing signs of interest in going to the potty. This was back when she was 18-months old. We've come a long way...especially considering the fact that for longer than I care to admit, she thought her belly button was some sort of penis. And for the record, I have no explanation for why I sound so deranged in this video clip. Zero. If I actually sound like this in real-life, then I thank you for being my friend.

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