Thursday, March 21, 2013

Reflections on Potty Training

All three of my kids potty trained pretty darn close to two years old. Everyone thinks we are either crazy, I am pushy, or my kids are geniuses... I think it's a little more normal than any of that.

Asher boy is considered potty trained for daytime/naps. He takes himself but needs help getting his pants down and wiping; he's two and his arms don't reach that far... seriously, look at the proportions of those pudgy little toddlers. I have used my last diapers and instead am opting for the casual, no guilt, no pressure, changing sheets every morning. I don't care. I am convinced he'll get it faster when he feels the natural consequences of peeing the bed. That's not to mean that I punish him by making him sleep in pee for a whole night. If I know about it (and yes, I'm getting up in the middle of the night to take him potty and check on him) I take care of it. It will probably be the last time I will ever have to get up with my babies regularly in the middle of the night. There will be sick nights, but not a regular thing. I can do it for him.

When Aayla was little we were super on top of the whole infant potty training thing. It's also known as elimination communication--fancy, right? I believed in it. I still believe it works, but I'm not such a die hard anymore. We did cloth diapers with her and I cut down my laundry by a LOT by doing that. It was amusing and fun for me as a stay-home-mom with a mostly clean house and (in hindsight) not all that much to do--granted if you'd told me I didn't have much to do I'd have punched you in the face. Having a few more raises that bar for what's considered busy.

Side note so as not to give a false impression of what I believe about parenting one kid: I think most of the hurdles and trials of being a mom of one are the mental games, guilt, and self-doubt that you have to get over. I feel like it was incredibly difficult and I was stressed out a LOT. You have to learn how to care for another human for the very first time. That's a lot pressure and harder than it looks. The second kid comes and it's a new game of all that self-doubt... but trying to pick which child you love most at that inevitable moment that they both start crying. One is able to self-soothe but knows you picked the other, and one has no idea how to self-soothe but has no idea why you are not solving the current moment's crisis. Do you cause emotional harm or physical harm? See? Mama guilt at it's finest. I sometimes chose to pick them BOTH...and only meet half of each of their needs. ha. Third kid comes along and you've given up altogether on being a GREAT MOM and will settle for just keeping everyone alive

... even if they've decorated each other with sticky tabs

or given each other make-overs...

OR, better yet, given each other haircuts!

A day is a success when everyone is alive at the end of it.

As I was saying... So I had a lot more time on my hands while I was only trying to keep one other person alive at the end of the day.

We still did the infant potty training thing with Moo, but were a little less gung-ho with it. It always had sucked when Acey would wake in the middle of the night multiple times to be taken to the potty. We wanted Ameira to be a little more lazy, therefore we were a little more lazy. To our great surprise and delight... she trained just fine, although a few months older than her sister had. Still, only by a few months past her second birthday; so what?

We did not do the infant potty training with Asher, quite frankly, because I had no idea what to do with that little hose between his legs. Also, ALL OF MY BRAIN CELLS WERE BEING USED TO KEEP THESE CHILDREN ALIVE TO SEE THEIR DADDY AT THE END OF THE DAY (okay, technically the afternoon once he was up).

I wondered if people were right when they said boys are harder than girls. I wondered if we were doomed because we hadn't even attempted to do the infant potty training. Oh well, we would just tried the slow and steady approach and we'd see what happens.

Lessons I have learned which have formed my own philosophy. They have worked for my very own children... and they may not work for yours. Chill out... I'm not judging you:

  1. Start sooner rather than later. Avoid the battle of wills by starting before they hit that age where they LOVE to get into power struggles. There aren't very many things that 2-year-olds can control, so when they discover one... it has the potential to become the Alamo. Start when they first show ANY sign of interest in the toilet. Start small, but start. Discuss it, let them do step #2 a few times. If they are interested, let them be interested. Even if it's not convenient for you; that's what parenting is... setting an example of unselfishness and putting someone else's needs ahead of your own.
  2. The fastest way for them to connect the act of going poop or pee with the muscles used to control it... is to strip them naked and watch the hilarity that ensues as a child realizes something is happening. I let Asher loose on the deck last fall (on a few warm days) and let him run naked. Every time he'd start peeing, he'd look at it all confused and try to run away from the pee coming out. When he'd realize it was attached to him... it was hilarious. You can't run or hide from it. Hilarious to see him try to swat it off his body. Hilarious to see him realize it wasn't going anywhere and then swing around as he discovered he could play. I assume this is the beginning of writing your name in pee for men. Also, our neighbor lady came out to watch BECAUSE IT WAS HILARIOUS. At first I saw her just inside her windows laughing pretty hard. Then we started laughing together because I waved. She came out and said, "I know it might seem strange, I'm not trying to be weird, he's just so damn CUTE!!" First, I laughed because she cussed and she is not someone that I would have guessed in a million years would ever cuss. then I laughed because she was right.
  3. Stop being uptight about bodily fluids. Yes, clean them up with a disinfectant, but really... "shit happens." I am pretty sure I was only okay with bodily fluids because we do not have carpets. We have wood floor and it's no big deal to clean it up and run over it with some white vinegar and peroxide to disinfect it. If you freak out about the poop and the pee it will not be long until that anxiety is passed to your kid. 
  4. Stop demanding perfection. Whether by freaking out, scolding, or showing annoyance... stop it. They are learning to do something amazing and hard. Be encouraging. Be ecstatic. Be over the top annoying in your enthusiasm because kids love that.
  5. Make it as easy as possible. Don't dress them in clothes they can't strip off immediately as they practice getting to the toilet on time. We started with nakedness, progressed to shirts (because for some reason ALL of my children were under some sort of delusion that one must be naked to go potty.), progressed to keeping socks on, then keeping on "grunders."Then learning how to successfully pull down grunders. Then to keep it dry while adding pants to the equation. Then it was wearing grunders in public and trusting other adults to take him potty. 
Now "we're" dry all day long--in public or not. He wakes when he has to pee during naptime. We're still working on the whole nighttime thing. However, he'll get it when he gets it. It's not about watching other kids his age and comparing or competing. It's about what my kid is capable of. It's about responding when the interest is there whether it's convenient or not. It's about finding a way to satisfy all their weird and unexpected demands to make this possible; privacy or no privacy (as in the case of Julie & Maxinator), taking socks off so they can relax and just go already (which is a HUGE deal to Asher). It's about responding to your very own kid's needs and quit getting all worked up about doing it right.

And just to show how much I have given up on being a great mom? I'll throw you this little gem... the kids ripped the plastic that was for Asher's bed. I didn't get to laundry yesterday so have no sheets for his bed. So how do you get creative in these moments? SHOWER CURTAIN straight off the rod is covering his mattress to protect it, covered with cozy blankets which are then covered with a little boy, and more blankets. Aw yea. We are classy around here. We do what works.

and everyone is alive.

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