Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

The Holy Grail of Potty-Training April 9, 2008

It wasn’t too long ago when I boasted prematurely about little Joseph’s progress on the potty. You can read evidence of how little I understood of the complexities of potty training here. However, here I am again to sing my son’s praises, albeit with fingers crossed.

When Joseph turned three in February, I was discouraged by the fact that he was still in pull-ups. After all, we’d been discussing every last aspect of the potty for more than a year. That’s a lot of discourse on the fabulous lifestyle of the toilet-using set. He knew all there is to know about potty use and showed that he could do it—if he wanted. We offered stickers and posted progress charts, we sang, clapped and danced when he did the deed, and our son played along…occasionally… Sometimes, he would outright demand a “biper.” Or, he would insist on wearing his cherished themed (Cars, or Thomas the Train) underpants, only to sit in his own waste rather than disturb his playtime by admitting that he’d had an accident. Yuck, I know. More surprising, he would outright refuse to let us clean him up, screaming and hollering about having to change his dirty clothes. His potty-training—however earnestly I tried to foster his self-esteem with loving reassurance—became a vestige of control for him. But with that control came a myriad of other emotions too varied and precarious for me to fathom, though I tried to meet them each as they appeared.

I’m now going to make a possibly contentious suggestion: Potty-training is as mysterious, timing-dependent and fraught with emotion as falling in love. I know it may be considered unseemly to draw a parallel between the beauty and fragility of love and how one handles his or her ones and twos, but the journey to undies is a delicate yet highly-charged path indeed. Let me also announce that over the last two weeks, Joseph has not only worn undies on a daily basis, but of his own accord, waved bye-bye to his nighttime pull-up and has (miraculously) kept the bed dry—not a single urinary faux pas.

How did this happen? My best intentions exhausted, at a ped appointment I moaned to our doctor about his stunted progress, and he suggested that I stop dwelling so much on the next milestone and allow Joseph to finish up being a “baby” on his own time. He’d become a “big boy” when he was good and ready. He gently questioned whether, since his baby brother had been born, we had (mostly unconsciously) shuttled him towards big-boy status for our own sanity (and convenience—honestly, two kids in diapers?!)

I took his words to heart and began a new campaign of treating him like my little baby—more rocking in my arms, more cooing in his ear, more cuddles and less coaching. He eats it up! To be frank, I enjoy it myself. Letting go has removed a great load of pressure from us both. My dashed expectations are replaced with contented acceptance. Like falling in love, the quality of a relationship has more to do with what we’re giving than what we’re getting. Most significantly, the more I treat him like my little guy, the more he wants to be my big guy. So, I guess we can deduct that his slow potty progress was my fault. Hmm.

And then, we got the newsletter from school. Nursery school graduation is at the end of June, and everyone who is three and potty-trained will graduate to preschool, get a whirlwind of wonderful new curriculum (including cooking, yoga, ceramics, drama and gardening!), play in the big-kid playground, and last but not least, it will cost us almost $300 less per month!

The newsletter came on a Friday. I struck while the iron was hot. I took a glass bowl down from the cupboard. I cut up sheets of stickers into individual pieces, I opened a package of alphabet fridge magnets, and added a small collection of plastic necklaces. When Joseph came home from school, we said, “bye-bye, diaper. Helllloooooo undies!” I showed him the potty and the glass bowl and he took it from there, no problem. I put the pull-ups out of sight, replacing them with only undies. That weekend, I had to remind him a few times to say “bye-bye diaper,” but he got the hang of it, and we have been diaper-free from that day forward. In fact, it was less than a week into it that he chose not to have the pull-up at night.

We’re so proud of Joseph. And he’s proud of himself! Yes, we remind him to use the potty throughout the day; yes, we locate potty wherever we happen to go; and yes, he still gets a sticker or magnet each and every time, but my son is dry. My son is confident, self-assured, and dry!

Like finding love, the timing was everything. Will I go straight to the prize-bowl method with my younger son? The simple answer: possibly. He’s a different person, and I’m a different mommy now, thanks to this experience.




One Response to “The Holy Grail of Potty-Training”

  1. lindaeaston Says:

    I read blogs about potty training all the time and I have to say that your entry today is one of the best-written reflections on the subject I’ve come across in a long time. I like your falling in love metaphor! Kudos to you for your gentle and positive handling of the matter and congratulations to your son on reaching this important milestone in his life!

    Linda Easton
    Director of Product Development,
    Baby Signs, Inc.
    Free downloads of stickers and certificates for potty training

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