Friday, August 22, 2014

Potty Training kid #5

Stephanie wrote a blog post recently about potty training her firstborn, which put me in mind to write a post about potty training too... so here we go. This is also not a "how to" blog post. This is just me, writing my story about potty training. Because we need these. We need to see each other's stories. We need to hear each other's struggles. As we struggle along we need to hear the hard bits of our potty training experiences, as well as the success stories. Potty training has never felt easy for me. Even my one that I look back and think "I had to potty train her? I barely remember it." I do vaguely remember the anxiety about it and the frustration about it and I very clearly remember a mountain of frustration with potty training every other one of my kids.

It is a little bit humiliating to admit this here but I honestly thought potty training Eli was going to be easy. I thought "I have done this four times already. I know what I'm doing." I thought I'd do all of the right things and that the results of my expert potty training would be fabulous. Did I just say that out load. How embarrassing.

So yeah, potty training hasn't gone the way I thought it would. I started Eli when he was pretty small, pre-two years old. He showed interest in the potty, so I sat him on the potty. Getting him to "do" anything in the toilet, however, was impossible. In order to preserve one another's sanity and not spent an extravagant amount of time in the bathroom he and I made a deal. I sang him his "potty song" tinkle tinkle in the pot to the tune of "twinkle twinkle little star"  and he had to sit there till the song was done. Once the song was done he was free to go. I was also hoping to create one of those tinkle cues. Eventually Eli started peeing almost every time I put him on the potty. We would sing "Twinkle twinkle" and he'd tinkle right away. Success!! Right? Yeah, no. 

School started right after he turned two and I thought "all right! here we go!!" And we did okay. I put him strait into underwear and he'd stay dry all morning. (I recently found out that this has nothing to do with any skill on my part) I'd put a diaper on him for naps but as soon as the kids got home from school everything fell apart. He usually stayed in his diaper from nap time onwards.  We'd get a little bit potty trained but then the littlest disruption in our routine would derail the whole operation. I'd occasionally attempt a resurrection of potty training, only to give up after the third or fourth accident of the day. 

Eli turned three this July and I said "okay! no more diapers!!" But guess what? While he is doing tons better, he is still not 100% potty trained. He can keep a pull-up or underwear dry for a long period of time, but I recently found out that this is because he has an unusually large bladder. (I'm also guessing that this is also why he'd fight me if I tried to take him too often - he felt no need to go.) I want him to be potty trained, but he is just not there yet. Still. I'm trying to be patient. Keep working at it and not loose my cool but y'all - this is getting old. Seriously.

Anyway, here is my thought, the one that I want to get across:

It's not about me. 

When I make it about me I get frustrated.
I push too hard.
I overreact.
Everyone looses.

Potty training is going to happen when Eli is ready and not before. It's not a reflection of good or bad parenting that he is three and still in diapers. There's no prize for having your kid potty trained early and there's no parenting penalty for having a kid who still wets the bed or waits for nap time to poop. Sometimes it's because of anatomy. Sometimes it's personality. I loved what I read in "The No Cry Sleep Solution" that potty training has zero correlation to how smart or successful your child will or won't be. It's just part of life. 

This afternoon, as I was washing poop out of Eli's underwear, I realized a lot of my desire for Eli to be potty trained is simply because it would be easier for me. It would be easier not to have to do this. It would be easier if he would just potty train quickly instead of stay stuck in this perpetual state of in-between. Old enough to be able to use the toilet but not old enough to care yet. 

With Eli I offer no reward beyond praise and no punishment other than helping me clean up an accident if it is in an appropriate place. If there is one thing I have learned about potty training it is that you dan't discipline or bribe your kid into becoming potty trained. Over the course of my parenting I have tried pretty much every kind of reward and every form of punishment. You can time-out, spank, threaten, take away toys and privileges. For some kids it doesn't make a dent. I've also given balloons, stickers, candy, toys. We even went out for ice cream when my firstborn did her first poop in her training potty. It didn't change a thing. I was beside myself. 

But when I think about the things I have had to deal with since my oldest became potty trained - even though potty training her was one of the hardest things I had done yet as a parent - it pales in comparison to the struggles I have had since then, and my oldest is only 12. In potty training there is one obvious, and pretty much inevitable outcome, it is how to get there and when that is more or less of a struggle. Issues as my kids have grown have become far and away more complicated and and complex. 

So I try to keep my perspective.
I know he is going to get it,
sooner or later.
I try not to make this about me.
I try to stay calm and be gentle.
I know this only lasts a little while. 

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