Like so many first-time parents before me, when my daughter was ready to potty train, I temporarily lost my mind. I plied my just-turned-2-year-old with books that had titles like Once Upon a Potty and Everyone Poops. I bought her a doll that emitted a stream of water each time you propped her up on her own doll-sized latrine, and brought home a special throne-shaped potty that played a royal fanfare any time it detected motion in the bowl. I thumbed through a half-dozen potty training advice books, created a sticker chart and bribed my daughter with promises of toys and candy if she would just put-her-bottom-on-that-seat-and-do-something-for-heaven's-sake.
I had started my personal blog by that time, and wrote more posts than I'd like to admit about my potty training efforts. Looking back at a few of them, the extent of my obsession is painfully obvious. Take a look:
"Mommy, you go potty," my daughter said. Awkwardly, I pretended to sit on the one-foot-tall potty and pee. "See, honey? Mommy's going potty!" I could tell she wasn't buying it. "... Ssssssssssssssss," I said. "Ah! Mommy went potty!" My butt wedged between the child-sized armrests, I looked over at my husband, who was snickering from the sofa. I had hit rock bottom.
Little did I know that rock bottom actually would occur the day I dreamed up an imaginary cast of characters made of poop.
"Poor Baby Poo Poo," I said sadly while changing Punky's incredibly stinky diaper and trying not to breathe through my nose. "He just wanted to be with his family in the potty and now he can't." "I just wanted to be with my family," Punky said in a tiny voice. "Waah, I miss Mommy Poo Poo!" "And now you'll never be with your family, Baby Poo Poo," I said, wiping away a fake tear and staring mournfully at the contents of her diaper. "Now you'll just have to go in the trashcan and be all by yourself forever." "Baby Poo Poo is so sad now," my daughter responded softly.
My elaborate potty training efforts went on for what seemed like an eternity. Sometimes they worked; more often, they didn't. And then one magical day, Punky turned 3 — and just like that, she was done with diapers. She didn't need stickers or baby dolls or bribery. She didn't even need a poop opera. She had decided she was ready and in the end, I don't think I had one thing to do with it.
So when my son turned 2 a few years later, I simply bought a new potty and put it in the bathroom. For months, the potty went unused and then, a few weeks before he turned 3, the gears in his mischievous little brain began turning. My son began changing his own diaper.
The act was the crowning achievement of my second child, hands-off parenting style. The kid would take off his diaper, put it in the trashcan, take a new diaper out of the cabinet and put it on, all while I snoozed on the Barcalounger with nary a care in the world. Inspired by his baby steps toward continence, I bought a few pairs of underwear emblazoned with Matchbox Cars and quietly put them in his dresser. A few weeks after he turned 3, he called to me from the top of the stairs.
"MOMMY! LOOK!" I came around the corner to find my son standing, chest puffed out, in a T-shirt and brand new pair of underwear.
"I wear these!" he shouted. "I wear big boy underwear now!" And he did.
Unfortunately, he hasn't yet figured out how to keep that big boy underwear dry. And forget pooping — that still calls for some diaper time. However, he's off to a decent start. The kid has begun insisting on total privacy while doing a number two, no matter where he happens to be.
A couple of weeks ago, for example, we were waiting in the lobby of a Chicago hotel for our car to take us to the airport. Bruiser had been playing with some children when, abruptly, he headed over to a quiet part of the lobby and stood alone behind a sofa. I could tell by his face what was happening, and decided to give him a few minutes to himself.
A minute or two later, I looked over to see if he was done, and noticed that two women had sat down in some nearby chairs, spoiling his moment. My little son stood before them talking very earnestly, his palms upward in supplication. He finished his statement and then pointed adamantly at another part of the lobby. The women quickly stood and walked away. I headed over to them.
"I'm so sorry," I said. "Did my son tell you to leave?""Yes," one of them said, looking befuddled. "He said he was ... pooping."
"Yeah," I said. "Sorry about that." Fortunately, they seemed more than eager to give him all the space he needed.
My new potty training approach can't be found in any advice book, but the Let Him Train Himself method seems to be working just fine. And if it doesn't, at least he'll be able to change his own diaper. As far as I'm concerned, the kid's good to go.
Read more Suburban Turmoil at www.suburbanturmoil.com.
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