Monday, June 21, 2010

pt chronicles: part one

PT, as in Potty Training. As in, I could have titled this particular post: The Mom Who Thought She Was the Toddler. As in, I label it "part one" knowing that an unknown number of parts will finish out these particular chronicles.

Let me start by saying that I didn't prepare for Claire by reading gobs of books about how to parent. I read about birth and breastfeeding and then counted my experience as the oldest of eight as good enough reason to assume I would intuit any parenting situation. But I didn't actually raise any of my siblings and I was in college or on my own when most of the little ones were born. So any really relevant baby and toddler raising experience I gleaned was from weekend visits home; and even then, Justin was usually the bigger hit because he let them climb all over him and knew about things like Legos.

But I did - and still do, for the most part - assume that most parents are given an instinct to understand what their child needs. I think it helps to watch others parent and to ask questions of those who've been there, but I didn't think much about devouring expert advice. I just figured that I'd get it.

And then God gave me a very willful independent busy social little girl who moved quickly from walking to raising ruling ambitions. And about this same time, I thought: well, we should probably begin potty training.

I borrowed Toddlerwise from a friend and read it in two days, reread parts even. It was full of helpful ideas about creating a schedule and how to discipline, and it included a chapter on potty training with suggestions about letting your toddler pick out her underwear and buying loads of juice and treats to ensure that her bladder was full to bursting at each visit to the bathroom. I read this book while teaching and thought: Can't wait until summer when I'll have time to do this! and I returned the book.

Then I started getting really serious about the upcoming potty training. Claire followed me into the bathroom and learned pee and toilet paper and wipe and flush and wash hands. She wanted to sit on the potty. I thought: Awesome. So we spent a couple of weeks casually sitting around the bathroom, Claire on the throne. That was fine, I learned, when another friend of mine emailed me a scanned copy of the potty training chapter from the Toddler Whisperer.

What I really like about Tracy Hogg's approach is that she thinks of potty training as a process rather than an event. She points out that learning to walk takes longer than the first toddling steps; walking begins with the baby pulling himself to standing and finding strength to balance. That's the start of walking, but most of us don't recognize standing as a walking milestone. So she was encouraging to me, essentially saying: Take your time, relax. But be consistent.

Okay. I can do that.

First week of summer vacation: Claire gets up and we go to the potty. She eats breakfast and twenty minutes, thirty minutes, or forty minutes we go to the potty again. We tried all those times, a range from a variety of sources. Her diaper might be wet or dry, but we sit on the potty. Raggedy Ann joins us in the bathroom and we sing songs and read Peter Rabbit and talk about the illustrations. Claire dribbles and I am ecstatic. Overboard, just like the book says. She beams.

It doesn't happen again for me.

The Toddler Whisperer chapter advocates early potty training but assures me that Hogg's "second favorite time" to potty train is the eighteen to twenty-three month window when toddlers are still fairly interested in pleasing their parents. That window is the same window when toddlers are beginning to rehearse for actually turning  two, so it's still a little dicey. The advantage to beginning in this stage is that Claire can understand most of what I say (I am not sure that is always an advantage). So you begin by just putting her in panties.

Which I did at the start of our second week of summer vacation. On day one of Panty Potty Training, Claire was thrilled with her underwear, pointing to them and saying "Pant-tees, pant-tees" and pulling her waistband lower to see Dora the Explorer. We marched to the bathroom every half hour and sat, chatted, sang, read. But didn't pee. She did tell me when she was peeing though, on the floor, standing on the stool, in the middle of the kitchen. We spent day one missing the opportunity to have a Potty Dance by minutes. We would be on our way to the the bathroom, or she would have just hopped down announcing "Aw done!" and Claire would pee and I would wash her panties, give her dry ones and we'd return to coloring or blocks.

Me, just waiting to get it right. That is what it began to feel like: I had to get it right. Something I was doing was not working. I kept missing the cues to shuttle Claire off to the bathroom. I just wanted Claire to make the connection: Peeing on (not next to, or within ten feet of) the potty is GREAT! So when Claire peed in her room (our fourth or fifth almost-made-it-on-the-potty) - "Pee-ing, pee-ing" - I got up and went to my room and cried.

I hated my life in general and potty training in particular. Really, really hated potty training. I thought: Who cares if the majority of kids outside the U.S. are potty trained before age two? And what kind of nut sits their infant on a toilet? Is it really scarring to waddle around in diapers until you're three or four? And if Claire gets potty trained within the next week or two, it just means we'll spend our upcoming vacation to Lebanon searching for public restrooms (which, wait a minute, I'm pregnant: we'll be doing that anyway). Okay, I'll give day two a try.

Today is day two. So yesterday, Claire's bladder was a clock and today it was a time bomb. I kept waiting for her to poop. I thought it'd be terrific for Claire to hit jackpot and poop on the toilet. Claire thought it'd be terrific to say "Poop, poop" and send us running to the toilet, just to sit and flip through Peter Rabbit. I kept trying to summon patience. Claire wanted to live in the bathroom this morning, even if she didn't want to actaully use the toilet. We had two misses, just after nice congenial potty chats and on the second miss, I set Claire to washing her hands and left to cry. I went to the kitchen and cried.

What do I need to do!? Surely the Catholics have a patron saint for this. Perhaps I should convert and light candles for a few weeks. I am standing at the counter, raging at myself for not getting this right! and so upset I think I might toss the dishes out the window. I felt the need to be dramatic. And in the middle of this, I realize: I understand Claire's tantrums! I'm having one myself! Revelation! But still: what do I need to do!? First: get a grip. Breathe. Go make sure the bathroom isn't flooded. And second: just relax.

In the bathroom, Claire is having a grand time at the sink. "Poop, poop," she says, and I empty her panties into the toilet - "See, this is where poop goes!" - and plunk her in the tub for a quick wash. I don't cry, and I count that as success enough.

The measure of my mamahood is not whether Claire goes pee and poop on the potty. I have just spent two days obsessing about potty training and Claire's liquid intake and timing trips to the bathroom. And it's just made me cry and want to smash my dishes.

I was looking forward to hanging out with Claire once I was finished teaching. She's a neat little girl and I enjoy her company, but I've turned our last two days together into something more about me than her. And I've forgotten that potty training is a process: I just wanted it done. Now.

So if having Claire wear panties just means I'm washing out panties (new bathroom decor) and mopping up pee (yea for tile!) and feeling failure at each miss, then I need to give this a rest. When Claire gets up from her nap this afternoon, I'll take her diaper off and we'll go do our bathroom chat with Kitty or Froggy or whoever is joining us today, and then I'll put her back in a cloth diaper. I'll keep an eye on the clock after meals and hope we get a few successful trips to the toilet, but I need to let go the frustration.

I'll call it Potty Training Lite.


The Chapples said...

I don't know if this will make you feel better or not but Baker, at 20 months old, is NOWHERE near ready to potty train. He doesn't understand the concept at all. And I am fine with it. Truth is, diapers are pretty easy, and what's the rush anyway? I mean, if he's about to go to kindergarten and still not potty trained, then we have a problem, but I am not on board for rushing the process. I was just reading a parenting blog about the topic and the writer made the point of that you can push potty training and have it be a long, drawn out process or really wait until they're ready and have it done in a matter of days. I am not criticising you for trying since it sounds like Claire really "gets it," just encouraging you not to be too hard on yourself if she's not making the progress you'd hope for. :)

Kelly G. said...

Mary Francis always told me that I could wait and let them be potty trained when they are ready or I could be potty trained by rushing them there every 1/2 hour and constantly asking "do you need to go potty?" So take some advice from your old neighbor and relax. Neither of my girls were trained till around 3 and Abi didn't really get the poop part down until 5! We are setting Zion on the potty at transition type times... in the morning, before bath time, etc. and just getting him used to the potty. Not worth weeping for (but I understand raging about this type of thing...boy do I!!)

Anonymous said...


jsmarslender said...

Thanks for the encouragement! I realize I need to relax about this - I don't want to keep Claire home because we're potty training (which I did yesterday and today), and I don't want to make ALL of our conversations about sitting on the potty. : ) I'll let her take lead - she's been telling me when she goes, so we'll stick with that and sitting on the potty - but no more freaking out about missing a chance to Potty Dance.

I have been a little too emotional lately...

Angela and David Kidd said...

I'm super impressed you are even trying. Zach is 21 months and NOT READY. And you know, none of the kids in his class (up to age 24 months) are potty trained either. I think your potty training lite approach is the best one.