I gave up Saturday. One week into “potty training” and I was through.
Jenn and I incorporated a hodge podge of advice which can be boiled down to these steps:
Dedicate two full days to nothing but potty training. By dedication, I mean “sequestered in the house” dedication. By dedication, I mean watching Elmo’s Potty Time DVD over and over.
Bribery. This didn’t last long. We bought a bag of mini Reese’s cups and gave her one if she was successful using the potty. I didn’t like this from the beginning. We don’t give Penelope candy. We’ll share one of our home-made deserts with her occasionally. But I gave in, reasoning it was only for a short time. When Jenn called me one day and told me how aggressive Penelope was becoming over the treats, I told Jenn to take all of them out of the bag except one. Next time she went on the potty give her the bag and tell her “there’s only one left”. She did it and it was over. She pointed to her mouth a few times since then but hasn’t gotten aggressive.
Getting excited about pee and poop. Ok, I have to qualify this one. We are THRILLED when Penelope uses the toilet. But I’m not that excited. The kind of excitement where my voice goes up an octive or two and I jump up and down. I wonder if Penelope was scared or wondering what was wrong with us. We’ll never know.
Getting unnecessarily frustrated. This was the breaking point for me. Penelope will use the toilet consistently one day. She will be out of diapers. I’m not going to get mad at her or Jennifer if it doesn’t happen right now. I’d rather buy another year’s worth of diapers and change them when I’m home than put stress on the most important people in my life. “But it might all be over in a couple of days” you might say. It might. Or it might not. And it doesn’t change the fact that after trying it I’m not comfortable with it.
Saturday morning Jennifer returned from a lengthy trip. Penelope was in her crib and I was reflecting on the morning. Toilet = 2, Floor = 2. Frustration was running high. I’m thankful I didn’t raise my voice or get short with Penelope. I wish I could say the same thing about Jenn and I. Friday night we argued about the mechanics of potty training. Who would do what when and how we would do it.
Saturday afternoon I went to the library and picked up “Beyond Time Out” again. I turned right to the Toileting section. Ahhh, advice I can live with. What does the author say?
1. Don’t make a big deal out of potty training because it’s not. We, the parents, make a big deal out of it. Demands on our time or circumstance, such as putting a child in pre-school may require them to be out of diapers.
2. We have no control over Penelope’s body and it’s functions. Don’t let potty time become a flash point for power struggles.
3. Diapers or potty. That’s it. No training pants, no pull ups. We already have pull ups so we’re going to finish those out and switch back to diapers for the nights. The author’s reasoning is pull ups blur the line between underwear and diapers, prolonging potty training unnecessarily.
4. Like the bumper sticker of old says, Poop Happens. Normal biological functions are not something to jump up and down about.
This has been the most difficult week since we got back from China. As I lay in bed Friday I was thinking. I would rather fly to China and back than continue potty training. The flight, as difficult as it was, still had a definitive beginning and end. Potty training doesn’t. It’s just this open ended, amorphous time frame that begins with a child in diapers and ends with them using the toilet consistently.
The reason I’m putting the intensive potty training aside is two fold. First, it’s not me. I can try something for so long. If, as Brian Wilson said, “That’s not me”, it’s time to move on. I reached the breaking point Saturday. Second, I want to build my relationship with Penelope, not stress it. There is no shortage of legitimate anxiety in life. Penelope will have her fair share. I see no reason to add to it, especially for something so natural as pee pee and poo poo.
I’m not posting pictures of our potty training. Instead, here’s a video of Penelope at the park. Did we teach her to spit or is it learned instinctively?