Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Potty Wars

I hate potty training. Really. I hate it. Why? Despite having five children out of diapers, I cannot point to any one of them as being a success because of my efforts. None of them have ever willingly embraced the idea of wearing underwear over diapers. None of them have been easy. None of the diaper set still pending looks to be easy on this point either.

I love my kids.
I love being a parent.

I hate potty training.
Potty Training with Child #1
Behavior management doesn’t work.

We went to the store.
We bought a small potty.
We bought stickers.
We bought “M&Ms.”
We brought it home.
We set it up.
We started the week with high hopes.
I made a chart.
I put the chart on the bathroom door.
I put the “M&M’s” in the freezer.
I put the stickers in an envelope next to the chart.
I explained to my son the idea.
He would try to go potty.
He would earn stickers (happy faces).
If he was successful, he got “M&M’s.”

Within a week,
my son drew a picture of himself.
He explained, he’s unhappy because he just had an accident.
He then began to cry. I looked at the picture.
The unhappy face stick figure burned into my brain.
I threw away the chart, gave him the stickers and then,
I ate the “M&M’s.”
Four months later, we were still changing diapers at 3 and nearly 8 months.
Potty Training with Child #2
Bribes don’t work either.

We cut out a picture of a ballerina and taped it on the fridge.

The deal was simple enough, if she went potty and could wear underwear, she could do ballet.
We bought the underwear in advance.
We went to watch the ballet class.
We even bought the slippers and tutu and put them in her closet.

Our daughter sensed that this was worth even more than we were offering.

Within two months, a picture of a bike was added, at her request. She also wanted to go to school.

I stupidly agreed to it all, anything to get the job done.

Four long months later, she demanded payment in full,
for her very first success.

We explained (rationally) that she had to do this more than once.

She grew angry.

Four more months later, diapers were still on our grocery list, and she was 3 years and 7 months old.
Potty Training with Child #3
A watched child never potties.

Every 25 minutes, we took her.
That got old fast.
You can’t go anywhere or do much of anything.
Our lives revolved around the attempt to keep that commitment of every 25 minutes.
After a weekend of that, I was ready to be committed.

So we tried a combined approach of what had sort of worked before.
The chart was back.
The stickers were back.
The bribes were back,

None of it worked.

A friend recommended the Couch Potato technique.
It sounded promising.
We should stick a tv in the bathroom with her.
We’ll turn it on and she’ll sit. She’ll relax, and bingo! She’ll go.
She got hours of cartoons out of that deal.

Four months later, we were still trying for our first success at 3 1/2.

Potty Training with Child #4
It’s his potty and he’ll cry if he wants to.

This time, we tell ourselves, it will be different.

We have read the books.
We have looked at magazines.
We have learned from our mistakes.
And, we are starting earlier.

Our son is newly two.

Our son likes his new underwear.
He likes his stickers.
He sits on the potty.
We praise him often, just for thinking about sitting.

Somewhere in the process,
something breaks down.
He decides, he doesn’t want to.

We take him any way.
I don’t want to!
He sobs.
We make him sit.
I don’t want to!
He screams!

We drag him to the bathroom.
He cries when he sits on the potty.
I …..gasp!..... hate…..gasp!....the….gasp!....potty!
One day, I see him clutching his body
and sprint him to the bathroom.
I sit him down, saying as calmly as I can,
“I know you need to go.”
“NO! You! Don’t!” he sulks back.
I sit in there with him, reading books.
I clean the bathroom while I wait.
I organize the towels,
And the sheets,
And the medicine cabinet.
I know I can’t spend the whole day in the bathroom, and
I can’t leave him there forever,
But nothing happens until I diaper him up.

Then he comes to me immediately
“I need a diaper change.”
sweetness in his voice and innocent eyes.

Our son held out until he was nearly four.

Our bathroom looked very nice for those two years.

Potty Training with Child #5
Seek Professional Help.

Okay, we are getting desperate.

Yes, four children have managed to potty train, but not one before the age of 31/2! I have been driven nearly insane by the process. I remain doubtful about my prospects for success with my daughter. As I have a toddler and am expecting my seventh, the idea of three in diapers makes me literally faint of heart.

It is summer. All the books say that is the best time to do this.
We consult friends. The collective advice is to go Cold Turkey.
No Diapers. Not even at night. The theory is that within one week,
she will train herself.

A week passes, two, three. By the fourth week, I have washed every item of clothing and all of her bedding at least eleven times, the carpet has spots and smells faintly of carpet cleaner. Not one success.

Summer passes. We try pull-ups. These are simply more expensive diapers that prey upon parents’ hopes and create laundry at the same time.

We’ve had no success and we’ve been at it since April. I quit for a time and resign myself to changing three different sized diapers multiple times daily.

Then, one day, I crack.

She gets up and is dry.
I take off the diaper and explain that today, she will potty.
I sit her down. I bring her a book. I set the timer.
Twenty minutes pass, nothing.

I change her baby brother and the baby. Checking on her,
she is still looking at the book. I fix breakfast. Determined, I bring breakfast in on a step stool for her, and set it up next to her potty. “Thanks Mom.” She says with a beautiful smile. I go away feeling like Super Mommy.

I fix her brother breakfast and nurse the baby. After getting them dressed, I pick out clothing for my new big girl, my heart full of hope. Going to check on her, the phone rings. The call takes about five minutes, and then I do the dishes, absent mindedly forgetting to check. The baby needs nursing and changing again. My son needs his face washed and socks and shoes.

When I remember my daughter is still in the bathroom, I run upstairs, and there she is, sitting on her potty, fast asleep.

There is nothing in the toilet.

Potty Training with Child #6
Global Warming

This kid has seen potty training at its ugliest. He knows what is expected and is old enough to take care of business. He also has a sense of humor.

His favorite joke is to sit on the portable potty and then announce, “I did it Mom.”

When I go over to check, he laughs and says, “It’s a trick Mom. I tricked you.”

One day I said, “It’s time to potty now.” He looked outside at the weather and said, “Today isn’t a good day for pottying.”

The M&M’s are still in the freezer waiting.

The Last Word

I saw in a magazine that the average mom changes 3,175 diapers by the time a child is 2 &3/4 years old. I know that I have been changing diapers since 1993. Using that figure and accounting for the fact that none of my children have made it out of diapers before the age of 3&1/2, I have done the math. No one should ever know these sorts of stats, but from these calculations, I estimate I am responsible for a land fill the size of Rhode Island.

I still have a chance to have an easy pottying experience, our two youngest are still in diapers. Their father has a standing offer to any child who potty trains before the age of 3, he will buy them a car.

And once it does happen finally for our youngest child, once I am finally diaper free…..

the kids want a dog.


Christine said...

I have 4 sons, born within 4.5 years of each other. My oldest son FINALLY was potty trained, at 4.3 years.

So, yes, I did the "changing 3 sizes of diapers" thing, for about a year. None of my sons got it before they were 3. Nothing worked. And the bedwetting continued for years, afterwards, for each of them.

And, yes, when the last kid was dry during the day, I bought a dog.

DON'T. That damn dog lives to crap on my carpet and pee everywhere. He is the bane of my existence.

For years, my family referred to me as "the Lady in Charge of Poop".

That's that glamorous stay-at-home-lifestyle in action, girls!

suburbancorrespondent said...

Oh, wow - parallel lives, babe! Have you checked out all the potty posts on my blog? I am so hopeless! Nothing works! It's pathetic. And I'm on kid number 6.

Dotty Medvitz said...

I think there should be Potty Training Camp for children like there is for dogs. I know a lady that sent her dog away for 3 months to learn how to be a dog--and to come back potty trained. Well, I wouldn't send the children away, but it would be nice to have a camp where they learned. I have a picture from a photo journalism magazine with children lined up in what looks to be a school in China. They are all on the potty. That would be great peer pressure--"Hey, Joey, hurry up and pee so we can all go play in the mud!"

UrbanMommy said...

OK, don't hate me, but I did elimination communication with my kid, and he was potty trained by 18 months. No tears, no fussing, no bribes.

It was waaaay easier than with my first, who didn't train until almost three.

I did it by taking him to his baby bjorn potty starting at 8 months, right after naps and bedtime (when he peed, generally), and diapering the rest of the time. By 12-13 months he told me when he had to go (signed or made a noise).

It sounds totally nuts, I know. But it is what most of the world does. It's not like Chinese babies are extra smart or anything -- it's just what they're used to. It's like eating, it's a natural part of life. If we train them to go in their diapers from birth, no wonder it's so hard to give them up!

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