Monday, June 27, 2011

Potty Training, You Crazy Mystery

New Undies!  Lots of Enthusiasm!
So far, in my almost three year stint as parent, I think it is safe to say that I have dreaded nothing more than this crazy, elusive, mixed-up, messy business they call potty training. Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true. This so-called business of “giving up the nap” makes me shudder with fear, but I am still in denial about this one and determined to keep Finny’s three-hour-nap going until at least kindergarten. This is why every day I do a careful dance of closing the room-darkening curtains, turning up the air purifier for white noise, delicately adjusting the volume just so on his lullabies, pulling the cord on his ceiling fan so that he has just the right amount of breeze, and of course, bringing good old Tissa out from her little box. I know, I know…he’s almost three…can’t keep the pacifier forever, but is orthodontia really that expensive when weighed carefully beside the sanity that a quiet, peaceful afternoon cup of coffee provides? Well, one thing at a time. Now, to the potty training…fiasco.


I read books. And articles. And talked to friends. And moms. And moms of friends. I wanted to know the BEST way to go about this odd business of somehow convincing my two-year-old to no longer pee and poop comfortably into his pants wherever he wants, whenever he wants. I mean what could be better than that? Ever fidgeted uncomfortably in a restaurant seat because you don’t want to leave the juicy conversation just to pee after a few beers? I have. Diapers would be a marvelous solution. So, why, I wondered would Finny ever want to give them up on his own? How, I wondered, was I ever to convince him to stop doing it in his pants on a regular basis in order to pee and poop on the potty when he seemed quite content to just sit in it?

I read books about potty training is one day. I read books about potty training in less than one day. Potty training in a three-day weekend. Potty training in 3- 12 months. Potty training as early as 9 months. Potty training as late as three and a half. Books that said cold turkey underwear. Books that said be willing to bend. Books that said you’re the boss. Books that said he’s the boss. I talked to moms who said their kids potty trained themselves. Moms who said their kids kicked and screamed through the whole ordeal. Moms whose kids cried when they peed themselves. Moms whose kids could have cared less to walk around in wet underwear all day long.

After gathering as much information as I could to make an informed decision about the best way to approach this toilet garbage, I was left confused, bewildered, and befuddled. So I just tried a few things.

I introduced Finny to the old potty chair and the sticker chart back in March to get him jazzed up about the party going on in the potty room. He took the bait. He loved the potty. He peed, he pooped, he partied. He developed a full on proud-to-potty strut and things were looking good. Until…he got sick. Then we stopped. We never made it to underwear. Instead, we kept on the diapers, shelved the potty talk and focused intently on getting him well.

Once illness passed and life resumed as normal, we tried again. This time we came back rejuvenated with a Pez dispenser and an assortment of Mickey, Thomas, Diego, Nemo, and Buzz Light Year underpants.

Before starting, I had reviewed the old “signs of readiness” and found quite a few checkmarks on the list:

• Demonstrates signs of independence

• Knows when he is peeing or pooping

• Has dry periods of at least 3-4 hours

• Can pull his pants up and down

So my thinking was: put the kid in underwear, let him pee and feel wet and not like feeling wet and therefore, learn to head to the potty when the urge strikes. My thinking was: load him up on drinks, watch him like a hawk, catch him in the act and rush him to the potty. Eventually, he would begin listening to his body and heading to the potty before he started peeing on the floor. My thinking was based on advice I had received from both the pediatrician and a manual I had read titled “3 Day Potty Training” by Lora Jensen. Since I had no personal experience of my own yet, I listened to veterans who had been there, in the trenches, and who returned to tell their stories.

Then, we did it. We plunged in. Put on the old underpants and watched and waited to see just what would happen.

The first day he wet through every pair of underwear, at least ten in total, but there was not a single pair of poopy underwear. Three poopies in the toilet and lots and lots of celebration over poopies! Lots of “Hoorays!” and “That’s AWESOME!” and “I’m so proud of you!” Not that far off from what I’m sure many proud parents say as they’re patting their son on the back after he wins his first PGA major or his Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

And I too needed a big pat on the back. I had successfully remained patient through it all. Through the accidents and through the general schizophrenic rants that accompany my two-year-old to the toilet.

For example:

“Mommy, I wanna sit on the big potty. Can I sit on the big potty?”

Seated. Climbing all over potty. Sitting on back of the potty, on the edge of the potty, dangling feet into the potty. Stepping off the potty, sticking face dangerously deep within the potty bowl.

Cue sound of the washing machine floating up from the air duct. “Oh, Mommy, what’s that?”

“The washing machine, Finn.”

Cue sound of lawnmower outside. “Mommy, what’s that?”

“The lawnmower, Finn.”

“Mommy, do we have any goggles? I need some goggles. Where’s my flashlight? I think we left baby dinosaur in the car. Did we leave baby dinosaur in the car? Does he go ‘ROOOAARR!!!’?” Now in a tiny voice, “Or does he do a little rooaar?”

“Okay, Finny. I think you’re done. Let’s wash your hands.”

“NO! I just want to sit here for a little minute.” Reclines back against the toilet seat. “I think I’m a little sleepy. I think I’m just gonna sleep here for a little bit.”

And this is all before the handwashing begins. That’s another ordeal in itself. He spends an hour and a half trying to get the temperature and the pressure of the water just right and is always looking to have something on hand to give a bath to. Baby dinosaur, cheetah, hair dryer. What have you.

This is all going on while I do, in fact, have another child who has been left once again on a blanket on the floor to fend for himself.

But we made it. Made it through the first day. Lots of accidents, but not so bad.

And then the second day—Finny exploded.

In the morning, things were looking good. Twice, Finny told us he had to go pee. Noticed the urge and told us he had to go before an accident occurred. For the first time, he had dry underwear. He did poop his underwear, but I blamed myself because I wasn’t watching him closely enough. So, I called our friends Audra and Kyle and told them we were on for dinner after all. This potty training business wasn’t so bad. I had called Audra the day before claiming dinner would be too much while we were supposed to be watching Finny’s every move. I didn’t want to be distracted. But, then, I figured what the heck? What could possibly go wrong while we grill some burgers for dinner with some friends over?

Well, Finny could explode. That’s all. None of the books mentioned that. Didn’t show up in a footnote or an index or a chapter heading. “What to Do if Your Child Explodes.” They talked of setbacks. They did not talk of explosions. “Load ‘em up on drinks and send ‘em into the yard!” Dr. Mumma said. Dr. Rath said. “3 Day Potty Training” manual said. So around 5 p.m. when Finny was throwing back Capri Suns like a freshmen at a frat party, I let him go. “Can I have another Prisun?” Sure! No problem! Slurp it back, little one!

Five. Five Capri Suns in one hour. Someone should report me to the authorities.

6 p.m. Changing Charlie’s diaper. David’s at the grill. Audra and Kyle are in the driveway. Finny becomes a human Bellagio fountain. It starts in the family room. I leave poor Charlie, once again, naked on the changing table to scoop up peeing Finny and rush him to the toilet. But there is no stopping him. Pee in the family room. Pee in the kitchen. Pee in the foyer. Pee sloshing around in my flip flops. I am wiping up Finny and myself while David mops the entire first floor. Audra and Kyle walk in with their adorable six-week-old who is sweet, angelic, and properly diapered.

Dinner party resumes. Finny pees again. More mopping. Accidentally lay Charlie down in some of the pee on the rug. Sorry, Charlie.

Dinner party resumes. I sit down to nurse Charlie, hoping he knows somewhere in the depths of his soul that I do, in fact, love him too. David attempts once again to grill the burgers. Audra, Kyle and I attempt to have a conversation. Finny has disappeared. But not for long.

Running in from the living room, “Mommy! Mommy! I’ve got poop on my legs! I’ve got poop on my legs!”

And sure enough, he looks as if he just accidentally waded through a bucket of shit we keep in our living room.

“David!!! We need the hose. You have to use the hose.” Audra and Kyle cling to sweet, diapered Madeline who is still years away from exploding in this capacity all over the living room.

Then, when Finny is hosed off and the burgers are cooked, we sit down to dinner. Glasses of wine are poured, corn on the cob is buttered, burgers are ketchuped. And Finny pees again. In his booster seat. At the dinner table. Something he’s probably been doing quite comfortably for ages. And here we go again. Audra and Kyle are good friends. I’m sure they’ll come back again. But maybe not for awhile. And we would totally understand.

After that, I think we were all a little sick of potty training. I tried putting Finny in underwear with a pull-up over top so that he would feel wet, but it wouldn’t end up on the floor, but he just started getting obstinate and stubborn.

On the fourth day, standing at his train table, he casually whispered, “I didn’t go potty.”

“Did you just go potty, Finny?”

“No, I didn’t go potty.”

“Are you wet?”

“I’m not wet and I’m not dry.”

Then, the kicking and screaming. “I don’t want to go on the potty! I don’t want treats! NO! NO! NO!”

So, by the end of the fourth day, potty talk ceased. The underwear were put away. The pull-up became our friend.

The “3 Day Potty Training” manual says throw away the diapers, the pull-ups, the training pants. The “3 Day Potty Training” manual says anyone can do it in three days. Her five kids did it. So yours can do it too.

The “3 Day Potty Training” manual did not have any footnotes about explosions, but most importantly, it did not have a chapter on “Potty Training Finny VanHimbergen”. So, we’re taking a break. We’re backing off a little bit. We’re regrouping.

The moral of the story is this: You can take a toddler to the toilet, but you can’t make him tinkle. You can pull a preschooler onto the potty but you can’t make him poop. You can load up your kid with Capri Sun and send him into the yard, but he will, in fact, explode. And it will, in fact, ruin your dinner party.


A toast to my new undies and this whole "Load em up on drinks" business.

Kyle, exhausted from mopping pee off our floors.


We like you guys...we're just not sure if we love you anymore.

NOTE:  If you are like me and like to read up on things before you begin, I do have one book I would recommend.  After all of the reading, one book I would truly recommend as what seemed to me to be the most common sense approach to potty training is The No-Cry Potty Training Solution:  Gentle Ways to Help Your Child to Say Good-Bye to Diapers by Elizabeth Pantley.  Good luck!

1 comment:

  1. This made me laugh out loud. I spit my wine out when Finny peed in his booster seat. Though what came before was much more messy, that was just the topper. Too much. I'm trying to figure out what my strategy is for my two year old. Wish me luck!

    ReplyDelete