Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pesky Potty Problems

I wrote this a few months back, before I started blogging.  After recently re-reading it, I realized that this experience really forced me to question my mothering skills and think about what kind of mom I want to be. 

Potty training is my nemesis! As an “older” first-time mom I had high hopes in life experiences being a huge benefit in mom department. And, for the most part I was able to adjust and figure out this “mommy-thing”. I got through my first son’s birth and infancy, without getting too scathed. I also managed to have a second son born just 14 months after my first and I figured out how to manage two non-talking, non-walking, beings without any major injuries or traumas. I even showered most days, and occasionally left the house. I thought I was doing pretty good – perhaps even being successful. This is until time had come for potty training.

I had visions of two boys happily sitting on their potties, learning together, and, in a short time I would neatly cross that task off my list. So I geared up. I read voraciously. I found out that there were many different strategies, including boot-camps and potty parties that promised to potty train in one day, others who suggested having “naked noons” and “wiener weekends” to train more slowly, and still others who believed that infants, as early as 3 months old could be trained. Many people had advice…cheerios (for target practice) in the toilet, or to train in the summer time to allow them to run around naked and learn. So, I chose my strategy and advice and got ready for a weekend of potties, sticker charts, rewards and much hoopla! I had grand hopes and figured this was just another mothering hurdle that I could tackle and find success.

The weekend started and my husband and I were ready! We had some successes and of course many accidents. By the end of the first day, it became apparent that our youngest son was not ready and my dream of dueling potty goers faded. But still I was excited to see successes in my older son. Day two began and our older son was eager to fill up his sticker chart and get the fun rewards. He was learning and even though accidents were still a plenty, overall we seemed to he headed down the right path. But then Monday came along, my husband went off to work, and life had to go on. It could no longer be ALL about potties and rewards. Furthermore, we all had cabin fever so loaded down with extra clothes, rewards, and a portable potty, we headed out. Perhaps it was too soon to add life’s distractions. Perhaps, I was too tired of asking “do you have to go potty?”. Perhaps he was just having an off day. Who knows what the issue was, but in our short one hour excursion out in the real world, we took three sprints into the Target bathroom, only to sit on the potty without any success. And, of course, the trip ended with an accident just as we were exiting the bathroom.

Since then we have been on the potty training roller coaster. There were moments, days, and even weeks of wonderful successes. My hopes would rise only to plummet when we suffered days, and weeks with multiple accidents. Six months later and we still had not figured out the whole process. However, during this time he was attending preschool and was a successful potty goer there. In fact when talking to the teachers, they were shocked to hear that he was having accidents at home. Visits to grandparents were accident free and I was beginning to notice that the evenings and weekends, when my husband was home, he was mostly dry. So I figured it MUST be ME.

Now, it would be important to digress here and mention that I, the youngest of four children, was NOT an early potty professional. In fact, if the story is true, I was well over 4 years old before I used the potty regularly. And, since I remember my brothers and sister chase me around the house, calling me “stinkbomb” while shooting rubberbands at my diaper, I have got to believe that the story is at least partially true. So, you know what they say about “pay backs”, and I began to accept that I was (and still am) in the process of getting “paid”.

So, after determining that I must be the cause of my older son’s repetitive accidents, I tried different tactics: more stickers, then no stickers, M&M and marshmallow rewards, changing my reactions: enthusiasm, anger, and finally indifference. I even contacted a potty training guru for her words of wisdom. And, after all that, guess what…the roller coaster continued. And, to my dismay, our younger son was seemingly ready to be potty trained, and with dread and trepidation, we began his training. Without much direction, I watched our younger child succeed and quickly become a successful potty goer.

After experiencing him, basically train himself, I realized some things that I wish I would have known at the start. 1) Potty training was not about me! 2) It was also not a reflection of whether or not I am a good mom. 3) It is about him, and he is in control. So, he continues to slug through the potty training. It is still a roller coaster but, it seems the highs and lows are less extreme. I am learning that this is just one of many times I am not control. It is his life, his choices, and his life lessons. In the future, I hope to remember that I am there to help, encourage, teach, and even, at times, just be silent as he figures out the person that he wants to become. I’m hopeful that today he will chose to become perpetually dry!

author's note:  since I wrote this, his potty success has increased, but he is not yet a potty professional...I am still hopeful! 

I know I am not alone in this...What are your potty training woes?

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