September 20, 2011

on pottying.

i always have these great plans of writing motherly articles for my blog. and then i don't.

i'd say i'm too busy actually mothering but sometimes i put my kids in front of PBS to do other things.

the last few weeks i've been on that harrowing path of potty training for the last time (thank god) and while i've wanted to share all of my wisdom and know-how, i've only proven to myself once and for all that it really does happen on the kid's watch. with that in mind, however, there are still some hints and tips i'd like to share with you, my dear readers. trust me, whether your potty "training" days are long over, you're in the thick of it or you're  a couple of years away from the task (or even a couple of years away from having kids), you'll be able to laugh at me. i mean with me.

you might even thank me.

to start, let me get this out of the way. i tried using the term potty learning for a long time. for whatever reason it doesn't roll off my tongue well or flow from my fingertips easily. in conversation, i still say potty training, though i may refer to it PLing from here on out because that does come out better than PTing. as "AP" as i am, i'm not even entirely sure that the term "potty training" has so many negative connotations that a substitute is necessary.
moving along.

i've often heard that boys potty train later than girls. simply put, it's not true. it is nothing more than anecdotal. one of my children was stubborn as a bull and "late" to potty train but his gender had nothing to do with it. in our case, i blame pull-ups. for others, it might be that the mother is uncomfortable potty training a boy or thinks he must first learn to pee standing up. i'm going to be blunt here, though. in most cases where a three or four year old is still in diapers or having more than the occasional accident, it's because potty training isn't convenient for the parents. it doesn't matter the child's gender if the parents provide no real motivation.

my experience with bean provided me with a false sense of confidence, not going to lie. i waited until i was on spring break one semester so i could stay home with him and provide the consistency needed to be successful. my "trick" was simple and was as follows:

day one: let toddler hang out naked or in real underwear. offer potty reminders every 20-30 minutes. if an "accident" occurs, toddler will make connection quickly if naked or in underpants. continue reminders and change underwear as needed. use diaper for nap and overnight.

day two: let toddler hang out in real underwear or training pants, offering potty reminders every 20-60 minutes. use diaper for nap but take off immediately after. offer potty and put underwear on. use diaper overnight but take off upon waking next morning.

day three: use underwear or cloth training pants, offering potty reminders as needed if pattern has been established or take toddler's lead if toddler signals for potty. if not, continue with offering potty every 30-60 minutes.

day four: my magic ended there.

my twenty-seven  month old woke up and went to pee on his own. from then on he was fully potty trained and never woke up wet again. a few days later after such success at home i was taking him to my grandma's for the night. i was unpacking his backpack and showed her the pull-ups. i told her to use one at night because, even though he'd been dry at home, i didn't want him to wet her bed. he grabbed the pull-up from my hand, threw it on the ground and said, "no pull-up." my grandmother, being old-school, agreed and didn't use them. i never did, either.

fast forward ten years and pea wasn't potty trained around age two or during my spring break (yes, i was in college again) when he would have also been twenty-seven months old. it wasn't for my lack of effort, at first. on his second birthday and shortly thereafter he was very successful on the potty. then i got busy with school. we started buying pull-ups. awesome papa used them on the two days a week that he stayed home while i was at the university. on my days off i was too busy studying or running errands that i started using them nearly full-time, too. by the time spring break rolled around i needed the time to study hardcore for a neuro-anatomy class i was taking and potty training was not a priority. i kept telling myself that two months later, i'd be done with school and we could potty train over the summer.

yeah, no. if a child is in diapers or pull-ups, which are essentially diapers that cost a bit extra, past two and half years they form an attachment that is harder to break than if the parents can make the commitment earlier on. now, i know, i am over-simplifying to a degree and there is something to be said about true developmental readiness but pea was completely prepared, ready, and able. in fact, he was cooperative and eager until i slacked off that last semester and kept him in a combination of cloth diapers and pull-ups. my focus was elsewhere but i know, in my heart of hearts, if i had spent even just a few good solid days on potty training, he'd have been out of diapers completely much, much sooner.

well before baby #3 was even a thought, i knew that i'd never, ever, ever, ever use pull-ups with another child. ever.

i am not even joking. if there is one piece of advice i can give, one very valuable piece of advice, it's use diapers or underwear. period. disposable trainers (a.k.a. pull-ups) do nothing to help establish a connection between internal cues and the physical sensations of pottying. they are constructed with the same materials as disposable diapers, and regardless of marketing hype, they do not signal anything to a child. they quickly absorb wetness. they sound and feel the same way. they are diapers. without sticky tape.

so. at twenty-four months i didn't feel that sprout was developmentally ready for PLing. he understood everything. he could feed himself. but he wasn't very verbal (at all) and there was just something telling me to wait. he'd occasionally sat on the potty cooperatively in the past and i'd even "caught" a few pees but i was never consistent with it and by age two he wasn't interested in sitting on the potty.

at twenty-six months we tried again but he was still pretty uninterested in the potty. determined not to let him get too comfortable in diapers, i woke up one weekend deciding to stay home both days and go at it full force. he was twenty-eight months and i'd say we've been doing pretty good, though we're entering our second month. we only use diapers at night or if we're out of the house for more than 30-60 minutes. i will not buy pull-ups and i guarantee he wouldn't view them as underwear even though he is now very familiar with that type of garment.

he is in a combination of regular unders, gerber training pants (not waterproof), absorbant WAHM-made trainers, and imse vimse trainers. 9 times out of 10 he won't stop what he's doing to go potty. he can't interrupt his very important playing or something. he does, however, go when prompted and has no qualms about getting down to business. even though i'm doing nearly as much "diaper" laundry as when we cloth-diapered full-time, he goes on the potty more than half the time and only using 7-10 diapers a week is nice.

my last experience has reinforced the concept that kids really do learn on their own time but it still takes commitment and readiness from the parent(s). awesome papa started to keep sprout in diapers the one day a week that he stays home while i'm at work but since he's been more open to keeping him in trainers, he has had as much success as i've had. sprout can completely verbalize and otherwise communicate his needs but it still takes an effort on my part to remind him every few hours. again, not gonna lie, i have to bribe him every now and then but usually, when he doesn't want to stop what he's doing and i know he has to go, i've taken to singing a song that goes like this:

"time to sit on the potty and listen to your body"

and most of the time it works :)

if you've got any hints or tips to potty training/learning, feel free to share them here.

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