Monday, May 30, 2016

Essential Virtues for Potty Training... (and How I Don't Have Any of Them)

For the record, I have no idea how anyone manages to potty train a child. None.

For the kid... diapers aren't inconvenient. You do your business wherever you happen to be and tell mom you need a new diaper whenever you get around to it. You don't ever have to stop what you're doing.

So far, I have attempted potty training with Pitter Patter twice... and I don't think that's Pitter Patter's fault - it's mine.

The first attempt was in November 2015, when I was seven months pregnant - often highly emotional... and usually exhausted. I had been letting Pitter Patter wear pull-ups on-and-off for a couple of months. And then... I discovered the "Three Day Method." Given the fact that the pediatrician said to give up until St. Patrick's Day if she wasn't done by Thanksgiving... this sounded great. Three day of letting her run around without a diaper and she'd get the idea that having a mess running down her leg wasn't pleasant. Three days and done - maybe even sooner.

I could not have been more wrong. I'd been gently prodding toward the potty for so long that I heard "done in three days" and I didn't listen to how many accidents I was going to have to put up with cleaning... which is even less fun than usual when you're seven months along and your back hurts all the time.

Needless to say that the first time Pitter Patter had an accident on the play room floor and discovered that she could make her own puddles to play in (I know: ewww...), I was so disgusted with the spectacular failure of the 3-day potty training method that I gave up for that attempt when Thanksgiving was still a good week away. During whole episode... she used the potty a grand total of one time. (For the record, my back was only turned for about 12 seconds while I went to put the phone away.)

In the last month, I've gotten tired of buying disposable pull-ups in addition to regular diapers for Pitter Patter, so I bought her a set of cloth pull-ups. (Six diapers with two or three inserts a piece.) The last few weeks have been a bit of a struggle... between all of us being sick for a few days, and Pitter Patter not really wanting to learn because "hey, diapers are convenient, yo!"

In the process of going to the potty every half hour and reading a book while we're there and then having an accident while watching the "When You Have to Go Potty, Stop and Go Right Away" episode of Daniel Tiger, and attempting to bribe her with crayons... and cleaning poopy cloth diapers from naptime... I've come to understand something about  the world and about myself:

Nobody survives potty training without a few essential virtues, and I'm apparently lacking in all of them.

Here are a few of the essential virtues that you either start potty training with (and you cruise right on through) or you learn them along the way...

1. Prudence

One way to define Prudence is "right reason applied to practice," and this is necessary in potty training.  You need to be able to recognize when your child is ready.  You need to be able to read the signs, physically and mentally, when the right time is. I'd been knowing that Pitter Patter was ready.  

There is a measure of playing psychic detective to gain an understanding of what will work for your child. What will be sufficient motivation for your child? For Pitter Patter, we have to give advance notice. Starting at five minutes, we give a warning every "30 seconds". She also gets a crayon (from the giant 120 box) every time she goes to the potty successfully, and she earns points towards little Lego prizes, which come much less frequently.

...Of course, there's also a measure of "recognizing a bad idea when you see one."

Trying the three-day potty training plan when you're seven months along... is a bad idea. You have to get down on the floor and clean it... regularly...

2. Patience

So… one thing I keep hearing about Potty training is that you just have to keep trying, and eventually it will just happen. Keep doing little things every day - sit through a five minute bathroom break every half hour and eventually, it will happen… probably on a family trip far from home. (Which is what happened to us!)

But I didn’t want to wait for it to just happen. I wanted it to be done in three days. I was tired of waiting. I’m still tired of waiting.

Eventually, my patience (or perhaps more accurately my lack thereof) will be rewarded, but sometimes, I wish God would just make me patient without making me practice it first.

3. Fortitude (Also called "Long Suffering")

I'm sorry. Did you think nursing without stopping for five continuous hours with an infant that just would not stop crying meant you had this one down? Or did you think you had it when you were up half the night with a fussy baby that couldn't yet tell the difference between hungry and "ate too much"?

No... I think the time you really learn fortitude is when you're potty training.

Granted, I didn't recognize that the 3-day potty training method was a bad idea when I first saw it. It was too good to be true. But if I had seen a little bit more than "done in three days", I would not have given up after the first time my two year old peed all over the floor... and then started playing in it.

No, I would have steadily put one foot in front of the other while we made trip after trip after trip to the potty, and I would not have had a massive meltdown the first time my toddler had an accident and then played with the result. (I know… eeewwwww…)

4. Humility

Nothing says "Pride" like, "I don't want to clean up this filthy, stinky mess that I didn't make." And nothing breaks your pride like having no (real) choice but to get down on your hands and knees and clean up the pee on the floor.

Why? Because she can’t. And because it needs to be done.

5. Charity

In the end, why do we potty train our children?

Lots of reasons. Because they can’t start school if they don’t know how to use the potty. Because they need to be functioning members of society. But really, at the root of it, we teach our children this vital skill for adult life because we love them. We want them to go to school and not get made fun of. We want them to have all of the skills needed for adult life.

And it is out of this love that I am still trying to help my little girl use the potty, even though she is resisting with all her might. Even though she doesn’t care about potty training and we occasionally still hear a little shout from the other room that, “Momma, I’m playing on the floor in pee pee!”
And it is because we love her that we try not to get mad when we hear that. Now, if you’ll excuse me… I have another little mess to clean up.

Original Image above from Pixabay, Modified by Shannon Ball.

1 comment:

  1. Oh no! No fun. At all. Not sure how old your munchkin is, but I like to hold off till mine are 3, 3 and a half, or so. It usually is easier then. Unless it isn't. But hopefully, you got it all sewed up now anyway! :)