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Potty training

May 30, 2018

This winter and spring Amber and I have been potty training.  Basically it's a transfer of power.  She and I have an unwritten agreement that she’s in charge of her body, and I get to take a step back.

There’s good advice everywhere.  My main insight is this:  when your kid is old enough and wants it enough, it works.  Even if mom makes every mistake in the book.

I did a super lousy job this time around.  One cold day in January, I took Amber with me to Target.  We bought princess panties and a pink potty chair.  Filled with enthusiasm, we came home and tried potty training for an hour or two.  I quickly remembered the main detail I’d forgotten:  potty training is a ton of work.

We continued for a few days, basically using two hours of each morning.  And then I said, “Nope.  Not yet.  I’m not ready.”  By lunchtime I was hungry and done.  Afternoons are filled with big kids, so that was out of the question.

February.  I think to myself, “We should try again.”  So for a few days, we spend about two hours each morning without a diaper.  Once again I think to myself, “Amber’s ready but this is lame, staying home all morning and not going anywhere.”   Knowing that Norm and I were going out of town for a weekend, and knowing we’d be gone as a family for a week in March, Norm says very logically, “Why not just wait?”  Wait until after her birthday, after the trip. 

I think to myself, “Because turning three is the magical finish line for potty training...
Because all my friends are amazing and they potty trained their kids when they were two.
Because I don’t want to look bad if all my neighbors see my kid in diapers when she's three.
Because it might mean I'm a bad mom or a slacker...”

But I realize he’s completely right.  So after her birthday, after the family reunion, sometime late in March, Amber and I begin again.  And this time, on try #3 she basically figures it out herself.

My one observation.  Any time I tell her it’s time to go potty and she doesn’t want to go:  It’s not worth a power struggle.  What’s the worst thing that can happen if I let go and she doesn’t care enough? That’s right, she’ll wet her pants.  That’s really not that bad of a consequence.  She realizes on her own that she needed to go, she missed her moment, and that’s way better than me having to bug her, guilt her, force her, etc

Also, we don’t use pull-ups.  They kinda help but simultaneously sabotage the process.  If she's  wearing pull-ups she has zero motivation to use the toilet.  If I know she’s going to fall asleep in the car and she hasn’t gone potty for two hours, I’ll put a diaper over her panties, or put towels under the seat and bring a change of clothes.

Also, she’s still in a diaper at night.  She’ll let me know when she cares enough to take that next step.  Plus that one requires one main behavior modification:  no liquid right before bed.  She still loves to snuggle with Daddy and drink milk before bedtime.

That said, every kid is unique.  As a mom, you know your child's temperament and your own.  You know how much you can handle and when.  And if your child is one of the harder ones, please don't compare your experience to mine.  Amber was way easy, and I was distracted with a dozen other things, so that's how it had to work out.  The worst thing about blogs is that we sometimes read somebody else's post and come away thinking, "Wow, she's pretty great and must have it all figured out."  Maybe on this one issue, I got lucky.  But I promise there are other things in my life that are completely messed up, seriously difficult, etc.  So cut yourself some slack, and don't worry too much.

Post Script
August 2021

All bets are off when there's a major life event like having a new baby sibling or moving across the country. That's right. We started over again after we got to Texas. Fortunately she was in a preschool class with wonderful teachers and they helped by having Structure, so she didn't have any accidents at school. But when she was home with me, accidents all the time. I remember thinking to myself, "What is going on here?"

And, she's still using a diaper at night. That's right. My kid that I bragged was SO easy to potty train didn't play by the same playbook that the older kids used. I remember asking the pediatrician when she was four: Is this normal? And she was like, "don't worry about it." And then I asked the pediatrician again a year later when A was still not dry at night, "Is this normal?" And her reply surprised me: Most of the kids that aren't dry at night when they're 4 will have outgrown it by the next year. Of that group that is still "wetting the bed" at 5, most of them will have outgrown it by 6. And of the remaining group that's Still not dry at night will probably have outgrown it by 7." She said it much better and more scientifically than I did, but her message was this : Chill out. Keep using the pullups or diapers at night, no biggie. Dr N was able to confirm that my daughter's bladder was indeed really small, so that plays into it. Some kids need more years to hit certain benchmarks. AND happy day. There have been more than a handful of nights this past summer where she was dry at night. *Hopeful, happy dance here.

In my family tree there's a history of bedwetting. Often this is related to sleep apnea. Another fun fact I've picked up over the years: there's a genetic correlation among kids with blond hair and blue eyes, where scientists have found that that particular genetic make-up is more likely to have the bedwetting hiccup.

Sorry to leave this last bit a messy, unedited word scramble. Long story short: if you know me and have kids in this same scenario, just call me and we can chat. Y'all know where to find me.


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