I love overhearing other people's conversations. Like most writers, I'm a shameless eaves-dropper, a lurking listener who loves to overhear a good dish. Trouble is, sometimes I overhear a conversation that tempts me to pipe in, which I know I can't because then I'd be caught out.
But here's what happened. I was at the park the other day and overheard two mothers talking about their kids. No, they weren't really talking, but doing that sort of pretending-not-to-be-bragging-about-my-amazingly-gifted-child thing that mothers can do. One mother said to the other with a pleading look in her face: "I'm not sure what to do about little Y! She potty trained herself when she was two and a half. She goes to the bathroom all by herself, and even gets up at night to go pee and then goes right back to sleep without even disturbing us!" The other mother was nodding, obviously waiting for the punchline that would indicate that there was something wrong going on here. "My problem is that little Y does so much for herself but that she oftentimes does things in the wrong way! She puts her own shoes on, but puts boots instead of sandals on; she dresses herself but wants to wear summer clothes when it's cold out!" Finally, she gets to her query: "How do I direct her without being, well, directive?"
I'm discovering that I have quite the inner grouch these days. I was a lurking listener who wanted to jump into the conversation, and to give this mother a little bit of perspective. What, for instance, did this little scenario have to do with her little Y's miraculous feats of potty training? Absolutely nothing. I wanted, really, really wanted, to give this mother a counter example, which would really put things into perspective.
My son will be four years old this December. This past summer, through much cajoling, M&Ms, Jelly Belly candies, and gummy worms, we accomplished the feat of getting him to pee in the toilet. Now he does so, but insists on standing up, and is in such a rush to pee and be done with things, that his, er, aim is often all over the place. Sometimes the rim of the toilet bowl will carry the remnants of his excursions but I've learned that I also have to peek onto the floor next to the bowl as well. I know that he has washed his hands when the hand towel is tossed onto the floor. We go through about three pairs of underwear and pants a day because, you see, the kid is too busy to pee, and often finds himself rushing to get to the bathroom in time. I cannot take him to the bathroom, either, because the more I try to get him to pee, the more he holds it and will not pee, just to make a point. For goodness sake, this is a kid who might get a UTI just out of spite!
This brings me to number two. Forget about it! When the kid needs to, he asks for a "nappy" to do his business. I decided this week that we need to move on, and try using the toilet for number two. I picked my bribe carefully: a LEGO fire truck that he was desperate to have was promised if he would just "go poopy in the potty" for three days in a row. This ended up backfiring hugely and there was a kicking-and-screaming-ruckus. You would have thought that the boy was being waterboarded in an American prison in Iraq. Now the boy won't even ask for a nappy to poop in, and instead holds his poop all day until bedtime, when he gets a nighttime diaper. As soon as the diaper is on him, he goes poop. I've traumatized him, you see.
Number three is using the potty at nighttime. I think that children who are accustomed to nursing to sleep develop deep associations between sleep and drinking milk and perhaps, drinking in general. My son drinks sippy cups and juice/milk boxes as though he is nursing: with the spout over his tongue, and all in one great, bit gulp. Even though he's now almost four, he gets a faraway look in his eyes and I know that, for the moment, he's not to be disturbed because he's "nursing." The only way that I was able to wean my son off nursing to sleep (this happened when he was 22 months) was by substituting a sippy cup of milk. He is stubbornly clinging to the milk at night routine, which means that he is peeing all night long. My husband and I are afraid to forego the nighttime diapers because we know that he will just pee all over the bed, which he oftentimes does anyway, wtih the diaper that frequenly overfills its capacity. Remember, these are super-absorbent nighttime diapers.
I know, I know. I keep trying to remember those consoling adages: All in due time. He is a boy after all, and some boys are notoriously late in their potty learning. The more you push, the more they pull. But all I seem to want for Christmas, my birthday, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and every other holiday is for this kid to just do this one thing that to some parents, seems so simply achieved.
Then again, maybe I need to just let go of this, take off the pressure, and accept the fact that I'll be potty training him and his baby sister at the same time next year.