Sunday, December 04, 2005

Potty-Training Blues

There are few things in this world that cause me as much stress as potty-training. Three-year-old Isaac and I have been at it now for the past three months. He's making progress slowly but surely and I know that he will eventually get the concept. I know this because his brother David took almost a year.

It is entirely possible that I did everything wrong a mother could do when potty-training, not intentionally of course. I had talked to other moms who had successfully potty-trained children and I read books and magazines. I even prayed. I was told if I put him straight into underwear so that he had accidents, he would quickly become potty-trained (most likely within a week). David was so traumatized by wetting himself that first day that he sat on his little potty for 12 straight hours. He refused to get off. He played there and we read books there and he ate his meals there. The thought of it now just breaks my heart. We spent five days in the house (thankfully he did get off the potty on those days) with a few successes and alot of accidents. Maybe he just wasn't ready. The books said if he wasn't ready, try again in a month or two. So, we did, off and on for several months. The boy just didn't get it.

He got so upset by the whole process that he started holding back his poops, which ultimately landed us in the pediatrician's office. By this time he was three and four months old. The doctor prescribed mineral oil and once he was pooping regularly again, she set us up with a plan to get him potty-trained. She had me ask him what he wanted as a reward for using the potty. He said he wanted little Matchbox cars. I went to BJs and bought a 100 pack and each time he even sat on the potty for one whole minute,he could get a car. After he was used to sitting on the potty, he would only get a car for successfully using the potty. He loved getting the cars and would sit on the potty but consistently using it just wasn't going to happen. The doctor even surrendered, telling me that he would do it when he was ready.

I was so at my wits end, I even did the St. Jude Novena that our parish does every October - 9 days of masses. St. Jude is the patron saint of desperate causes! I remember looking around the Church thinking "I bet I am the only person here praying for a child to use a potty!"

Then came one day in early December of last year, when he was three and eight months old. He got up and said that he had to go wee-wees and that he didn't need me, and sure enough he went! And continued to go. The boy who the day before had been leaving puddles on my floor was potty-trained and he never looked back.

So, with Isaac, I vowed I wasn't going near a potty with the child until he was three. But at 2 years and 9 months, he asked to go. Unlike his brother, he actually had the mental component where if he had to go to the bathroom, he could make himself go. Wonderful, I thought. Finally, a child who would be easy to potty-train! I rewarded him every time he went, but soon his enthusiasm waned. We change rewards, trying to keep him interested. Right now, his reward is one gumdrop. Some days he actually does all his wee-wees in the potty, other days maybe one or two. Poops are still a struggle. But I know he will get it. When he is ready he will be potty-trained.

I know this, and yet, today at a party talking to a friend whose little boy turned three and was potty-trained within a week, I wanted to cry. I still want to cry. What is wrong with me that I cannot potty-train a child? Why do I fail at this basic test of motherhood? And yet, I know, it is not about me at all. It is about them. As adults, no one will care at what age they learned to use a potty. Heck, at kindergarten, no one will care. I somehow need to keep my ego out of it, and just need to keep encouraging Isaac and let him go at his own pace. I know this, and yet . . .

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