Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Potty Training....a Lesson in Humility

Well I think I can say it out loud now.  I think I can say it out loud and REALLY mean it.  I will never watch or listen to another parent again and think or say "they should do it 'this' way..." or "they're doing it all wrong..."  Yes it is now fully confirmed in my mind that I will NEVER again have an opinion about what parents are doing right or wrong with their own children.  What brings on this very strong conviction? The daunting realization that I have been blessed with the most strong willed child I have ever known.   

Now you may be thinking "Oh, Rachel you only have two kids (one of which is still too young to have a will of her own), you don't know what a strong-willed child is." Let me quickly remind you that other than my sisters three children and and the many other children I have come to know since the time of high school baby-sitting, summer day camps, volunteer work, etc. I have been a full time teacher to appx. 200 students.  200 kids whom I have had  in my classroom for 180 days at a time.  200 kids that I grew to know and love.  I have dealt with a huge variety of personalities.  The charmers, the hams, the smart ones, the not-so smart ones, the angry ones, the terribly sad ones, the overly excited ones, the rude ones, the quiet ones, the LOUD ones, the annoying ones, the obnoxious ones and the best-all-around ones.  Now each year I consider myself lucky to have 2-3 best-all-arounder's out of a group of about 22 students; so I should be very aware that these are few and far between.  And yet I somehow still expected my son to be one.

I have been anticipating the exciting task of potty-training for many, many months now.  In fact, I would have bet money that Jackson was ready to begin way back in December.  I wasn't ready in December but I was pretty sure that he was.  I made the decision to wait until this summer, he would have just turned three (the recommended age for potty training) and I would have loads of time to dedicate to this adventure.  Because I knew it was coming, I did what all modern mommies do.  I read several books, every magazine article I could get my hands on, and everything that popped up when I googled "potty-training".  I asked everyone I knew how THEY did it and listened to the advice of my sister, my mom, my best friends, and even Dr. Satterwhite (a well-known local pediatrician) who has two wonderful pod-casts available on the subject.   I was so prepared and thought it was going to be a piece of cake.  A walk in the park.  A few days of messy puddles and I would only have one baby left in diapers.

As the time approached I was spending time with a dear friend who is currently potty training her own newly-turned-three year old.  She has not gone through all the trouble I have to prepare so as I watched her change his pull-up for the up-teenth time since she has started training him MONTHS earlier.  The thought went through my mind, "she's doing it all wrong".  I didn't say anything because I DID learn a while back to keep my opinions to myself as far as parenting goes.  Now I know just not to have any opinions at all. From here on out I will watch and observe others and simply think "huh...I guess that works for them."  At the time however I was thinking; doesn't she know your not supposed to use pull-ups?  They are the same thing as a diaper.  Doesn't she know she can't just let him run loose without constantly reminding him and asking him? Doesn't she know that she needs to be rewarding him every time he DOES go to the potty or perhaps taking something away every time he DIDN'T?  Oh I was so knowledgeable on the subject, I wanted to share my worldly knowledge with her but as I said earlier I have learned to keep my opinions to myself (insert laugh here). 

I began on a Friday morning.  The plan was to have a potty training boot camp.  We would not leave the house for two maybe three full days.  Jackson would be pumped with salty snacks to keep him thirsty and tons of fruit juice to ensure that he would have to pee frequently.  We went straight to big-boy undies.  No pull-ups/diapers for this family.  I even recruited my niece Katie and nephew Matthew to help.  Matthew would be a wonderful model and Katie would be great at helping me with Jillian.  After all, since I do have an infant in the house there would be times when I would not be able to wait on Jackson to pee on the potty so they were there to help make sure Jackson was never left unattended.  These two days of boot camp were somewhat successful.  He DID pee in the potty several times and he did get super excited about singing the pee-pee song and being rewarded with m&m's.  But he never once said "I have to go potty", almost four weeks later and these magical words still have not been spoken. Although he never liked being told to go pee pee on the potty, by day three he absolutely HATED it.  He would get so angry that he would start screaming, yelling, crying, stomping his feet and repeating over and over again "I'm done, I'm done, I'm done."  Of course he was not.  It quickly got to the point that when he DID finally pee he would cry or scream the entire time it was coming out and he would rock back and forth saying "no, no, no, no."  As soon as he was finished I would get super excited and give high fives and he would say "I want M&M's".

After day five I was extremely frustrated and thinking "why isnt this working?"  rather than things getting better each day they were actually getting worse.  He got to the point he was AFRAID to have any kind of bodily function.  This was VERY bad news for us because we already knew that he was afraid to have a BM.  He actually held it  in for TWO WHOLE WEEKS not long ago, just because he thought it was grose and he didn't want to.  TWO WEEKS!  who does that?  So now he was/is afraid to pee and so had another opportunity to show just how stubborn he can be.  He sat on the potty for three hours once, I was DETERMINED to win this battle of wills.  Nothing.  He held his pee in for 15 hours straight one day.  15 HOURS!  When he finally did pee on that day it went EVERYWHERE and he was totally traumatized by the mess it made.  So only went once more within that 24 hour period and screamed the entire time.  On day five I realized that I had been so focused on him peeing in the potty that I hadn't noticed the fact that he had not had a BM since the first day of the training.  Here we go again.  So on day seven we gave him a suppository and sat him on the toilet.  He completely FREAKED out.  He gave himself a hemorrhoid.  We were getting ready to head to the ER when it miraculously seemed to correct itself but since then the boy has been pumped with whole grains, apple juice and miralax on a daily basis.  With all that he still only allows himself to go once every 2 to 3 days.  Our doctor, and common sense says that we need to back off.  At least until he overcomes this fear of his.  The doctor's theory is that he will get it when he ready to get it.  She says "he won't go to kindergarten without being potty trained."  I cant help but wonder if Jackson might just be the child to prove her wrong on this one.

This whole experience has caused me to spend quite a bit of time reflecting on other times in which Jackson has shown his strong will and stubbornness.  The first example I can think of is when he said "I love you" at 18 months old.  I was so super-excited that I yelled and clapped and gave him a big hug and asked him to say it again.  He did not.  He didn't say those three simple words again for another 18 months.  Another great example, when he was a little over two he took all of our DVD's and scattered them all over the living room floor.  I didn't really care, because I am apparently a SUPER laid back mom about many things that I never thought I would be, but I insisted that when it was time - he had to clean them up.  He didn't want to clean them up.  So he looked me straight in the eye and said "no".  45 minutes, three time-outs, and one spanking later I eventually had to physically wrap his fingers around the movie and pull his arm until it was placed back on the shelf.  We had to do this with EVERY movie.  It was a ridiculous fight but I won that battle and now when I say "pick up the movies." He picks them up.  Another example; he just recently started saying Amen at the end of each prayer.  We have been saying our prayers for meals and every night before bed time since he was a tiny baby.  The boy can say words like triceratops and tyransaurs rex but when we told him to say "amen" he just refused.   And last but certainly not least is his separation anxiety, since he was about 8 or 9 months old he began totally freaking out everytime I left him.  I know this is VERY normal for young children and everyone says "it will pass, it will pass."  Well Jackson has gone to the same day care since he was 6 months old. The morning routine is always the same, he sees the same faces every day but had JUST gotten to the point where he stopped screaming every morning at drop off before we pulled him out for the summer.  Now after spending all day every day with his mommy (his favorite person in the entire world) I can only imagine how horrible drop-off will be when he begins again in August. 

He didn't' want to say "I love you" because he knew how badly we wanted him to, he didn't want to pick up the movies because he knew how badly I wanted him to, the same with saying "amen" and now apparently he won't pee or have a BM because he knows that it is what I want more than anything else out of him!  I got him to pick up the movies with sheer determination and a stressful battle of wills, he finally started saying "I love you" and "amen" because we stopped asking him to; we stopped caring about it.  So now with this potty training business I realize that I probably could settle in for an epic battle of wills that could last days or perhaps weeks.  A battle that would probably involve a bladder infection and a trip to the E.R. due to being overly compacted.  Or I could stop caring, stop asking, and stop letting him know how important it is to me.  The bad news is.  Since he now understands when he IS peeing I just can't bring myself to put him back in diapers.  Besides he could use the continued practice of pulling his own pants up and down every time we change him so what does that mean for us? Pull-ups.  Yes, the one thing I was so determined to not use.  I am now living the life of the dear friend.  You know the one that I wanted to share my worldly advice with.  Last week she kinda laughed about my whole potty-training ordeal and said that when I told her about the potty training boot camp she knew it wasn't going to work for Jackson.  She said that after hearing about how long he went with a BM (two weeks) just because he didn't want to, she knew he would buck-up when I put him through boot camp. here I am.  Eating my own words and thoughts.  Hence the decision to no longer form opinions or make judgements about the way other parents do things with their own children.  I will no longer sit back and think that I could do it better.  I have had a wonderful lesson in humility and most importantly I have learned that I am the very LAST person to think they know squat about potty training.

On a separate note, in addition to potty-training, Jackson continues to be my daily test from God.  He wraps me around his little finger with his magical smile one minute and then has me ready to give him away to first taker the next.  He comes up to me at least five times a day just say "mommy, I want a hug."  He jumps up and down with excitement every time he discovers something new or happens to see something he is particularly fond of.  He sings songs and sways back and forth with no rhythm at all in the cutest way possible.  He has a heart of gold and would never hurt anyone (intentionally) and has his own little heart broken by just the smallest insult or injury.  If someone he considers a friend  says something hateful or gets a little too rough his little face will just crumble, his shoulders will sag and you can just tell he is heart broken.  So he is such a sweet sweet child.  However, if I am anywhere near him when we go out in public he acts like a completely different child.  He won't acknowledge others, he gets mad when people say hi to him, he doesn't play with others, in fact he is so up my rear that I am lucky if he leaves my side for more than five minutes.  He gives the impression of being a whiny little brat.  It absolutely mortifies me and at the same time breaks my heart to see him act like this.  I just wish he could show EVERYONE the amazing person he is rather than acting like such a terd (my favorite term of endearment for my little man).

So as I battle with my three year old I look across the room to see the sweetest and brightest smile imaginable from our sweet sweet Jillian.  She is such a little blessing from God.  Her smiles are endless and now to make it even better she has learned to laugh.  She can roll over in all directions like a little pro, she is trying to scoot with her little legs and forearms, and is now eating out of a spoon!  I love her so much.  And her favorite person in the world?  Her brother.  Every time he walks into the room she starts kicking her legs and squealing.  And he is so incredibly sweet with her.

Despite my ramblings about toddler troubles, believe me when I say I am having a blast being at home with my two babies.  I love them both more than words can say.  So here's to keeping my mouth shut and to no longer thinking I know what's best for every child.  I will never again say "my child will never (fill in the blank)".  I said my child would never wear pull ups.  I just bought a value box with 96 pull-ups yesterday.  Eating my words today.               
Charlie walked in on the middle of my blog and asked to add his own comment...

This is no longer Rachel's Charlie.  I love potty training.  Between sitting down on a wet urinated spot on the couch and cleaning poop off of the floor like your child was a family pet, the joy never ends.  Diapers........things of the past.  We have upgraded to "pull-ups".  I realize that "pull-ups" are just another word for Diapers but it's what makes me sleep at night.  After all, the commercial says "I'm a big kid now" so it must be true.

 While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.
~Angela Schwindt