I know I’ve made various claims about trying again to potty-train Daniel over the last few months, but the truth is that each was a half-hearted attempt that fizzled out as blandly as it began. I didn’t have the mental fortitude to commit, and Daniel’s interest was passing, at best.
While I know there are plenty of kids, boys especially, who train at an older age, I was just plain tired of changing Daniel’s diaper. It was clear to me that he was capable of using the potty, if perhaps a little under-motivated. And, with preschool starting up in the fall, I know they would prefer that he be trained, so I at least wanted to make another serious attempt before then.
Sunday night, I looked at my calendar for the week, and then for the next six. I realized we are completely between activities at the moment, and had literally nothing on the calendar for this week. But, after this week, things start to really pick up again. New classes, big outings, travel, the whole nine yards. It was very obvious that this was the biggest stretch of free time we will have until probably mid-August. Time to suck it up, Mama.
And so, this week has been Potty Boot Camp, Take 2 (or whatever “take” I’m on now, lord only knows). The first day was, in a word, discouraging. What bothered me the most is that the accidents didn’t seem to phase him in the least. Especially the poop ones! And there is nothing quite so delightful as trying to remove and clean a pair of toddler-sized underwear full of poop. Wow.
But I changed my reward strategy this time. No M&M jar (not only ineffective, but AWFUL for me to have them around), but a sticker chart. Earn five stickers (and yes, I’ll give them out for as little as about half a teaspoon worth of pee in the potty), and you get a special treat. Popsicle, ice cream, Trader Joe’s star cookies. Your choice. And to try to keep Rebecca invested in the process (and not resentful of the attention Daniel was getting), she got a treat when he earned his five stickers, too. My little mama-girl thought it was great that she could “help teach Daniel to use the potty.”
Progress. Dare I say, some enthusiasm. Initially, there was certainly happiness over the stickers and the potential for popsicles, but a notable lack of disappointment when an accident would cause him to not earn a Thomas or Cars sticker. But in the last day or two, I feel like I’ve noticed a subtle shift. He seems to be shifting from “poop anywhere, anytime, in the undies, who cares?” to “save it for the naptime diaper.” In my world, that’s a notable improvement, and one I can totally work with. And, though he might sometimes poop in the diaper, I’ve noticed it suddenly staying dry… This morning, as I was downstairs psyching myself up for an early-morning run, I hear a door and footsteps. I waited. A few minutes later, down comes Daniel, looking for me. Pajama bottoms and (dry) diaper in hand, informing me he had gotten up to use the potty.
I could care less that it was 45 minutes before his Good Nite Lite was scheduled to turn yellow, that was a HUGE freaking breakthrough.
Other accomplishments this week include staying dry at: Trader Joe’s (where we have an unfortunate history of Daniel and poop accidents), the MOVIE THEATER (he sat through the entirety of Toy Story 3, told me he needed to use the potty with two minutes to go, and actually waited for the credits before we bolted for the bathroom!), and an entire morning at the playground.
It really feels like we’re turning a corner, thankfully. And, to be fair, I think my mindset is different this time around. The first time I did boot camp with Daniel, I had done the same with Rebecca only a couple of weeks earlier. For one thing, she was relatively easy to train and I was able to back off of her relatively quickly, once I could tell she “got it.” Daniel seemed to “get it,” and then had an enormous backslide about a week later. I couldn’t handle all of that mess and the inability to go about our usual business, especially combined with the fact that Rebecca, while pretty reliable, was still fairly high-maintenance on the potty.
This time around, I barely have to think about Rebecca at all. She’s almost entirely self-sufficient on the potty and, despite a strange uptick in overnight accidents, is very low-maintenance. Not only do I have a bit more energy to focus on Daniel, but I have also shifted the mindset and know that I’m going to have to stay a lot more proactive with him for a lot longer. While I’ve noticed major improvements, he’s always been the kind of kid who gets very easily distracted and, when involved in one thing, kind of tunes everything else out. So, if I’m constantly nearby and asking him if he needs to use the potty, and asking how the undies are doing (“clean and dry!”), he’s good about stopping and telling me. If I leave him to do his own thing for a while, that’s when I’m more likely to see an accident. Forgive the comparison, but it reminds me a line about house-training puppies in a book I read when I first got our dog: “If they have an accident, you’ve given them too much freedom, too soon.” And while there are certainly more complexities to potty-training a kid than housebreaking a dog, there’s an aspect of that that rings pretty true.
Though, seriously, crate-training was awfully effective. Are you sure I can’t do that with toddlers?
I know this isn’t over. I know he’s not going to be the same as Rebecca. But I am cautiously optimistic that we are on a good path, and I’m very much hoping that the move to underwear is a permanent one.