The Potty Train
Having been at this parenting thing for a while, having gone through various trials that have tested my resolve and my will to carry on, I have decided that potty training, while eventually yielding a most favorable outcome, is my least favorite challenge of toddlerhood.
While humans around the globe have determinedly been dreaming up their visions for 2012, planning for how they can be better, know better, do better; giving up old, objectionable habits, The Baby has made known her immediate New Year’s resolution: she is going to give up using diapers. When The Mr. was returning our Christmas decorations to the attic, he found Princess Commando’s old potty seat. He knew that with her second birthday approaching, The Baby would soon be in training for a marathon of dry drawers. He brought the tiny throne downstairs, gave it a proper disinfecting and presented it to her. The Baby said, ‘Oh,’ cocked her head to the side as if she understood its purpose, and then filled it with Lego bricks (that is not a metaphor for little Baby poop). She carried the bricks from room to room in her plastic jerry, punctuating her steps with her little voice, “Poop. Poop. Poop. Poop.”
Of course this day was coming. I welcomed its arrival (no more diapers? hells ya!). And, she has been quite congenial about testing out her potty chair’s intended purpose. Each time she hits her mark, we are one day closer to closing out another chapter of baby hood. But, nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight. Perhaps, ‘fight’ is too harsh of a term. We are facing a struggle for balance. Her greatest incentive for using the potty has not been the stipend of mini marshmallows we give her at the successful completion of her tasks but, instead it has become the act of being bare bottomed. And thus the struggle has begun between the allowance of naked times and the reinforcement of non-naked times. We do not agree on when either should be instituted. Up until now, she has not seemed at all interested in the freedom one enjoys from shedding garments and running in nude-y circles around the living room. But, as soon as I gave her permission to be bare bottomed (with the stipulation, of course, that the bare bottom be hovering over the potty) she became a different creature. She’s developed an obsession with stripping. Her eye gets the glint of the devil as she stares straight at me, shucking off her clothes- no longer looking for my approval, skittering away from my grasp like the Gingerbread Baby. “Ha, ha! Run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me. I’m naked!” It’s true—without clothes she is much lighter on her feet.
There is an exhausting amount of diligence in monitoring a disrobed child’s potty signals- when she is just beginning to accommodate them herself. Part of learning the Way of the Chamber Pot- as in developing any new skill is allowing for mistakes and learning from them. She recognizes, now, the instant she is “going” in her training pants and says apologetically, “Oh no, I pee.” And she frantically struggles to remove her wet training pants because she is learning it is more comfortable to be dry. “Peeinapotty,” she corrects. She would rather be naked all of the time and only hit her mark in the potty seat some of the time then give herself the chance to feel that disagreeable sensation of a wet diaper against her skin. This has added a new challenge to nap time. My sister once asked me why I still dressed The Baby in a onesie beneath her clothes. I told her that at The Baby’s age, each of her older siblings had taken to undressing down to their birthday suits during nap time. And, on more than one occasion, I had walked into a mess of monumental proportions which left me to decide what to clean first, the kid or the crib? The onesie was one more barrier between tiny exploring hands and the diaper’s safety latches. The other day, this memory was still in the back of my mind when I transferred The Baby, who had uncharacteristically fallen asleep on the couch, to her bed. “Nah, she’s out cold. She won’t even know she’s not wearing a onesie,” I reassured myself. She was so quiet during her nap that I was able to visit with the older children when they returned home from school. She was so quiet, that I had to remind myself to not let her sleep too close to the dinner hour. I went into her room, which was now darkened by the veil of evening, to wake her. I made out her figure, so sweet, so content-sleeping soundly, wrapped tightly in her blanket. I gingerly peeled the blanket from her body to reveal . . . a totally naked baby. Not only was she naked, but she had peed in her sleep on everything in her crib- including the stuffed animals which belonged to Princess Commando and which I promised she would not be able to sneak through the bars of the crib from a basket on the floor. “I’m nakey!” She exclaimed with pride when she saw me hovering over the crib. “Oh, no I pee! Peeinapotty!”
It is not so bad when you have a day marked with Pee, Sweat and Tears (I only shed two little ones- one for my finger bent backward when tucking a fresh crib sheet into an awkward corner; and one at the acknowledgement that this was just the first of many messy afternoons to come during this phase of her toddlerhood). But, it was yesterday’s experience, marked by three other words, that reminded me why there are almost eight years between Princess Commando and The Baby. Poop Smeared Crib. During yesterday’s nap, I paid closer attention to the noises emanating from the second floor so that I would not miss the faint sound of Velcro fasteners being relieved of their grip. I thought I heard her voice. I went to her room to investigate. I was immediately swallowed up by one of those moments when you can’t turn back and pretend you didn’t see anything and you say something you never imagined you would ever say, something that is so absurd when taken out of context: “No! You do NOT play with your poop! Poop is NOT Playdoh!”
It is a new year. We strive to be better, know better, do better. Today she is napping in a onesie, with her diaper fastened backward. She’ll figure out how to take it all off soon enough.