Saturday, March 3, 2012

Potty Time! Excellent!

I am not exactly a potty person.  Some parents out there love to go into detail about their children's ability to use a toilet, as if it's as cute as their first smile, first word, or first spit-up.  I like to spare my readers details, since they might be reading this during a time when it would be inappropriate for them to suddenly throw up.  So today I will write about potty training without going into many of the details.  Besides, if you need details to find out what's really going on, then this might be a good time to take a step back, look at your life, and ask yourself, "Am I a robot?"

(Above: Meet the enemy)
I hate potty training.  It's disgusting, it's exhausting, and it can make a person miss having a desk job to go to during the weekend.  In many ways, potty training is much like military training, except that the trainee is the one barking orders and the trainers are like the guy who signed up for the military but can't take it, and is begging and pleading with the trainee, telling him he'd do anything he wants just to end this misery.  For months, my three-and-a-half-year-old son refused any attempt to get him to sit on a toilet.  It's not something that's easily forceable, especially if you want to keep your clothes clean.  Trust me, I know.  But we had to do it, especially with Pre-K happening this fall, and diapers are frowned upon there.  We were told by the experts that potty training is something that will happen once the kid's ready, and apparently our son was not yet ready.  Or he was, but he was incredibly stubborn about it (I tend to think this was the case).  So, over and over again, I try to get Kyle to go.  "Do you want to use the bathroom?" "No." "Do you want to use the bathroom now?" "No." "How about now?" "No." "Do you not want to not use no bathroom right now?"  "Err... Yes."  The kid was on to me.

We weaned him off diapers by buying him Pull-Ups, but those are really just expensive diapers, and he used them as such.  We then bought him special Thomas the Tank Engine underwear, which apparently is made with pure sandpaper fibers.  He wore them for half a minute before wanting them off.  We then bought him something more comfortable, which he liked wearing, but not enough to give up diapers.

We tried incentives.  Use the bathroom and you get M&M's.  Use the bathroom and you get a lollipop.  Use the bathroom and you get a sticker.  Use the bathroom and you can drive the car around the block.  Sadly, nothing worked.  We also had a bag of wrapped children's books, gifts for Adam (don't tell him) that we didn't open because Adam would rather eat the gifts than open them.  We told Kyle he could have one every time he used the bathroom, but he still didn't budge. Then, during a free weekend earlier this month, we decided to throw a potty party.  One of Jennifer's coworkers did that for his child, and it worked, so we figured we'd give it a shot.  We filled the bathroom with balloons, put a cup of lollipops by the sink, kept books nearby for reading, hired acrobats, and had an iPod set up to play Kyle's favorite music.  Kyle loved the idea, up until he realized that it involved actually using the toilet.  Then the screaming and shoving began.  It soon became the WORST PARTY EVER, and, by the end of the night, we had to give up because of a digestion problem (again, I won't go into details here).  Kyle wins, and parents lose again.

Our kid is stubborn, and once he makes up his mind that he doesn't want to do something, he will kick, scream, fight, fall to the ground and go limp.  He wasn't going to face the toilet or sit on it, no matter how hard we tried to get him there.  That's pretty much how that party went.  I dunno... maybe we were doing it all wrong.  We had no clue as to what would actually work.  We just knew that our child is the ultimate flip-flopper: he will be completely against something one moment, and then, all of a sudden, he'll be for it and act as if he was for it all along.  It's like he's a 3-year-old John Kerry or Mitt Romney.  One night he hates sleeping with a pillow, the next night he loves it.  One day he's not walking, the next day he's doing laps around our friend's apartment.  One day he can't stand cucumber, the next day he's muching away on it.  We just needed that moment to happen with the bathroom, and we were hoping it would happen before puberty. 

(Above: Kyle gets lollipop fever)
Kyle was on vacation last week, and on Wednesday we decided to give the potty party another try.  Kyle resisted at first, but then that evening, he surprised us by going a couple times.  We don't know what changed his mind, but we weren't going to risk anything by asking him.  He then said he'd like to try it again the next day.  And that's what he did.  He's been going every day since.  Just like that, he was potty trained.  We still rewarded him each time (just to make sure it kept going), which meant he had plenty of lollipops and M&M's, and a slew of new books for us to read to him.  That didn't matter, since he had me read the same Curious George book to him each time he had to go.  It's the one where the monkey gets into trouble but somehow manages to find a way out of it.  Yeah, you know the one.  After reading it each bathroom time for several days straight, I was starting to miss the diapers.

Fortunately, Kyle stopped asking me to read to him earlier this week.  The lollipops quickly disappeared and we're now weaning him off the M&M's.  Kyle's been a pro at using the bathroom, and he's already using it to his advantage: he's discovered it's a great delay tactic for brushing his teeth, getting ready for school, cleaning up, eating dinner, and taking a bath.  The hour it used to take to get ready for bed now seems quick compared to the four hours it takes now.  Ah, three-year-olds.  But I'm not complaining.  Not me.  I'm a happy guy.  Potty training is now over until the next kid tries it years from now, and I'm in no rush to start that.