Ever since Talks-a-lot was two years old and in the fight of his life to NOT be potty trained, I have been dreading even going close to another potty with another child. I fought tooth and nail to get my little Talker to warm up to the idea of going to the bathroom like a "big boy". The problem was, he just didn't care. He was too busy, Thomas the Train was always calling his name, the outdoors were too appealing to pass up....who wanted to be bothered with bathroom stuff? I can remember asking him, every 15 minutes on the dot, "Talks, do you need to potty?". If I waited a minute too late, he would just go without warning and give me this look as though to say, "Why didn't you tell me that was about to happen?". After a full year of complete stress and frustration, the job was finally completed and I could rest my worries that he would not, in fact, wear diapers for the rest of his life.
Enter my girly little Chunks-a-lot. I, honestly, haven't really bothered with the potty issue that much with her. We've had, ahem, bigger problems at hand with her ongoing medical drama. So as life has resumed its normal pace and she seems to be a normal, thriving toddler, I have decided it is time. Time to potty. Little did I know that my sweet, innocent little Chunk has been storing away some big, nasty drama just for this little lesson in bathroom abilities. So you can imagine my surprise the other day when I mentioned "big girl panties" and watched my smiling, giggling little girl turn into a sobbing mess. I was finally able to convince her to at least try it (thanks to her stuffed puppy who talked her through it) and so our day began.
She actually seemed to enjoy the potty, smiling away and constantly talking about the business that was going on below. I wasn't sure if anything was actually being accomplished on the potty, but her eagerness encouraged me. And then I made a huge mistake......I tried to take her off the potty. After about 35 minutes of sitting, I decided that she should take a break and went to lift her up so she could play for awhile. She suddenly had a full-body hold on her little potty and refused to budge. I literally had to pry her off the potty as she screamed in protest.
Then came the crying. For the next three hours, as we continued this potty "dance", she cried without ceasing. She wasn't upset that she couldn't wear a diaper, wasn't even upset that I wanted her to try something new, no, she just didn't want to get off the potty....ever. In fact, one time I just decided to let her sit there and see how long she would actually last before she realized how boring it was. To my complete amazement, she happily sat for such a long period of time that she had an imprint of the potty on her little bottom. The will of that child is amazing.
In the beginning of her three-hour crying session, I had already decided that I was not going to let her sobs get to me. I was doing her a service by making her take a break from the potty and if she wanted to cry about it, that was okay with me. But as I continued about my chores, talking to her as she followed me around with her sobbing moans, I started to feel a little edginess creep up into my spirit. It's amazing how something can affect you even when you are determined to block it out. I finally put her in her room and told her that she could come out when she was done crying. I shut the door and went back to my laundry in the next room. The first thing she said between her lonely sobs was, "No, mommy, don't leave me in here with Swiper!". As sad and cute as that little comment was, I held my own. Impressive, I know.
I finally decided to set a timer for on the potty and off the potty. She would sit, I would put the timer on for six minutes and when it would beep, we would yell, "Potty break!". Then, she would immediately stand up and I would set the timer for a 12 minute break. But she was so anxious to get back on the potty that she would sometimes just circle it, nudge it with her foot, try to count down with the timer and once even tried to make a beeping sound in hopes I would be tricked into thinking the timer had gone off. She can be very clever when she wants something. I also tried bribing her with treats. Yes, I bribe my children, it's awful and I know it. But I was inspired by this post and decided to try some Dora the Explorer fruit snacks we had picked up at Walmart. To my surprise, Chunks (lover of most foods) does not like fruit snacks, even if they do have Dora's face on them. So instead of eating them, she would lick them a few times, make a sour face and just hold them lovingly in her hands. But what surprised me the most was what we used the snacks for. It didn't become the persuasion tool I had dreamed of to lure her onto the potty, no, it became the bait to get her off the potty.
All in all, we had seven successful potty episodes that day and only one accident, so I suppose that is a decent first attempt. But when I started running the numbers in my head, I realized that she had a bit of an unfair advantage considering her on-the-potty time far exceeded her off-the-potty time. But I suppose in situations like this, you've just got to take it as it comes.
And as frustrating and odd as this potty-training experience has been, it sure beats the battles we were fighting last year at this time. And I am so thankful for that perspective in life as I go about trying to raise these little ones. Sometimes I sit back and think of the endless days and nights in the hospital, the constant sickness from chemo, the countless blood transfusions and I think, "Potty training?! Walk in the park!". And while it's not (obviously), it's just a blessing to be frustrated by something so absolutely and wonderfully normal!
Although, you might ask me again tomorrow to describe potty training in such positive terms and I might not be able to deliver...