A Tale of Potty Training in which Otter validates my belief in attachment parenting
Through this journey of mothering, my philosophy has become, “drop the book, read the child”. I do not discount the books out of hand – many of them have sage advice and are written by experienced professionals and parents. I offer our students the La Leche League approach: treat the information that is offered as a buffet; take what is appealing and leave the rest. My mantra has become, “Honor The Child”.
A wise aunt of mine once told me that our children are gifted to us to be our teachers. I have tried to embrace that concept whole-heartedly. Yet every once in a while, they remind me again of their role in my life. Oh, that Otter. She continues to teach me about mothering although I am already ten years into this adventure.
Her latest lesson to me arrived via potty training: it’s the promise of that glorious day when you don’t have to change another diaper…especially those of the “stinky, poop-y, how-does-all-this-fit-into-your-tiny-body diapers that have you running to the toilet as you gag to empty them” variety.
There are SO MANY books on potty training on the market – a quick search on-line yields several titles that promise an easy passage to the promised land. There are videos you can buy, books written for children to ease the transition, and if you are a family with a fluid bottom line, you can hire a potty coach for $925/day! (Read about that trend HERE.)
She did not want to know what we knew; she did not care that we had already potty trained three children. She was on her own path.
Winter 2012: Otter showed early signs of being ready to use the potty. The winter after her first birthday, she sat down and used the potty chair – she was probably 15 months old. Then she did it again. When she wasn’t around the potty, she told us that she had gone potty and that we needed to change her. And she couldn’t stand to be in a poopy diaper – I was thrilled!! Were we really going to be free of diapers so soon?!?
Alas, it was not to be. After a promising week, she started screaming when we brought her near the potty. She much preferred to do her business in her diaper and then have someone change her *immediately*. As an attachment parent, I went with the flow, so to speak. I did not want to push her into something that she was not ready for and forced her into tears.
Spring 2013: The pressure starts to build. A few mamas of Sweet Peas born from our Fall 2011 and Winter2011-12 classes are announcing that their little ones are sitting on the potty. They are using it. A few are actually potty trained!! What?!? These children are younger than Otter and they are out of diapers already?
Summer 2013: So I bring out the potty again. I figure different space, different place; maybe we’ll have a different result. Still the same reaction – tears and screaming. I put it back up with the resolution to just let Otter be Otter. I *know* that it is developmentally impossible for her to be in diapers forever. Breathe. Mantra. Repeat.
Fall 2013: More Sweet Pea babies younger than Otter are potty trained. Breathe. Mantra. Repeat.
WInter 2013: Otter wants to be in the Christmas show with her siblings. We remind her that she is not in dance classes yet and she cannot dance on stage with them. However…light bulb moment…we point out that all of the children dancing are out of diapers. Especially the ones in her favorite number, Santa Baby, a daddy-daughter dance performed by the youngest students in the school.
New strategy!! Instead of offering the training potty, every once in a while, we will drop the line, “It’s okay to keep using diapers. You’ll have to be out of them if you want to dance in Santa Baby – no diapers on stage!”
Spring 2014: We go to birthday parties for Otter’s contemporaries from our Bradley Classes. They are out of diapers. We are still lugging our diaper bag around, albeit a very adorable tokidoki bag. The SPB alumni mamas tell me what they are doing to facilitate potty training. A mama from our Fall 2012 class is actively training her one-year-old. I begin to question if I am crazy to just leave Otter alone and leave her in diapers until she is ready.
YES to leaving her alone, jury is out as to whether I am crazy. Honor the child. Breathe. Mantra. Repeat.
May 2014: The diaper service we use announces it’s going out of business. We warn her that her diaper days are numbered. Diaper service ends and she is distraught to be in training pants, even the adorable ones in patterns she is familiar with since they look like her diaper wraps. After two days of an unhappy Otter, we decide to buy organic disposable diapers by the sleeve because we Honor The Child. She is waking up dry, even with night nursing. I offer the potty in the morning as an alternative to wetting the diaper and an immediate change. She declines. For weeks.
Sunday, June 22, 2014: Otter sits on the training potty that we have left, lonely in the bathroom, for months. She pees. She stands up and announces, “I am ready to do Santa Baby.” She was “potty trained” at two years and eight months – done with never another day in diapers. Or thirty-two months old if you prefer that method of accounting.
No joke. Since that day six weeks ago she has had exactly two accidents. One the next day when she was playing with a friend and was too distracted to really go potty and she let the rest go when she came back to play. And one a week later, strangely enough, overnight when she wet the bed after waking up dry for weeks.
It has been a great validation to Honor The Child. Once I stopped offering the option to use the training potty, neither of us shed a tear in this non-process. She is done, without the mess of soiled clothing, misses on the floor, and a training potty to empty over and over again. I do not miss the piles of laundry covered in human waste!! That was awesome.
Now, we do keep the training potty available – she doesn’t always want to use the “big potty”. I figure that is a fair trade.
Breathe. Honor The Child. Repeat.