Monday, July 20, 2009

Two Days

Ada is potty trained. When I say that she is potty trained, I mean that she's been out of diapers for nearly two months. She wears a pull-up to sleep, but other than that she's in self chosen (and named) "candy pants" full time. I keep an extra set of shorts in the car for both girls because that's just prudent, but I don't carry a diaper bag anymore.

And this isn't a situation where I put my toddler on the potty every hour or two to prevent accidents. Ada knows when she has go and does so independently. Sometimes she needs help with her clothing or wiping. In those cases she lets me know. But she gets up from board games, movies, and play dates to go potty. Sometimes she announces what she's doing and sometimes she just goes on her own then resumes her activities.

I have to admit, it's pretty fabulous. Ellie's potty bribe was a wooden play kitchen for her bedroom, an activity center both girls are still wild about. Ada's potty bribe was a cardboard mobile of the solar system. Other children recite prayers before bed. Ada and I say prayers and I recite her full name and home address. But before I lay her in her crib she wants me to carry her to the mobile where she'll name all the planets for me. Adorable.

We used the same approach to train Ada as we did Ellie. It was really really really really hard. But then it was over and it worked. Did I mention that it took 2 days? They're horrible days. And when you're in the midst of it, there's no guarantee that it will work. Certainly it didn't work the way it was supposed to according to the book (Toilet Training in Less Than A Day by Azrim and Foxx, © 1970).

A quick word about this book. It's based on research from the 1960s and is painfully dated. By this I mean that it is sexist. Mom the does training wearing heels and an apron. It is classist. Mom stays home with the children in a house with a yard, dad works a daytime office-type job. And it uses the "R" word repeatedly for people with developmental disabilities. It's clinical, rather than insulting, language in this context (the book discusses modifications to the program for toilet training institutionalized adults and developmentally delayed children) but I know that word is a trigger for some people.

But toileting itself hasn't changed very much since the 1960s, and nor has the need to teach our children to quit soiling themselves and our carpets. My favorite things about this approach are that it teaches independence. When we started, Ada couldn't even pull her own pants up and down, let alone use the potty independently. Two days later she took great pride in both accomplishments. Also, I prefer two really hard days to months of on-going, if low-key, struggle.

Paul took the first shift, while Ellie and I went to the zoo. Bath, bed, and we started again the next day. Paul went to work, Ellie was home from school for the summer. Dry pants checks every 5 minutes, practice potty trials every 15 minutes, just me alone all week with both girls, afraid to take Ada out in public. The first day was a novelty, a party. The second day was push-back. Accidents, accidents, and more accidents despite a full-time focus on the learning of independent toileting.

Day three - CLICK.

We have had setbacks. I delayed this post for a week or two because after vacation we had to readjust. But now it's been long enough that I'm confident in Ada's abilities to manage this new task on an ongoing basis.

"Mommy LOVES dry pants!"

Modifications. With Ellie we made the mistake of not forcing her to be more independent. It was hard but we required more of Ada, and eventually we got it. We did modify the method a little, though. For instance, I prefer to empty the potty chair myself rather than having her do it. Also, once it was obvious that she understood what she was supposed to do, I stopped requiring ten "practice potty trials" for every accident. It was obvious that she knew what to do, and the "potty quickly!" trials then became traumatic rather than fun. One or two sufficed on the second day. YMMV, but this was the right approach for Ada. Trauma surrounding potty = BAD. Pushing the boundaries and requiring more than is comfortable for either of you = GOOD.