A Potty Training Miracle

The Potty Training Years 1988–1992

The Potty Training Years (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Considering that my children couldn’t be much more different, I shouldn’t have been surprised that potty training the second one would be absolutely nothing like the first. Yet I had this idea that I’d done it before and knew what to expect.

We learned our lesson with Peter (child #1), starting too soon, and had to put potty training on hold for six months. Then it was a month of on-and-off frustration before he got it. What really helped were the incentives. We promised him that he could move out of his crib and into his big boy bed once he potty trained. But the biggest motivator was that we would use the money we saved on diapers toward a trip to Disney World.

Disney? No, problem. Peter was potty trained like that (imagine me snapping my fingers). And ever since, he’s only had one daytime accident. Ever.

With Ian (child #2), I didn’t even pull the potty chair out until he was two-and-a-half. Why cause myself more angst than necessary? I had no idea what was coming. One Saturday last June, I decided to dedicate my day to potty training, giving Ian juice and treats and sitting him on the potty until he got it, Peter-style.

Nothing happened. On the potty, that is. As soon as I put underwear on him, Ian had an accident. I was on the third or fourth pair of underwear when my husband got involved. Miracle of miracles! Ian sat on the potty, and when Thomas told him to go, Ian went.

About a minute later, he had an accident in another pair of clean underwear.

That was when we discovered that Ian knew exactly what was going on, and he simply didn’t care.

We tried everything. For nine months we tried, and we took advice from any- and everyone, and we would take two steps forward and giant leaps back. We offered him candy for keeping his pants clean and dry, but usually he just didn’t care. Other times, he would ask for candy after having an accident. There was no problem at all getting him to use the potty, but we couldn’t get him to quit wetting his pants, too. People advised us to just put him in underwear, and he would learn his lesson when he had an accident. I can’t tell you how many times we tried this and failed.

Our solution was Pull-Ups, which many people say is a potty training no-no, but he didn’t need diapers, and I didn’t want to have to wash every pair of his underwear five to six times a week. We bought Pull-Ups for eight months. I hope and pray that I’m finally on my last box.

His pediatrician assured me that we were on the right track with incentives, but I tried to explain that Ian and incentives aren’t the best of friends. The candy was hit or miss. Sometimes he got excited about moving to his bed. But when it came to visiting Mickey Mouse (whom Ian adores), he would flat out say that he didn’t want to go. Still, I persevered. I was determined to reward him with a trip to Disney before he turned three (mainly so his admission would be free).

Naturally, there was little improvement until a couple weeks after his third birthday, when Ian finally seemed to turn the corner. Although still in Pull-Ups, he would sometimes tell us when he had to go, and he even woke up dry some mornings. He even seemed willing to undress and take himself to the potty (but only if we asked him to).

I finally decided we were going to Disney World over spring break, and if Ian still wasn’t potty trained, I would just tell him we were proud of his progress.

Then last Tuesday (three days before our trip), I decided that if Ian was going to be rewarded for supposedly being potty trained, I was going to go ahead and put him in underwear. If he messed up his clothes or his car seat, oh well. Maybe if he had an accident and had to sit in it, he would learn his lesson.

So that’s exactly what I did.

There were accidents – none in the car, thank goodness. It was the panicked, “I gotta go potty, Mommy!” about two seconds too late. But at least he finally cared.

For our first day at Disney World, we decided – even though we hadn’t chanced it with Peter – that we would put Ian in underwear. We were armed with multiple changes of clothes, and I even lost sleep over it, but he was fine.

Disney fireworks

Disney fireworks – appropriate for how I felt after Ian’s success

I figured a good thing couldn’t last two days in a row, but it did. In fact, all three days that we were in the parks, Ian was 100% accident free. Every time I took him to the bathroom, I praised him, wondering if he would make it another hour. Was it giving him the reward that he hadn’t fully earned that made him finally earn it? Who knows, but I’ll have to say that it worked – and it’s still working (at least as far as #1 is concerned). He even wakes up dry from naps and overnight. I’m not going to hold out hope for only one accident ever, like his big brother, but so far so good. (#2 is still a work in progress, but for the first time in nine months, I think he’ll actually make it.)

After all this success, I’ve been beating myself up about it. If I had decided to put Ian in underwear and live through the accidents back in November or December, would we have had similar results? Would he have gotten one last free trip to Disney? Or would I have pulled my hair out even more and caused myself more frustration than was necessary? My husband thinks that, even though Ian didn’t care about Disney World until we actually go there, he had so much fun that he didn’t want to deal with the hassle of multiple wardrobe changes. I guess it will always be a mystery, but I’m glad it finally happened.

For all frustrated parents out there, please know that if someone promises there’s one proven way to potty train every single child, it’s a lie. Every child is different and will take a different method. I would love to hear other potty training stories (the good, the bad, the ugly) and encourage you to keep trying. As people have often assured me, there isn’t a kid yet who’s gone to college still in diapers. I thought we were getting close, but it seems that Ian will make it to preschool next year, after all.

Next on the agenda… how to get him to eat healthy food.

Are You Too Busy Posting About How Much Fun You’re Having to Have Fun?

A woman reading SMS messages on her mobile pho...

A woman reading SMS messages on her mobile phone while standing on a bike in traffic. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One morning last week, I was watching the morning news and happened to see a segment with a therapist talking about social media accounts (Facebook, specifically) and how negative an impact they can have on relationships.

Now, of course, many of you, my faithful readers, read this on Facebook. So I am by no means saying we should give up this platform. But it was enough to get the old thinking juices flowing.

The therapist mentioned that many people are so busy posting updates about what they’re doing – that they’re not really doing anything. Except for updating social media, of course. There were other reasons that he went into for why Facebook can be bad for relationships – like coming across an ex and stirring up old feelings – but it made me start to think about my life and how it’s changed – not since I signed up for Facebook, necessarily, but since I got a smart phone.

Sure, there are people who only use Facebook on a home computer, and that takes them away from their family at home. But then there are others – like me – who almost always check on the phone – at a red light, in line at the grocery store, and of course, when the person you’re with is just boring you to death. Ouch. What happened to letting our minds politely wander? There’s nothing that says, I couldn’t care less what you’re saying than looking down at a phone and getting absorbed in what’s trending right now.

When did we have to start filling every “empty” moment with making sure we know what’s going on in the world of social media? There’s an appropriate time and place for it, sure, but I’m afraid that my kids and their friends will grow up without the luxury of knowing how wonderful so-called boredom can be. I fondly remember times when I had nothing to do, so I went outside and dug for rolly pollies. Or I walked laps around my bedroom, composing a new scene in my current story. Boredom is the birthplace for creativity. Of course, Pinterest is a great place for that, too, but we’re raising a generation of sharers right now. What happens when all the creators are gone?

Facebook and other social media do have their positive uses, of course. I have friends who are primarily members to promote themselves professionally. I do this myself, but I also post pictures of my kids because my out-of-town in-laws like to see what their grandkids are up to. That’s all well and good. But when smart phone and social media usage start replacing time with family, then we’ve somehow mixed up our priorities.

This therapist guy mentioned whole vacations that seem documented to-the-minute on Facebook. I’ve seen any number of them, and while I enjoy seeing some of the fun things my friends are up to, I have wondered: When do they have time to enjoy what they’re doing if they’re on Facebook updating their statuses so much?

And of course, I am guilty of this, too.

Sarah's Photo Books

Sarah’s Photo Books

Here you see a couple photo books I created of two of our most recent vacations. (Shameless plug: these aren’t cheap, copier paper photo books but high-quality, custom photo paper books made by Fuji, and you can create your own here.)

While I was creating the book on the left – a surprise Disney World trip for my kids – I noticed something that horrified me: I was paying attention to my phone instead of my kids in an embarrassing number of pictures. We were at Disney World, for crying out loud. It’s the happiest place on Earth, yet I was focused on reading updates of what my friends ate for dinner.

Now, granted, having a smart phone when you’re stuck in a two-hour line can be a great distraction. Disney also has a great app that helps you explore the park, so I could say, “Oh yeah, I was just using that.” But that would be a lie.

I’m not saying that smart phones are the devil and we should throw them all out, and neither should we do that with social media. But, as many people have noted, we need to make sure that we don’t get so sucked in to this virtual so-called “social” world that we isolate ourselves from the people that we really want and need to spend time with in the first place.

I think that sometimes, we are so self-centered, so stuck on the idea that we have to absolutely let all of our friends know what cool stuff we’re doing right now that we actually miss out on living in that moment. And what a shame that is.

Now, when I created the second photo book, a great trip with extended family in Washington State, I noticed something else. It was a bit of a letdown at first. You see, I remembered chasing my son and little niece through a mall in Washington. I remember their grins and giggles. I remember going lots of cool places and tasting great, new food. But somehow, I didn’t capture all of these moments photographically. I kind of kicked myself for missing them.

But you know what, I think that’s okay. I remembered a trip to the zoo that Thomas and I took early in our dating years. I made it a point to take a picture of all the wildlife we saw there. Why I thought this was so important, I can’t tell you. A photographer I am not. Any good pictures I’ve ever taken were completely by accident. So when I looked back at all these photos, I realized that I had no idea what I’d been trying to capture, nor could I remember enough of the day at the zoo to even take a wild guess. Why? Well, because I’d been trying so hard to get photos of the fun that I missed the fun altogether. (Thank goodness there weren’t smart phones or Facebook back then, otherwise I really would have made a fool of myself.)

I’m not saying to quit taking photos or to quit posting your events. But what I am saying is that it’s okay if your friends don’t see your kids sitting in a neat little row at the ice cream shop. I promise, your kids will enjoy their ice cream more if you don’t interrupt them.

And for those memories that you missed capturing on your phone or camera – those are likely the memories that will stick with you and your friends and loved ones the longest. Because you were too busy enjoying the moment to worry about how many likes and shares you might get on Facebook.