Being the younger brother

As an oldest child, I didn’t have older siblings to teach me things. Naturally, I set a sterling example for MY brother and sister, but obviously that is not always the case. Lately Alex has picked up things that…well, let’s just say it didn’t take much work to figure out where he’d learned it from.

For one thing, he has been running around with a toy sword, pointing it at people and saying, “pew pew!” Pretty sure he didn’t learn that from Sara and me. He also is prone to sobbing “No fair!” when he doesn’t get his way (okay, that one he *might* have gotten from me).

On the other hand, being the youngest might have advantages. Alex certainly was the easiest of our children to potty train, and I don’t know if that’s because of something about his personality, or if he just has a whole lot of examples to model himself after (and a whole lot of extra people to sit with him and read Little Critter and/or Clifford books over, and over, and over while he’s on the potty…)

It certainly could just be him personally. All of our kids are whip smart. It’s hard for me to remember precisely how smart they were at 20 months, and I remember being impressed by them, but Alex’s language and memory both seem to be well off the charts.

What if he’s the smartest of the three of them? I have to say…the prospect is a little frightening.

No diapers, strike 2

Ollie has been potty trained for well over a year now, with no problems whatsoever. He’s been dry at naps for ages, and he goes at school by himself, no problem. So for awhile now I’ve been meaning to try to get him through the final hump, no diaper overnight, but I just kept putting it off. It seemed like it was always a bad time. We kept saying, “Oh, we’ll do it after we get back from vacation” or “well, this weekend is busy, maybe next weekend”.

We had tried awhile ago, but he just wasn’t ready for it at that time. However, with school and everything, he’s just seemed so grown up lately, and it didn’t seem fair that he had to wear a diaper at night just because his parents weren’t getting off their butts and doing it. Finally, he had two dry diapers in a row and I thought, “Okay, its time to get this done.”

I went into it with my eyes open. This isn’t my first time at the rodeo. I think it took Evie at least 2 nights before she had a dry one, so I was expecting Ollie to take at least that, but probably more. We gave him a lot of talks about what a big boy he was to pump him up, offered a reward, and I prepared the area ahead of time. I put 5 sets of sheets and mattress pads on the bed, one on top of the other, and made a stack of spare blankets and pjs. If he was wet, we could just strip off the top layer and toss him back in bed, easy peasy.

After the first few nights, I decided that he needed a little help to get a successful night. I was hoping this would give him the confidence to really do it. It seemed like he was waking up and going first thing in the morning, probably because he forgot he wasn’t wearing a diaper. The problem was, if I woke him up a little early to go to the potty, he wouldn’t go back to sleep. So I started taking him to the bathroom when I went to bed, hoping that would buy him some extra time.

This wasn’t working, so next I decided to start setting my alarm in the night. I hoped that if I took him around 4, I would catch him before he went and then he would be able to go back to sleep. When he was wet at 4, I moved it back to 2, and then 1. I was trying so hard to make him successful, but eventually I had to throw in the towel and admit he couldn’t do it. Despite my efforts, he’s just not ready yet.

It was pretty disheartening. It was just so much work, making the bed 5 times every night, washing load after load of sheets to get ready for the next night, getting up every night and cleaning him up, trying to maintain a positive attitude through the whole thing keep encouraging him. I was so exhausted and it was just all for nothing. I have to admit that on the last night, when I was cleaning him up at 1 a.m. and changing the sheets for the umpteenth time, I cried a little. Hey, I was tired.

At the end of the day, he’s got to be ready, and no amount of preparation or sheet changing can change that. He’s only 3, so it’s not like he’s behind or anything. Like everything with parenting, sometimes you’ve just got to take it as it comes.

Urine, urine, everywhere…

…and not a drop to…wait a minute.

Ollie has been potty trained for so long, that we often don’t even think to bring extra clothes with us. Therefore, it was a little disconcerting when Oliver started having accidents several times a day for a few days. I don’t think it is unusual to have the occasional minor set-back, but it just kept catching us off guard. We kept thinking, “Well, of course we don’t have to worry about him having another accident, he just had one.”

This is why, after he had a “small” accident, we decided to go to the mall anyway. However, we at least had the common sense to take him directly to the potty.

Sara went in with him and got him situated, sitting on the potty. You know how public toilets have that U-shaped toilet seat on them? Well, you see, Ollie’s not real good at aiming, and with him sitting on the potty facing forward, that missing section of toilet seat was *just enough* of a gap, that when he let fly, it came shooting right out of the toilet and onto the floor.

English: photo of toilet seat

(Not the actual scene of the crime)

“Stop, Ollie, stop!” Sara cried, immediately doing the splits to avoid the growing pool on the floor. But stop he did not, and maybe couldn’t, because he obviously had a full bladder.

“What? What Mama? What is going on??” shouted Evie from where she was standing outside of the stall, unable to see what all the shouting was about. Slowly the urine pool turned into a urine lake. Once he was finally on empty, Sara had to deal with a freaked out Evie, mop up the mess on the floor, and then discover that Oliver had also gone all over the back of his pants. She was not having what you would call a good day.

Meanwhile, I had returned some clothes and was waiting obliviously out in the hallway, wondering what was taking them so long.

It was time to beat a hasty retreat from the mall. We had promised the kids that they could play in the little play area after they went to the potty, but we had to back out on that promise as I tried to hold a pee-soaked Oliver out away from my body and retreated in a half-walk, half-run to the car. Evie was not very appreciative of our dilemma, and was demanding to play (after all, *her* pants weren’t soaked in urine).

Afterwards, Oliver sheepishly confided in Sara, “You said stop, but I didn’t stop.”

“Look at my bottom!”

Since we last spoke about Oliver’s potty training 3 months ago, things have been going very well.

He really never puts up a fuss about going to the potty, and he hasn’t had an accident in I don’t know how long. It doesn’t even occur to me to bring a change of clothes when we leave the house anymore. The only slight hitch is that he always makes us take him to the potty downstairs, but that is manageable I suppose. At least he always goes.

He can sometimes wear underpants for his nap, but it is very unpredictable.  He can go for hours without going, so he aught to be able to last through his nap, but even if you have him go right before he goes to bed, he sometimes still goes. If you think he will, he won’t, but if you don’t think he will, he will.

However, the one nut we haven’t been able to crack is poo poo. He *always* goes in his diaper at night (or at least first thing in the morning). It has been very difficult to convince him to go in the potty. He has gone several times in the potty, but it hasn’t quite translated into any sort of desire to go with regularity. Even M&M’s and a prize bucket hasn’t helped.

However, lately he has started to notice when he has to go, by suddenly announcing, “Look at my bottom!”. And I have to admit that, even though I know this is what he always says, it still makes me nervous. I always have to look at his bottom. When you get such a pronouncement (or sometimes just an emphatic “I do not have to go poo poo!” out of nowhere), you grab him and run. And then he goes, just like that.

Of course, he still goes in his diaper at night anyway, but hey, it’s going in the right direction, right?

4 simple steps to successfully potty training your child

Well, it’s that time folks: potty training time.

Oliver had shown some vague interest in the potty some time ago, but we hadn’t really forced the issue. “When we get back from vacation,” we said, “we’ll really give it the ole college try.” (We didn’t actually say, “the ole college try”. Who talks like that?) (I do, that’s who, but in this case, I didn’t really say it.) (Okay, I actually said, “the full court press“, which isn’t much better)

The game of potty training goes like this:

  • Step 1 – Get him to go on the potty at all costs. Pull out all the stops and do whatever it takes. This means as much bribery as you are physically able to manage.
  • Step 2 – Overpraise and make as big of a deal as you can when he goes in the potty, even if it is by accident, so that he thinks he is exercising power over you by making you act like a fool at his whim. Also, the bribing.
  • Step 3 – Somehow continue to drag out step 2 as long as possible by any means necessarily. This is the tricky part, because eventually, no matter how many bribes you give and how much you act like a fool, he will eventually grow tired of this “putting pee pee in the potty” game.
  • Step 4 – If you manage to drag step 3 out long enough, you’ve now tricked him into going potty enough times that it is becoming a habit. Going to the potty is just what one does. You’re over the hump now and, even though there will be minor setbacks and accidents, you have successfully broken your child’s will and ground his resistance into dust. Congratulations!

It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? It’s not. Here’s the thing: you’re walking a very fine line. Around this time*, your child is looking for any reason to defy you. If they catch a whiff of the fact that this is not just a fun game you’re playing, and they actually wield immense power over you with the ability to crush your parenting hopes and dreams, they will use that power against you without a moment’s hesitation. This means no forcing. It always has to remain fun (for the kid, it will probably not be as much fun for you, and sometimes you’ll have to smile one of those I-swear-I’m-smiling-not-baring-my-teeth smiles). No shouting, no shaming, no holding down on the potty. You must outsmart your adversary, not use force.

*Side note, the sooner you potty train, the better. It might seem like it is easier to put it off until later, when your kid can better understand what’s going on, and you can reason with them. This is a fallacy. In reality, each day that goes by your child is going to be more willful and better able to defy you (both physically and mentally, as they better learn how to push your buttons). Best case scenario, you slide in right before the terrible twos hit. And for you parents with two year olds? Believe me, three is even worse. So unless you’re planning on waiting until they’re ten, you might as well start as soon as you think you can, before it gets any worse.

Okay, so enough with the philosophy, let’s get down to specifics. This is how it went with Oliver:

As with Evie, M&Ms were the perfect bribe. I swear kids will do anything for those little colored crack candies. We called them “pee pee chocolates” and he could have one if and only if he put his pee pees in the potty. He was really resisting going on the potty, and it seemed like a hopeless cause until the very first time he got a pee pee chocolate. Literally one time and he was hooked. In this case, we always gave Evie a pee pee chocolate as well, to avoid jealousy. Oliver didn’t seem to mind at all, he always made sure to get her, so she wouldn’t miss out. No one else is aloud to touch the pee pee chocolates, sometimes not even me.

Ollie: “Mama is in charge of the pee-pee chocolates.”

We did the usual overpraising, clapping and dancing, along with “hip-hip-hoorays” (in which I toss him up in the air and catch him three times), and singing the song we made up for Evie when she was potty training, which he loves. (“Pee pees in the potty, Ollie listened to his body!” congo-line style) He also enjoyed wearing his “big boy underwear” (or “big boy panties” as they get called as often as not in our house…this is what happens when you have an older sister).

Then came the hard part, where you need to come up with a constant stream of new ideas to keep him interested. The whole, “Nala wants to see you go pee pee” wore out very quickly. It just goes to show you, what motivates one child, doesn’t necessarily motivate another.

No, instead, what worked the best for him was to say, “wouldn’t it be so funny if…”. He was really into the phrase at the time, so I came up with the idea of co-opting it for our purposes. “Wouldn’t it be so funny if you put your pee pees in the potty?” “Wouldn’t it be so funny if you went pee pee on the potty in the kitchen?” “Wouldn’t it be so funny if you went pee pee on the white potty?” It was a stroke of genius, and it worked like a charm. Hey, whatever works. This is what got us started, and worked for quite some time.

Eventually, everything stopped being so funny and this technique finally stopped working. After a moment of panic, where he didn’t want to go and we didn’t have anything motivational, we came up with another brilliant idea: “Wouldn’t it be soo funny to go pee pee on some toilet paper”? Why yes, apparently it would. Ollie loves to “get it wet” as he terms it. Just put a piece of toilet paper in the potty and he’ll sit right down and go on it. I had eventually planned to turn this into a whole host of things it would be so funny to go pee pee on (the only other one I could think of was a Cheerio, but there must be other things I could think of if I had to), but it turns out they weren’t needed (Actually, the first time this technique was successful, it involved going pee pee on a handful of sand in the potty. It was so funny.). Even now, this is the best motivational tactic we have. Oliver usually rips off the toilet paper and puts it in the potty himself, before going.

I think we have now moved into the final stage, because he now no longer even questions sitting on the potty. When we say it’s time to go, he goes.

It should be noted that a kid this age is not going to fully get everything at once. The first step is to teach him what to do with a potty. We still have to put him on the potty every hour to avoid accidents. If he has to go, he just goes. He doesn’t understand about holding it, not even with wearing big boy underwear and getting a dried cherry if he keeps them dry. However, now that we’ve accomplished step 1, it’s pretty clear that he’s starting to get the other parts too, even without us telling him. Several times now he’s told us that he had to go before he went. Yesterday, he went all day with no accidents, and even went poo poo in the potty for the first time. He’s also kept his diaper dry for his nap several times. So he’s certainly getting it.

One final thing, I had mused about the commonly held wisdom that boys are harder to potty train than girls. I think I can say that we did not find that to be true. At the beginning it seemed that way, since Evie had been interested in the potty before potty training and Oliver had not. However, Evie was potty trained by about 22 months, and Oliver will be by about 24 months. In other words, it is within the margin of error. Oliver looks like he will take a little bit longer to be completely trained, but it was MUCH less stressful than with Evie (though I think this is mostly due to us being much better at it the second time around, and keeping it fun). Also, it’s quite possible he could have gone two months earlier if he had been wearing cloth diapers and we hadn’t had to schedule it around our vacation.

So that’s it. KEEP IT FUN and you too can successfully enjoy leaving the house with half as much stuff and constantly begging to use the bathroom in strange places!