It’s funny just how much of early parenting centers around what’s coming out of your offspring’s butt. You worry when there’s not enough output. You worry when there’s too much (as in diaper leaks and blowouts). You worry when it changes colors. You worry when it smells too strongly. You talk about it with your partner. You talk about it with your child’s doctor. You mention it to just about anyone and everyone, without even thinking about whether they are the slightest bit interested. Aside from the quality and quantity of your child’s sleep, no other aspect of your child’s physical activity is more hawkishly observed – or more time consuming – than pee and poop.
I am secretly hoping that the activities of the last few days are signalling the end of Diaperdom and our family’s fetish with excrement, however, at least where DD1 is concerned. She has had her very own potty for a year and a half now, and has even sat on it a number of times. We then got her a smaller seat that sits on top of the family throne, thinking she might like to use the “real” potty. But she has resisted our efforts to get her to actually use any potty. Never mind that DD1 has memorized both the Princess and the Potty and the Potty Book (for Girls), and forget about the beautiful “special underwear” we picked out together. She just doesn’t want to give up the diapers yet.
I have tried very hard not to make the bathroom process into an “issue” with DD. I have tried to follow her lead, letting her give up the diapers when she was ready for them. I have also tried to gently guide her towards a diaper-free existence. But she’s now three, and showing no sign of interest (and, in fact, quite a bit of resistance- crying when DH insisted she sit on her potty for a bit). How to make it “her idea” to use the toilet, when she didn’t even want to sit on the potty? I didn’t want to resort to bribes like another parent friend had done (I’ll give you this candy if you go on the potty). DD didn’t seem motivated by the sticker charts other parents had used. A friend suggested rewards, but I refuse to give sweets for something she ought to do anyway. We’ve gently pushed our un-diaper agenda with no real result, and quite frankly, I was totally at a loss how to proceed.
Enter the fairy godmother.
One morning, changing DD1’s diaper and getting some resistance from her about it, I snapped at her. “We wouldn’t be changing your diaper if you would just use the potty,” I said, peevishly. Of course, I instantly regretted the words. She frowned up at me, but- bless the emotional resistance of toddlers- she just changed the subject instead.
“I want to watch Cinnn-derella,” she said.
I don’t let my children watch a lot of video or tv, so my first impulse was to just say no. But then, the thought occurred to me: maybe this is my potty bargaining chip! But, how to use it to the greatest effect? She had seen the video – a birthday present from a friend – a handful of times, and loved it. I didn’t want it to be a bribe. I also didn’t want to punish her for not using the potty. Maybe I should say yes while saying no.
“Oh, honey,” I said, sweetly, my inner evil-stepmother rising up. “Watching Cinderella is for big girls. Big girls who use the potty can watch shows on the big TV. ” She eyed me suspiciously, but I forged ahead. “When you are ready to use the potty, you just let me know, and then I’ll know you are a big girl and can watch Cinderella downstairs by yourself. Right now, I can’t take you down there to watch it, so you’ll have to stay upstairs with me.”
I inwardly crossed my fingers and hoped this would spark some sort of interest. Then I closed up the velcro diaper cover and helped DD down from the changing counter. Giving her a peck on the head, I shooed her off to play. “Let me know when you’re ready to sit on the potty,” I called after her.
Later that afternoon, she repeated her request for Cinderella time. I repeated my Potty = Big Girl = Cinderella correllation. DH was all on board, in case she tried asking him to put her video on. We went the whole day with no potty, and no Cinderella.
The next morning, I pushed a little harder. “Why don’t you go sit on the potty, DD,” I told her, after removing her diaper. “Go sit on the potty while I change your sister.”
“NO!” she screamed. She took off into the living room. “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” I shook my head, laughing with DD2.
Naked DD1 came back into the bathroom a few minutes later. “Mama? I want to watch Cinn-derella.”
I squatted down next to her, giving her a giant hug. “I think that would be fun!” I said. “But, only big girls can sit downstairs by themselves and watch shows, lovey. When you start trying to use the potty, then you can go downstairs and watch the movie. Do you want to try it now?” She squirmed a little, and then nodded. We went into the playroom where our little potty sits. I opened the lid for her, and she sat down. “Try to go,” I encouraged her. “I’ll be right back.”
I went into the kitchen and got my wind-up timer. Coming back into the playroom, I showed it to DD. “Here’s our Potty Timer,” I told her. “This will remind you when it’s time to try the potty again.” I set it for 10 minutes and put it on the dresser. “When the timer rings, you’ll sit on the potty for a bit, okay?” She nodded. This might work, I thought for a brief instant. Not wanting to jinx myself, I quickly brushed the thought aside. I gave DD a hug and went back to the kitchen to make breakfast.
When the timer went off, I went back to the girls’ room to remind DD to sit on the potty. But she was already seated, looking at a book. I smiled at her and gave her the thumbs-up. She sat for a while, and then got bored and wandered away. I reset the timer for five minutes, since she didn’t go. When it went off the second time, she sat right down on the potty again. This was wonderful! We did this for about an hour.
“MAMA!” DD came running into the kitchen. “MAMA! I POOPED IN THE POTTY! I POOPED, AND IT’S BIG!”
We ran back to see the evidence of DD’s Big-Girlness. Indeed, there was a large specimen in the bowl. I hugged her. “I’m so proud of you,” I gushed. “You’re such a big girl!!” We cleaned out the bowl and put Underwear on. “Great job, my love!” She was obviously proud, too. “Now I can watch CINN-derella,” she cheered.
“Of course you can, doll,” I agreed. We gathered up DD2, the potty, and the timer, and headed downstairs.
In the family room, DD1 settled herself on her Cinderella couch and wiggled with anticipation as I set up the video. She held the controller excitedly as the program began. “Clap,” she instructed DD2 when the Disney logo appeared. Both girls clapped and squealed. I put the potty next to their little couch and set the timer for fifteen minutes. “Make sure you sit on the potty when the timer goes off,” I reminded her. She nodded, already enthralled with the movie. I went back upstairs.
Fifteen minutes later, I came down to see DD1 climbing onto her potty, cued by the timer. She was doing great! She made it through the whole remainder of the movie sitting on the pot.
So we still haven’t learned about listening to our body’s cues yet, but at least we are going for stretches at a time without diapers. The more she goes without them, the more she likes the freedom – and the less she likes having to put one on, which is added incentive. She ended up wearing one later in the afternoon, during naps and dinner out, but that’s okay. At least we’ve taken a step in the right direction. This morning, as I write, she’s (reluctantly) sitting on the potty again. But it was definitely easier than yesterday’s start. And DD2 is even interested in the process. She climbed on, fully-clothed, and sat on the closed lid of their potty last night. Maybe I should just teach both of them at the same time.
I wonder if my fairy godmother has enough magic for all that poop…