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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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Potty training

Introducing Doggy Doo-Doo

So as it turns out, we’re still suffering the consequences of Arddun’s squeamishness with the potty, and we’re still nowhere near getting her out of diapers. But she’s perfectly happy reading all about it, so today I thought I’d borrow a leaf from our potty-training story book and start role-playing the process.

I don’t expect you to have read the book or any number of potty-training philosophies or techniques, so here’s how it goes.

  • You find a suitable teddy.
  • You role-play the whole potty process using said teddy.
  • Child miraculously understands how using the potty pertains to her, and voila. Diaper free days!

In our case, I decided to use a stuffed toy Arddun had never met before. Rummaged around for a candidate, which turned out to be a dog. Granted – dogs don’t usually park themselves on a child’s potty to relieve themselves, but neither do bears for that matter. So Doggy Doo-Doo had to do.

I made the entire concert as entertaining and positive as possible,

“Oh look, Arddun! It’s a potty! She needs to go to the potty! Okay, let’s have a sit… doo-dee-doo-dee-doo…”

After a suitable waiting time and some ad hoc elevator music, Doggy Doo-Doo stands up and peers into the (empty) potty.

“Oh LOOK, Arddun! It’s a POO! Yay! Well done! Good job, Doggy! What a great effort, Doggy Doo-Doo! WHOOO! Now… we take a bit of toilet paper…” (I let Arddun tear a piece. She tears 3 long strips straight after that, so it’s obviously a huge job.) “Oh-kay enough toilet paper. Alright, let’s give Doggy a wipe… All done! Now throw the paper into the big toilet, aaaand… FLUSH TOGETHER! Yaaaay!”

We do this twice, Doggy Doo-Doo and I. We make a huge fuss over the imaginary turd, and what a triumph it was. We emphasise that toilet paper-tearing is a privilege reserved purely for potty users, and that flushing the toilet after is extra special.

And then Arddun starts making gestures that she wants to give it a go.

So I watch as Arddun seats Doggy Doo-Doo on the potty. Very cute.

Two seconds later, she flings Doggy off the seat, sticks her face into the potty to peer at the imaginary turd, and yells “OH NO A MESS!”

Obviously my rendition was NOT how she remembered things.

Back to the drawing board?

Arddun role-playing potty-training with Doggy Doo-Doo
Found ten minutes later: Arddun reading to Doggy while the latter’s “on the can”.

Taking the pee

So this one’s about potty training. If you’ve been there, done that, or aren’t fazed by words such as “poo”, “pee” and location thereof, proceed. Otherwise, you might want to stop right here and run away some place where you can have a mindscrape from the images I’ve just conjured. I’m just sayin’.

The main character in all this, of course, is our daughter Arddun. I haven’t written much about what she’s like lately, so here’s a quick summary.

She’s talking now. Sometimes, she even speaks English. Her “thank-yous” are now automatic, though not so much her “pleases”, and she greets you with Good Morning even after her 1 o’clock nap. When you ask her a question she understands, she says “Yes” or “No” with the biggest grin on her face – because you asked her a question she understands.

Her hair has grown even lighter in colour, and has gone past her shoulders. Sometimes, I catch her stopping in mid stride to flick her hair back with both hands. She loves cars, trains, and pretend tea parties. She puts on her own shoes now, but still can’t tell left from right. She tosses them off as soon as we get into the car, like a bogan. She tries to wear her own shirts, so sometimes she flaps around the house with two singlets up one arm.

We’ve given up on hair clips, so her fringe is now tied in a pony tail to the side and looks like a wonky whale spout. She’s teething at the moment, so her chatter and laughs are punctuated by screams of pain. Her latest thing is to laugh like Ernie. I have no idea if that’s a Sesame Street influence but in case you need a revision on your Sesame Street characters, his laugh sounds like this:

Now, it wasn’t too long ago that I had bragged about Arddun depositing correctly and voluntarily into her potty. Big mistake. HUGE. Because it was the start of the end. I don’t think Arddun had ever quite understood what it was we were trying to get her to accomplish in her special white plastic reading chair until that day. I also don’t think she ever quite understood what her pee and poo actually looked like.

She’s not having any of that anymore.

The biggest giveaway was straight after she had made those deposits, and when she turned around to regard what had transpired. “Oh nooo…” she breathed. “Oh dear. Oh no…” she kept saying, and then reached for toilet paper and started wanting to wipe it all up. All this, despite me ecstatically praising her to the skies. The same thing happened the next day. And then on day 3…

Nothing. Refused to even go near the potty. She would peer into it once or twice and go, “Oh dear!” and then scurry out the room. I went out and bought a new potty to start afresh. Nothing. Got her the toddler toilet seat to place on the full-sized toilet. Wouldn’t go near it. Each attempt to get her to sit on it – even fully clothed – would result in her arching her back, with lips tightly pressed into a determined line.

It was messy. She didn’t like the entire process. It was distasteful.

I’d decided to give this a break and start afresh when we got back from Melbourne. Two weeks ought to do it, I thought.

We started again today. Got her kit off, asked her to sit on the potty to read her books. She peered into it, remembered what it was for, and started arching her back.

“Come on,” I urged her. “Just sit and read a book. Look! Spot! Where’s Spot?”

She makes a break for it, and dashes out of the toilet as fast as her chubby-but-athletic toddler legs can carry her. (Read: About 9.5km/h, I’m convinced.) I sigh in resignation, start to restack the books, stand up, leave the cubicle… only to find she had tinkled on the floor beside her new table and chairs.

Five seconds. That was all it took.

So here I am grumbling and wiping up while pointing to her mess and going, “See this? THIS was supposed to go into the potty! Not out here! POT-TY!” and Arddun starts stroking my head.

“Sowwy!” she says. Pat-pat. “Sowwy!” And then she throws her arms around my neck and gives me two firm kisses, before swinging my face around to look into my eyes.

I school my face to look every bit as annoyed as I’d been, but the act is starting to fray at the edges.

She laughs like Ernie and runs off.

Arddun 1, Mummy wiping pee.

2 anniversaries in 1

Happy Wedding Anniversary to Us! It’s been eight years, after a quick check at what year I’m in, and actually counting on my fingers. We didn’t celebrate officially today, because we thought we’d lump it together with our upcoming long weekend that starts this Thursday and goes on until 2 January.

The best long weekend, ever.

So yes, it’s been pretty low key. Arddun and I did normal things. We had breakfast. We built towers with wooden blocks that Arddun delighted in destroying. We read lots of books. I cooked and cleaned and prepared for a work meeting. Arddun drew pictures on the floor while lying on her front and singing a smooshed version of Baa Baa Back Shee and A-B-C-D, with some occasional jazz tangent I don’t hope to understand.

Arddun lying on floor and drawing with crayons on mat.
If she could whistle, I believe she would have.

The highlight of the day… well, there were 2.

Or rather, 2 dozen:

Roses from Roses Only
Surprise! A beautifully wrapped bouquet of 2 dozen long-stemmed roses.

Also, Arddun made 2 really successful voluntary deposits in the White Seat of Poetry and Prose. It’s tragic, but true: it actually made our day as parents. It was the highlight of my day, after the roses. I am not kidding. I wish I was. Fantastic way to mark her 18th month, I thought.

Even if she did stand up straight after, looked at what she left behind, and with a half-shake of her head, said “Oh no! Oh dear. Oh no.”

Going potty

So I’ve been toying with the idea of potty training Arddun ever since she turned 8 months, when I ran out to Target and bought Arddun an el-cheapo white plastic potty.

Month Eight… that was half her life (thus far) ago. On the one hand, you could be thinking I’m waaaay too eager about the whole toilet-training shindig to contemplate starting back when she’d barely started solids.

You could also realise that I’ve procrastinated for a full 8 months.

As with anything related to parenting, there are several schools of thought out there.

Regarding when to start, you have the infant toilet trainers, who believe that the best way to toilet train is to start from the very beginning, because it’s a very good place to start. It goes by other names (“Elimination Communication”, “Natural Infant Hygiene”…) but basically, you haul that baby’s bum over the toilet during strategic times of the day, and they learn to control their bladders and bowels over time.

On the other end of that spectrum, you have the ready-when-you-are school of thought, who purport that children (usually around 30 months old) are ready to be potty trained when they are able to wake up dry (demonstrating body awareness and self-control), and able to communicate that they need the bathroom. Many in this school of thought also claim it’s self-defeating or psychologically damaging to potty train a child before they display such “ready” signs.

As for method, you have

  • the 3-day boot camp, where the trainer go on a self-imposed house arrest and have the tyke go commando for 72 hours, so the trainer can catch their child in motion (heh heh) until he/she gets the general idea.
  • the take-it-as-it-comes trainers, who take about 6 months to try to catch their child in the act and bring them to potty safety in the hopes that the lightbulb goes off in their brilliant young minds and they start telling you when they need to go
  • the live-demo-by-teddy trainers, who role-play toilet training using the child’s favourite cuddly toy

among many others.

I’ve procrastinated, partly because I’d imagined all sorts of ghastly messes around the house, but mostly because I’ve gotten very used to the convenience of a diaper-clad baby’s bottom. The cost doesn’t really faze me – long gone are the days of 12 a day – and believe it or not, diaper-changing has become yet another lovely time for Arddun and I to bond as we sing songs, play piggy toes, and enjoy lots of zer-burps and tickles.

But most of all, I imagine what it must be like to go out shopping somewhere, and to have to drop everything as soon as my child screws up her face or looks into the distance thoughtfully.

Have you looked at the state some of these toilets are in?

What if there isn’t a parent room nearby?

What if there’s a queue?

What if we’re in a park?

What if I’m driving on the parkway, it’s hailing monkeys outside, we’re 20 minutes from home, and she decides it’s now or never?

*shudder*

So yes. When I first fell pregnant, and toilet-training had felt like an eternity away, I thought I’d aim to have Arddun potty-trained around 18 months. The goal has since been revised to >2 years. I’m sure that as time marches on, I’ll get more and more generous with the time frame, or at least my interpretation of Arddun’s potty success. (“You sat on the potty within 30 seconds! Nevermind that you’d already used your nappy by then, HOO AH!”)

There is also something to be said about peer pressure. “All of you kids were potty trained before you were 2,” claims my mother, and apparently Tony had likewise reached that milestone before Kerri came along. Neither mother is actually saying I’d fail spectacularly if I didn’t train Arddun to take herself to the toilet by her second birthday… but I can’t help thinking I’d rather NOT be the first in n generations on both sides to fail the 24-month deadline, you get what I’m sayin’?

So at first, I read the books. ALL the books I’d been given on potty training (I had bought none of them) claims that the optimal age to start is when the child turns two and a half. The ‘perts also claim you shouldn’t start potty training before the child is two. Since that clearly hadn’t happened in both our families, I threw those books out and hit the internet. And since I clearly missed out on holding my infant child over a grown-up’s toilet and making waterfall noises, I threw that methodology out and thought I’d try the 3-day boot camp.

I lasted 4 hours, during which there were two accidents in amongst the 14,000 heart-stopping seconds where I held my breath and wondered if my brown wool living room rug was going to get irretrievably browner. It was stultifying and boring as heck. I felt I couldn’t do anything except watch Arddun’s backside because the two times I turned around to do kitchen things, she turned into a mobile indoor water feature.

So I sat down and tried to recollect what I’d seen at home, when my mother took care of my young cousins. Timing and consistency were clearly factors. Talked to the mother-in-law, who told me she did the potty thing once a day for weeks until a few coincidences happened. Enough for the child to finally click with the process. No pressure, just make it a matter of course and don’t scare them off through force.

Hmmm, I thought to myself. That could actually work. Once a day. Just get my active, busy little girl to sit on the potty once a day until something happens. It was waaaay better than boot camp. It allowed Arddun and I time to do other things the rest of the day, and best of all – very little mess.

So we started late last week.  Just hanging out on the potty with a stack of books after breakfast. I taught her the sign for potty, although she now says the word as well as signs it. Sometimes, she gets the potty out just so she can practise reversing into it. She thinks it’s a reading chair just for her, which is quite funny. Some days, we bypass the potty because we got there too late. Other days, nothing happens – but we’d read The Very Hungry Caterpillar four times by then, and sung heaps of action songs.

And then this morning, she peed in the potty.

HUGE FUSS! Lots of cheering, big waving in the air and clapping. Lots of YAAAAY! You CLEVER LITTLE GIRL! Lots of STAND-UP! LOOK! SEE WHAT YOU’VE DONE! YAAAAAY! And all that poor girl wanted to do was to sit back down so she could finish her storybook. Yeah yeah yeah, whatever, Mommy. What did the caterpillar eat on Saturday?

And then this evening… she did a poo.

TREMENDOUS WOOTS! Repeat above.

I’m sorry this post is dedicated to the art of getting a child to move the way you’d like her to. But until I had Arddun, I had no idea how ridiculously elated I could feel watching my child take the first step towards leaving nappies behind. It’s huge for me – because it’s a huge step towards her independence and self control.

My girl used a potty today. What a champ!

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