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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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toilet training

So, how was your day?

So we’ve been waiting all morning for the delivery guy to come with our 10 moving boxes from Singapore. He’s an hour late now, and it’s not his fault – a customer before me had insisted that this one lone driver not only deliver her bed, but also ASSEMBLE the darn thing.

And so he’s late.

The kitchen trash bin isn’t full but is at risk of stinking (banana peels will do that to anything), so I unlock the back door and step out. We don’t have a rubbish chute because we live in a townhouse. We have a private courtyard between the house proper and our garage at the back, and off to the side, we have a yellow bin for recycling, and a green bin for all other trash.

So I take my kitchen bin out the back, when it seems all of nature suddenly perks up looking real guilty. Two Common Mynas look up in mid diarrhea from my clothes line, while Yet Another mangy neighbour’s cat shoots straight out from our hedgerow to freedom beyond our squeaky back gate. I am actually a lot more annoyed about the cat, and wonder if it’s time for another visit to the RSPCA.

All this takes about 20 seconds, perhaps. I walk back to my door. And realise that it’s closed.

She did not…

I squeeze the bottom round doorknob, turn, and push. Yes. Yes she did.

My toddler had closed the door behind me and flipped up the deadlock. And then promptly gone back to our couch to watch ABC for Kids.

There are many, many thoughts running through my head at this point, chief of which are “I am going to KILL her!” followed closely by “PLEASE DON’T TOUCH THE STOVE!” and then a distant “She’s not a teenager yet. You don’t have to kill her.”

Meanwhile, I am thanking GOD that I had built in a contingency.

Parents out there, listen up. One thing I’ve learnt repeatedly from friends with kids is that Children with Locks/Keys is just a combination begging for a crisis. No matter how careful you think you are, they will find a way to make you completely regret having introduced Mr Jangly Keys to them. The first time that Tony let Arddun play with his keys? Nothing happened. Having successfully lulled her daddy into a false sense of security, Arddun then proceeded on her second outing with Tony’s set of keys to make them disappear into the ether. They were eventually found in a boot on the shoe rack nobody uses because it has too many shoes nobody wears.

Caution, my friends.

After once walking out of the house with nappy bag, pram and baby in tow but no Mummy Handbag, I’d built in a contingency to retrieve keys to my house quickly. This is the first time I’ve actually had to fall back on my emergency keys. So even though I know exactly where each key is, I’m digging around frantically trying to find each one, and praying that nothing else freaky and unexpected has happened like the birds making off with them or me having a false memory of the old hiding places when in fact,  I had actually moved the keys again but forgotten their new hiding places, and…

GOT’EM!

I get into the house and Arddun is so alarmed by the way I’m looking at her – this awful combination of relief, fear, crazy mommy anger resulting from combination of relief and fear – that she starts crying and running to the front door to let the complete stranger in (because hey, someone is such a pro with deadlocks nowadays…), and to score sympathy points. For at the front of the house stands my patient delivery man with my 10 boxes, and I have only gotten into my house just at the nick of time before he thinks to disappear.

So that was my afternoon.

Nothing much happened in the evening. Oh wait. Except for the time we went out to the grocery store and I ducked into the disabled toilet cubicle/nappy change room because it was the only one big enough to put some distance between Arddun and I while I… powdered my nose. Which means the entire time, she’s standing there in her corner cheering, “Very GOOD, Mummy! Well DO~ONE! You (something unintelligible) BEEG GIRL! Toilet paper? Mummy flush?”

She was pretty loud.

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”.

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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