Thursday, August 21, 2008

Potty Training Tips

Now that I've told you not to potty train your kids too early, let me give you a couple of tips that made all the difference when I potty trained my daughter. They won't work for everybody, but they were the right thing for us.

First of all, don't over-praise. The more you make a big deal about potty-training, the more "power" the child has and at that age they'll use every bit of power they can get. If they know you want them to do something, there's a good chance they won't, just to be contrary.

I did try letting her wear just underwear for a day. That lasted about an hour, until the first accident. She pointed at her puddle on the floor and ordered me, "You clean it, Mama." Um, right.

What actually worked much better was putting her in snug fitting leggings over her panties. When she had an accident the leggings absorbed everything. Then when she told me she needed a change I told her, "Just a minute," and pretended to ignore her for about 5 minutes. She hated the feeling of the cold pants and didn't even want to move. Instead of me making a big deal about it (she loves any attention, even negative), I just told her she needed to wait until I could help her.

Try expressing some doubt in their ability. Kids love to prove us wrong. My trick was to get her stuffed animals talking about it. The bear would tell the bunny, "I don't think Olivia is big enough to sit on the potty." And the bunny would tell the bear, "I think she can get up there, but I'm SURE she can't go pee-pee."

This next trick STILL works for me. She loves to race, so all I have to do is say, "I'm going to go potty FIRST," and then I start running for the bathroom. She practically runs me over trying to get there ahead of me.

And now that I've said all that, I'll just reiterate the best tips: Don't start too early, and take your time. Having a potty trained child isn't any less work for you as a parent, it might even be more. So don't rush it, just follow your child's signals and keep reminding yourself that we all figured it out eventually - your kid will too.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Potty Training Secret

There are a lot of "sure-fire" procedures you can use to potty train your kid. Here are a few of my favorites:

"Feed your child lots of salty foods like pretzels and chips so they will be extra thirsty and drink a lot, and then make them sit on the toilet every 30 minutes. They will experience success and like it, and VOILA."

"Don't let your child wear a diaper, just let them run around au naturale in the house. S/He won't want to make a mess on the floor, they'll just automatically want to go use the toilet. VOILA."

"Don't leave the house for one whole weekend and spend the entire time doing intensive potty training with sticker charts, potty training books and movies, and positive reinforcement. By Monday: VOILA."

Yes, they all make it sound that easy. Like you just have to follow a simple plan for a very short period of time and "TA-DA," you will have leaped the hurdle of potty training in a single bound.

I'm going to let you in on two secrets now.

1 - It's almost never that easy. There will be puddles. There will be pee running down legs into shoes. There will be such horrible, terrible things I am not even going to tell you, but even your imaginations cannot dream up the depths of the grossness.

2 -

Before I get to this second one I want to make sure I have your attention. NO ONE is going to tell you this but me and it will change your whole life for the better. Pay close attention now...

2 - Wait to potty train. Yes, I just said it. WAIT. Stop trying to train your 1.5-year-old. I know you want to brag about your potty-training prodigy, but seriously, just wait.

No one tells you what things are like post-training, so I'm going to share a few of our horror stories:

- Pulling over on the 4-lane freeway to use the portable car potty on the side of the road. The wind from the passing cars sprays the pee all over mom's legs, the car and the child.

- Standing in line at an event bathroom, no one will let us go ahead, while toddler has an accident on the floor.

- Every single dinner being interrupted with, "I have to go potty!" and then assisting on wiping as needed while dinner sits on the table. (And yes, I try to make her go before-hand but, "I don't need to right now!"

- Laundering the carseat over a dozen times thanks to accidents where we're stuck in traffic or no where near a bathroom when she announces (for the first time), "It's about to come out!!!"

- Having to use public restrooms all over the country, pretty much every time we go shopping or out to eat. I have been in so many gross bathrooms.

So now you know the secret. I know when you've got a kid in diapers you just want to reach that holy grail of potty-trainedness. And I know sometimes diapers are gross and inconvenient to change. However, you'll still be wiping that bum for years after you've potty trained the kid. Don't be in such a rush to make yourself a victim of your 2-year-old's every potty whim.

Diapers are tiny little miracles. Appreciate them while you can.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Rosetta Stone

The books assured me I would know my child's cries in their infinite variety. And as a good mother, I would read the eloquence of his tears and ride like an avenging angel to his rescue.

Yeah, well, six months later, I can tell you what the "tired" cry sounds like, because it's so much more keening and desperate and heartbroken than the other cry. Uh huh. "The other cry." As far as I'm concerned he's only got two. I'm desperate for him to learn to talk.

The other cry has tiny variations, but today, staring at this small person who has taken the place of my baby, I had an epiphany. His other cry means just one thing - "I have seen the status quo, and lo, large and powerful life form hovering nearby, verily it sucks monkey testicles. And I say unto you: Cause a change to occur."

Seriously. Besides "tired," what else is there? He's hungry, he wants someone to make it so he's not hungry. He's bored, he wants someone to entertain him. He's overwhelmed by the noise of the Stargate episode we're watching, he wants it turned off. He's tired of the bouncy seat, he wants to be moved to the toy car. He's squishy in the pants region, and he wants to be cleaned off and dried. Whatever "it" is, it's something he wants changed and he lacks the power to change it.

This is why half the time, it doesn't matter what he actually wanted, being picked up and bounced makes the crying stop. It's change, and that's all he really wants. I feel like I understand him a little better.

I still can't wait until he learns to talk and blows my theories to bits, though.

The First Day

The first day of middle school was yesterday.

I suppose I'm okay.

It started out fine, with me just waking up like normal.

Then I looked in the mirror and realized, are those lines, ETCHED in my face, my lines? Is that my skin? My FACE?

Then I went and grabbed some coffee, pretending it was bad lighting.
Drama Girl was already up and dressed. It was the FIRST day of MIDDLE SCHOOL after all.
She'd been nervous all weekend.

I packed her lunch, answered questions about the vague memories of middle school I have, and made sure she had everything she needed.

Then we drove to school. We live in one of those places where it's more than a mile and a half to walk, there's no bus service, and while it's probably fine to walk, if you want your kid to actually get to school on time, you need to drive them.

So I drove and entered the 'kid drop off lane.' I hadn't bothered with make-up, I mean, it's not like I was getting out, and figured it'd just be a quick drop-off, go home, have more coffee kinda thing. This school's drop-off lane extends out onto the main road and works pretty much like the pick-up/drop-off lanes at the airport, only there's only one lane, and inside every vehicle is the same picture: parent driving, child in passenger seat.

It dawned on me, as I waited in line for my turn to drop Drama off, that I had a daughter in middle school. I remembered a scene from Buffy, where Buffy's mom is dropping Buffy off at school to have her day, her life... and it hit me... I'm not Buffy. I can never be Buffy now, either.

Not only am I not Buffy...
I'm Buffy's mom.
Those etched lines in my face. The skin that doesn't look dewy or glowy without product. The fact I have a middle-school daughter. My complete indifference to my morning wardrobe.

Buffy's Mom.

While Buffy was out slaying vampires and having all sorts of experiences in life, her mom was driving her around. She was the chauffeur who showed up at the most inconvenient times. The one who grounded her from life, lectured her on morals, punished her for breaking rules...dressed in fairly frumpy clothes.

Not only am I Buffy's Mom, I can't even PRETEND to be Buffy anymore, because, sitting in that car lane, letting my Middle School daughter out to have her experiences, I realized, I'm her limits, I'm her structure and order, her place to go when the world is too much, when the middle school students turn into zombies and vampires that are out for her blood and want to eat her brains, I'm the one she runs to, not to fight them, that's her job, but to hide from them for a while, and to make annoyingly healthy snacks. And if I dress too clever, or too fashionably, and I'm too cool, well, that's not okay, not that it's ever happened.

And not only am I Buffy's Mom, but even Buffy, well, how many middle schoolers know Buffy?
I'm old too!

I think, if perhaps I had just worn make up this morning and jeans, to drop my kid off, instead of 'ahem' loungewear, I'd have not had quite a severe reaction. If perhaps I had gotten up, thrown on some product of some sort, felt a bit spiffier this morning, than I would have been fine.

But, looking at all those spiffily dressed kids, with their long hair and 'pretending to be grown up' 'tudes, well, it had an effect. And as I dropped my kid off, she melded into that group, and I knew, that at that moment, when she melded, I disappeared into that black hole where all kids imagine their parents go during the day.... since parents, and Moms especially, don't actually exist once the child leaves their presence.