Bye, Bye Baby

Posted by mwallach on June 4, 2012 in My Kids |

Dear That’s Life,
Under the heading of “Parenthood,” there are few things funnier than toilet training. That is not to say that there are not other funny things about being parents, as most of my material comes straight from my experience as a mom. All I can tell you, however, is that this time around, it has been pretty funny around here.

Yes: our toddler who transitioned from a crib to a bed a few weeks ago reached a second major milestone as she went from diapers to “big girl underwear.” I am not sure how it works in other families when the youngest child is toilet trained, ridding the family of diapers forever. As part of the celebration, I considered making a big party, having a cake in the shape of a Pampers box and then dramatically cancelling my account with Those plans were nixed, although people have wished me a mazal tov when told about we were finishing that stage in our life. In the interest of sanity, I decided to keep a low profile and just throw out my diaper bag. That was just as liberating as “accidentally” leaving my cell phone at home.

In our humble opinion, there are a few key rules for successful toilet training. The first is to keep your child totally naked for at least a day. So besides all of the usual commotion in our lives, we had a toddler streaking throughout the house. Every time I turned around, there went that little tush. To say that toilet training her was a group effort is an understatement. By the very fact that we all live together, we were all involved.

Everyone of us on a constant state of alert, we had been relentlessly asking her if she needed to go to the bathroom. Any of our other children who were either playing with her, watching TV with her or even getting her a snack were under strict instructions to constantly ask and remind. The fact is that it behooved all of us to keep the accidents down to a minimum. In addition, we were confident she would be the easiest to train. As the youngest of six, she is very mature and incredibly articulate. She also thinks she is much older than she actually is and probably wondered why we had not done this yet. So did we.

Almost as unconsciously as breathing, we continually and unknowingly asked her if she needed to go to the bathroom. “I think we are going to give her a complex,” my husband said. He had a point, I thought. Nevertheless, we persisted, sometimes taking her to the bathroom just to allow her to develop the habit. Shabbat morning as I was preparing lunch, one of my older daughters hurried our toddler into the bathroom. They emerged a couple of minutes later and my little one ran into the kitchen. “Mommy!” she screamed. “I did it!” Filled with enthusiasm, I cheered. “Great!” I exclaimed. “What did you do?” Without missing a beat, she said, “Nothing.” I held back my giggle as she held my stare and walked out of the room.

Another key to toilet training is “house arrest.” There is no leaving the house for an extended amount of time – and I mean longer than it takes to drive around the block – until toilet training is basically complete. Accidents will happen so prepare wisely for your first outing by choosing a safe destination. The last thing you need is to derail the progress by getting stuck in a place where there are no acceptable facilities or where there is an automatic toilet. Nothing freaks out a toddler still learning to use the bathroom like a toilet that flushes on its own. (Frankly, it takes me by surprise, too, but that’s for another column.) Not only is it loud but it is also completely nerve-wracking, especially when the child is not yet done. In addition, kids like the gratification of flushing their own toilet.

Such was the case in Target – our first post-training destination. Immediately after arrival, we hurried to the bathroom. My eldest stayed with her in the stall as she sat on the toilet. Without warning, the automatic flush went off. Instead of playing it cool and assuaging my toddler’s concerns that she was not about to be sucked right into the bowl by the power of that flush, my eldest screamed. As a result, my toddler jumped off the seat and began to wail. As they exited the stall, my eldest looked at me and said, “I think she’s afraid of the automatic toilet.” Completely aware as to what had occurred and totally annoyed, I looked at her and asked, “Now, WHY do you think that is?”

One of the other funny things about toilet training is that the child is fascinated by the images on his/her underwear. That excitement begets a need to check one’s underwear often and show as many people as possible which characters are being worn at that time. A whole bunch of skirt lifting and innocent mooning occurs in an effort to display the underwear and share the milestone. While no harm is intended, it should still be discouraged. That’s another toilet training tenet to live by.

How children do not develop a sense of performance anxiety as a result of toilet training simply boggles my mind. In an effort to monitor, regulate and train, an adult often stands over the child and waits semi-patiently until business has been completed. “Are you done?” asks the adult, peering from above, arms crossed. And while the adult is well-intentioned, there is still that underlying pressure placed on the child to perform on command, except in the case of my daughter. Like many other aspects of our lives, she is in control.

After informing me that she had to go to the bathroom and needed to take care of both bodily functions, we hurried off to the bathroom. She had finished the first and I waited for her to get to the second. “Are you done?” I asked her after waiting a while. She answered that she was, leaving me with an incredulous look on my face “But I thought you had to do more than pee?” I asked incredulously. Looking at me matter-of-factly, she simply responded, “I changed my mind.”

And with that snarky answer, training has officially come to an end and my baby is a teenager.
As Seen in the South Shore Stndard June ’12

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