Monday, March 26, 2012

Potty training...or...

     Sometimes our need to control our lives and our surroundings makes things get so out of control that we stop to wonder, was there ever any control there to be had? Most of the time, no. At least that's my own experience with the world, after I had kids, amplify that no times ten. My desire to write this blogacle (blog article, tee hee)  was sparked today after reading a link to a little article off of the Cafe Mom webiste that a friend of mine posted to facebook. You can read the article yourself here: 
   My article is primarily about my son Steven. He just turned four this month, and the only thing consistent about his potty training is that he consistently progresses and then regresses over and over. I have mostly just given up, and let him decide what to do. We just try and make good consequences when he chooses to go in the toilet...or bad consequences when he goes elsewhere. I'd like to say that he is still in diapers, heaven knows that would actually be easier, but he has been out of diapers since he was a little over eighteen months. In fact, I was just looking in his baby memories book the other day and remembered about having to cut the feet out of all his footie pajamas so that we could turn them around backwards, that way he couldn't take them off to get to his poopy diapers. Unfortunately even that didn't stop our little Houdini for long, he figured a way out of the pajamas and got to the diapers anyway, always ending in a "poo-tastrophe". So, we thought maybe he was ready for potty training. Makes sense right? The kid takes off his diaper after it has any poop in it at all and smears it around, so he must want it off his body, and what better place to put it than the toilet!? Uh, wrong. He apparently just really enjoyed smearing poo. We did what lots of parents do, and what we were given plenty of advice to try- worked on introducing him to the toilet by letting him run naked and rewarding him with candies or stickers every time he actually went in the toilet or the training potty. Which worked, kind of. He'd go pee in the toilet quite often (we were pumping him with fluids to try and get lots of positive affirmation in during the day) We tried putting him back in diapers at night, but he'd already gotten the idea in his head that he was a big boy now, so he didn't need them. I just washed lots and lots and LOTS of sheets and pajamas...and carpets, and sofas, and stuffed animals... When we made him wear pull-ups he regressed even further and started to get really destructive with his pooing, smearing it all over windows, toys, furniture, all the clothes in his dresser, down air vents...yes, it is as gross as it sounds. He'd never eat it fortunately, but had no problems whatsoever with touching it. SO, obviously, it was hurting his mental psyche, self worth, or whatever you want to label it that we would dare put him back in diapers or even pull-ups, and since washing some wet sheets was exponentially easier than scrubbing whole rooms, we caved. (Ask me how MY psyche was doing!!)
     After riding this merry-go-round for over a year, he had made some serious progress- he no longer pooped his pants in public, he'd tell you most of the time when he had to go pee in public, mostly I think because he wanted to play in a variety of toilets, and he was no longer wetting the bed at night or nap times as long as you were there the instant his eyes opened to whisk him to the bathroom. As previously mentioned at the beginning of this article, he only consistently progressed as often as he regressed. Every time he was sent to his room for a time out or a mandatory nap, he'd smear poo. Yes, yes I know, this is the part where you say "Ohhh, he's reaching out for control of his own. Give him control of other things and he'd stop that." I really wish it would have been that simple. We read parenting books, and absorbed all the advice we could get. We followed Love and Logic's advice of giving him choices in everything, giving him control over every little thing we could think of. We followed To Train up a child's advice of taking away sugar or some other thing that he loves saying that he needed to quit going potty in his room and we'd give it back. We followed so many other people, and so many other online info sites, and so so many parenting books advice that I think mostly my husband and I wound up dizzy and dazed in the up poop. We even went so far as to take him to the pediatrician when he turned three and was still doing this to see what we could do. She said that he was ADHD and said we might try some trial variations of medication to help him out. Now, I am majorly against medications, but my oldest son who was in the same year also diagnosed ADHD and had struggled so severely in school that he was not able to function publicly was given some brand new medications, not at all like the scary ones that are stereotyped for ADHD, and he was doing beautifully in school and was a new kid altogether. So, we gave the meds a whorl. Oh dear. THAT only lasted a few weeks before we decided that it was the dumbest thing we'd ever tried. He'd go from manically happy to a puddle of tears in five minute spans. Clearly, this was not the medication for this kiddo. Instead of trying other medications as the pediatrician recommended, we decided that whatever we did would be medication free,  since we were trying to potty train, and not teach math or reading to this kid, we just felt that medication couldn't be justified.
    Onward went our journey- Whew! We started relaxing about the whole thing the longer time marched on. We'd just have him help us clean up when he made horrible messes, and then at mealtimes or treat times say 'Sorry, boys that poop in their rooms and smear it don't get ......' fill in the blank with whatever special treat we were having. Don't get me wrong, I'd definitely still have meltdowns of my own. Day seven in a row of scraping poop off walls and furniture happens and it's bed time and you just discovered another pile hidden under the bed ...with your foot...see if you can keep your cool! He'd cry and I'd cry and he'd say he'd try harder tomorrow (to make Mommy not cry I think, not to make it to the toilet) Anyway, by the time he was three and a half he'd made some more major progressions, like not peeing or pooing his pants or people's potted plants when we were out and about for starters, making it to the toilet 98% of the time during the day at home and during nap times. Mostly he was only still peeing in every bleeding thing in his room during the night and ugly hours of the morning. So, life was dramatically better for us- we just had what we called the "pit of doom" (the boys room) to contend with. I think the biggest thing that made this major progression occur was that we discovered we were expecting another baby so we moved Steven into our oldest son Samuel's room to make room for a nursery- and primarily to see if older brother could play watchman to younger brother. This almost completely stopped the room pooping, which was fantastic, since it took excessive sanding, four coats of paint, two boxes of baking soda, three bleach water moppings, and still about three months of sitting empty with just air fresheners hung sporadically to repair the room Steven was previously in. Samuel complains about the peeing, but he's a great big brother that puts up with a lot and he's pretty awesome about telling us all the time when Steven has peed. Their room smells, but I can at least fix it with a good mopping, soaking the toys in baking soda water, and opening up windows on nice sunny days. It sounds crazy that getting to this point is my definition of living the good life, but delve back into the terror years and you would understand.
     Steven now at four years old still has his regressive moments, peeing his seat in the car the other day for instance, pooping in his underpants and then wiping his hind end with his brothers blanket a week ago, and getting caught peeing out the windows down the screens a time or two just to name a few, but overall he is on the path to success. I still don't consider him "potty trained", but I have learned not to be bothered by that. I think when it comes time to potty train baby brothers Griffin and Cohen I am going to be the worlds most chillax mama. Maybe it was Steven's purpose in life to beat me into submission and give up my stubborn controlling urges on the world. Goodness knows I'd be in a mental institute if I hadn't learned to let go! Now the questions are, what about preschool? How long exactly is it going to take this kid to be really and completely potty trained? I don't know the answer to that, but I do know that as long as he keeps trucking along so will I, and I'm no longer concerned about the answers or other peoples' opinions on the matter. Which brings me to my last fiat: leave the poor potty training mamas alone for pete sakes! This is NOT a competition! I'm sure that after reading my page you can say that you've heard of the worst case, and you can find more articles online in bulk telling the tale of the five minute potty training wonders, all of which should tell you that each child is so different and in need of different time spans to complete the same tasks. This doesn't make them dumb or smart, slow or quick, it makes them human. Have lots of good advice? Fantastic, share it when it's asked for- with humility please, just because you were successful doesn't make you wonder mom, it makes your child wonder kiddo. You really weren't in control no matter how badly you'd like to think so. Okay! Soap box is put away now! :)
     Finally- no matter how many miserable moments he's made for me, this little guy is my love, my hero, my little buggin', and every time I look at his face I know he deserves my patience and endurance. Don't you think so?