Warning: The following post contains many potty trip descriptions and an obscene amount of references to “pee” and “poo.”
Last Monday we decided to begin toilet training #4 officially.
I say “officially” because for the last few months we have gently inquired as to whether or not she would like to use the potty. The handful of times she has been so inclined to use said facilities, we have again ‘gently’ encouraged subsequent uses. We marveled at our own patience with this process but also chastised ourselves for not just making the complete switch over to underwear rather than do the safe route and continue to use diapers/pull-ups (which are just fancier diapers with perfectly coiffed princesses parading all over them).
Each child prior to #4 was trained by age 2.5. No one used pull-ups and were all trained within a month. This was normally due to an upcoming preschool/daycare/program start date that required the child to be completely toilet trained. Serious pressure and tons of anxiety accompanied the process.
#4 is a different child. She has flat out refused to wear underwear or partake in any toilet shenanigans. In the morning, she would lie down beside her brother, hold his hand, and they both smiled at me as I changed their diapers one after the other. She was not so keen on giving up this brother-sister bonding time. I would ask her to go pee and she would look me in the face and after a long pause (and a shiver), she would say, “I just did” then smile and go on her merry way. She had no problem having a BM in the toilet but peeing in it was just not her thing.
Enough is enough. Without consulting Ever-Patient, I made the switch. I’m not sure what made me ask her that morning or what made her final accept underwear. It could be that a shuddering statistic flitted across my mind: I have been changing diapers for the last 7 years (and nursing but that’s another post entitled “The Girl Who Missed Wine and the Occasional Shot of Tequila”). It could be that I had the ridiculous thought that if she wasn’t going to be trained now, she’d never be trained and possible have to wear those adult diapers for the rest of her life. It could be that I figured summer was almost over and training is so much easier in the summer that I can’t let this moment slip by when she can just wear summer dresses everyday which would make accident clean-up that much easier. It could be that I just had the mother’s instinct that she was ready. (I’m finding that instinct pops up a lot now with 5 kids). I’m pretty sure she decided to make the big girl switch because we had just bought this underwear from Target in NYC which happened to be covered in hundreds of Little Mermaids.
She went downstairs and announced to her father that she is a “Panty-Girl!” He gave me a look that said, “Really?” To which I shrugged my shoulders as if to say, “We’ll see how this goes.” #4 proceeded to lift up her dress to show her sisters her new underwear with pride. They all complimented her and gave her words of encouragement.
Throughout breakfast, I probably asked her about a million times whether or not she had to pee. She’d roll her eyes and say no each time. I’m already not liking this whole situation. I’m tense. I’m hyper-aware that she may pee any minute as she forgets she’s in underwear. I take her to the washroom about 15 times in the span of an hour hoping she’ll just pee for goodness sake so I can have some peace of mind for another couple of hours. Each time I get her to sit on the toilet, she stares at me and says, “It’s not coming out.” Another hour passes and she still hasn’t pee. Now I’m completely neglecting my other 4 children and hoping Ever-Patient is tending to the rest of them as I hover over #4 asking her again and again if she has to pee. Still no pee after we try to sit on the toilet a few more times. I go to nurse #5 literally 5 minutes after taking #4 to the washroom and I hear, “Mama, I promise to pee in the toilet next time!”
Dear God. I can’t do this.
I’m of course second guessing my ‘amazing intuition’ and tell myself she’s not ready. I fight every anxious bone in my body that wants to run to get a diaper to put back on her. I tell myself this is just one accident and that I should know that this is bound to happen a few times before she gets the hang of it. Ever-Patient cleans her up and she runs to get another underwear. If she’s still up for this, then so am I.
Day 1 ends with a total of 2 accidents and we just won’t talk about the second accident. Day 2 is spent at home again with a couple more accidents. After 2 days, she has been able to go to the toilet and pee with Dad and with #1. Each time I take her, nothing. Total stage fright. I think she can hear the voice in my head begging her, “Please. Please. Just pee. Pleeeeaaaase!” and is so irritated with the subconscious pressure I am placing on her that she is just refusing to do it in front of me.
Day 3 – I’m in the middle of toilet training my toddler AND she is having a couple of accidents a day AND she won’t pee with me. What should we do today? Of course! Let’s go to the zoo where the distances between washrooms span continents (fake zoo continents but still a great distance nonetheless). Just me and the kids. What!? Really? Why do I do this to myself? I pack a change of clothes and #4 sits on a plastic bag in the car and in the umbrella stroller. Now I feel like my mind is going to turn to mush and ooze out of my ear as I am thinking a hundred thoughts a minute: Where is the nearest washroom? When’s the last time she went? When do we stop for snack? How much water should I give her? Do we do the zoomobile later right after her next pee or now? Are all my kids here?
After walking around the zoo for a bit, I take her to the washroom where she pees for the first time with me. I breathe a sigh of relief. That just bought me a couple of worry-free hours (besides the usual headcount every 90 seconds and trying to brace my abs as I carry around an 18 lb baby in a wrap for 5 hours at the zoo). I relaxed a bit and would only ask her about going to the washroom every 15 minutes instead every 5 minutes.
A couple of hours go by and the kids want to go on the zoomobile which is about a 45 minute ride on a tram around the entire zoo. I tell them that we will go after #4 has her next pee. We stop at one washroom on the way to the zoomobile station and she doesn’t go. We stop at another one and she still doesn’t go. We are at the zoomobile station and I am faced with one of those tough parenting decisions: The kids are dying to go on the zoomobile right now but #4 hasn’t peed in 3 hours. If she has the urge to go, I have an extremely small window to get her to a toilet before she bursts. Do we wait by the washroom here at the station until she has to go? Or do we take a chance and hop onto the zoomobile to appease all the kids?
We went with option #1. Going to the zoo on Day 3 of toilet training may lead you to believe that I enjoy talking a walk on the wild side (excuse the corny zoo humour) when in fact I fairly risk averse when it comes to training accidents. Within the span of half an hour, I took her to the washroom 4 times. No pee and the natives were getting restless. Finally, I ask #1 to take her in because this was the scenario each time I took #4 to the washroom:
#4 is on the toilet in a stall in the women’s washroom. I am standing in front of her with #5 in the wrap:
Me begging #4 (and losing some self-respect in the process): “Just try. Please. Come on. You can do it. Please, just try.”
#4: “I don’t have to Mom.”
Me, more begging, and even less self-respect, and a little sweat dripping from my brow: “Please. We’ll just sit here for a little while longer. You can do it! Please, just pee!”
#4 (with her head now in her hands): “Mom, it’s just not working! It’s not, Mom. I don’t know what to do. It won’t work here!”
Me (just realizing I have #5 in front of me who is now touching gross public washroom surfaces and then sucking on his fingers): “Stop touching! Stop! Come on guys, let’s go. We’ll try again in 10 minutes.”
#1 took #4 in and they were out in 2 minutes with #4 running out yelling, “It worked! I did it! I peed in the toilet!!!” The cheers and celebration that ensued between the kids and myself can really only be compared to the reaction of winning the lottery. I can only imagine what people thought as I was close to tears and hugging her tightly, as tight as one could hug with a baby strapped in front. The girls gave her hi-fives and grateful embraces and we all ran to the zoomobile for a ride. Halfway into the zoomobile ride, I start to sweat and panic again. This can’t be happening. I have to pee. Badly. Karma is such a bitch.
At the conclusion of Day 3, I was happy to report to Ever-Patient that there were zero accidents. I felt so confident that we decided to go to Ontario Place on Day 4, again just me and the kids. After the whole zoo pressure cooker-fiasco, I eased up on her and trusted her more. I wasn’t giving her the credit she deserved and decided to let her be aware of her own bodily functions. She had a few false alarms. We would go to the washroom only for her to say, “Pee! Come out! I don’t know why it’s not coming, Mom. I thought it wanted to come out. Maybe not.” At the end of the day, we were happy to report another accident-free day.
As I laid down beside her that night, she said to me, “Mom, are you so proud of me that I peed in the toilet?” I looked at her and I just wanted to hold her tight and say that she doesn’t need to seek my approval and that her alone is enough. I said, “I am proud of you even if you don’t make it to the toilet…but peeing in the toilet is nice.”
It’s been about a week and a half and I now ask hourly if she has to pee. She has been excellent at telling me when she has to go and every time she does she announces to anyone who will listen, “I peed in the toilet!” or “I pooed in toilet!” or “I peed and pooed in the toilet!” She has had only one accident since Day 2 which was with my dad although he tells me that she did indicate she had to go but they couldn’t get to the washroom fast enough. I love how she is learning to pay close attention to her body. For example, she went to pee at my mom’s house and as she peed in the toilet, she marveled, “It even works at Lola’s house!” She loves to choose her underwear and is not interested in being a baby anymore.
4 for 4. 1 to go. I think of all the money we’ll save on diapers now. I think of the ease of taking her to washroom versus changing her toddler-size diaper. But I also think of how they’re all growing up. I think of how the transition to underwear is a major milestone out of babyhood. A graduation of sorts into the school of independence.
My last baby girl is growing up…at least she still likes to fall asleep in my arms.