A Dad’s Adventures In Potty Training
The latest and, unfortunately, smelliest battleground in our house is potty training. On one side, frayed and broken parents. On the other, a two-foot-tall fortress, aged three years. Actually, it’s not exactly fair to call her a three-year-old, because she’s older. But when facing the scourge of an un-trainable child, you tend to round down age.
The plague of diaper changes, approached by my wife and me with a weary, sad resignation, puzzles me a great deal at this stage. By our objective, unbiased vantage point, our younger daughter is quite precocious and talented. She knows her months, dances with intention, memorizes pop songs, and counts higher than we expect. Rather embarrassingly, she can readily parrot back what we say during unguarded moments, too, usually to teachers or complete strangers, whichever is worse.
But when it comes to the diaper, she has become a mysterious, furtive creature, prone to hoarding. Where she once upon a time would tell us, distressed, that she had a “full” diaper and needed a change, today she is silent, content to continue working on her puzzle.
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I’d like to say she’s just like Einstein, who was famously so deeply immersed in a problem that he refused even a bathroom break. But we’ve well and good passed the moment when this was an acceptable state of being. As a result, the constellation of reactions to the present circumstances range from depressed exasperation, laughter, calm resolution, recriminations, and finally outright defeat. In other words, we have no idea how to react to this state of affairs. Our chief tormentor is our greatest joy.
The world of children is full of real problems, usually visited by terrible adults. Kids struggle with learning disabilities, preventable childhood ailments, incurable diseases, hunger, homelessness, and the like. What’s a little bit of poop in the big scheme of things, right? True! The problems of a stubborn child refusing to use the potty is the stuff of daily life. And yet, petty as I am, the moment my daughter has one of her accidents, memories of so much time lost to dirty diapers makes me hesitant to start the ritual changing.
We’ve tried all the psychological tools we can think of: lavish prizes, draconian punishments, super-lavish prizes, calm pleading, empty threats, “big kid” rewards, high-fives, dance parties. But like a person who hates to camp, our daughter scrupulously holds her bathroom needs all day while in school, until she reaches home where she can relax and become one with her sanitary needs and the cosmos as a whole.
At this point, I am fairly convinced that I’ll be imploring her to give the toilet a try as we travel with her to her first day of university. Remember, in the world of toilet training, the lower your expectations, the closer you are to reality.