This past weekend, Bella finally started using the potty chair on her own, without being prompted. I wouldn’t technically call her “potty trained” yet, since this arrangement requires her to spend the entire day wearing nothing from the waist down, but it’s a step up from wearing diapers, and a biiiiiiiiiig step up from pissing and shitting on the floor several times a day. Yesterday, she didn’t have a single accident; if she had to go, she stopped what she was doing, ran to the potty, and did her business.
Not that I can take any credit at all for her sudden progress. I have two small children living in my house who use the toilet, and I have no idea at all how it happened. It certainly wasn’t through any kind of awesome training or teaching methods I employed. I mean, how do you explain to someone who’s used to freely peeing whenever they get the urge that now, all of a sudden, they need to wait and do it only in one geographical location? And how do you describe what it feels like to “need” to pee or poop? It’s like trying to explain to someone how to cough or sneeze. There’s a definite sensation you feel before you do it, but trying to articulate that sensation using two- to three-word sentences that a toddler could understand? I don’t know.
This is typically how I’ve gone about potty training my kids:
Step One: Get out the potty chair and show it to them.
Step Two: Sit the kid on the potty sans diaper.
Step Three: Launch into a long-winded explanation of going pee-pee on the potty, where the pee-pee comes from, people they know that go pee-pee on the potty, how cool panties are, how great it is to keep panties dry, blah blah blah blah blah…
Step Four: Realizing that the blank look on the kid’s face means they don’t know what pee-pee actually is, don’t understand when they should be sitting on this dumb chair, and what the big fucking problem is with just continuing to wear diapers.
Step Five: Wait 6-12 months for the kid to just figure things out themselves, with sporadic weekends thrown in where I decide that this weekend, THIS is the weekend that I successfully convince this kid that it’s time to be potty trained while I chase them around the house constantly asking, “DO YOU HAVE TO GO PEE-PEE?” in that loud voice you accidentally use with someone who doesn’t speak English well, while the kid pisses all over your living room rug anyways.
Since I have failed to find anyone that endorses this method of potty training, I’m pretty sure that means I know exactly jack shit about convincing children that they should join the rest of the Western world and use the toilet. I also feel like my inability to figure out how to explain toileting to a small child only proves how brilliant my children actually are. At about 2 1/2 years old, Phaedra just decided one day that she was going to be potty trained. I asked her one morning, “Would you like to wear diapers, or panties?” She said, “Panties!” and that was it. An occasional accident, but from that day on she was basically done with diapers. No need to explain anything else, Mom; I’ve got this covered. Carry on with your super-important Facebook checking, I’ve got this potty situation under control.
Bella, however, was an entirely different nut to crack. Whereas Phaedra is, at heart, a pleaser, Bellatrix is not. About 75% of the time, she could give a shit about what you want her to do, if it goes against her agenda. She’s also very much a creature of habit, and oftentimes must be dragged kicking and screaming (literally) into accepting new routines and ideas. For example (this isn’t fun to admit), Bella didn’t give up nighttime nursing until she was about 23 months old. The only reason she did give it up was because I was pregnant and becoming so hormonally angry about the never-ending nursing habit that I had to put a stop to it. Consequences? She cried herself to sleep and awoke hysterically crying every two hours during the night, all night, FOR TWO MONTHS.
So no, Bella’s not really into change.
When I talked to people about Bella’s decided lack of enthusiasm regarding potty training, they would say something like, “Don’t worry. She’ll get it; everyone does, eventually.” Which yeah, no one goes to high school wearing diapers, but for awhile, I was worried at least about preschool and possibly kindergarten. While I could force Bella to stop nursing, I couldn’t force her to do this. This had to be completely of her own free will. I also made the comment to my husband several times that talking to Bella about potty training felt like talking to a brick wall. At best, she gave you a smirk and a smile; more often, she would recite the latest Wow Wow Wubbzy episode dialogue as you tried to talk to her, or she would just flat out walk away. Good talk, Bella.
Also, to be fair to Bella, it’s not that easy to devote the insane amount of individual attention required for potty training when you’re also carrying around an infant and catering to a four year old’s juice and TV show demands. As the middle child, Bella has the distinct disadvantage of having to compete with two other knuckleheads just to get her parents’ attention about learning how to do some basic shit like go to the bathroom. Phaedra just had Bella around when she was learning, but she was a baby like Surrey is now, and was just along for the ride. Surrey won’t have to compete with a newborn; Phaedra and Bella won’t need half as much attention from me as they do now, and probably will get much more attention than her older sisters ever got.
But, as it so often turns out, I once again underestimated Bella. It’s hard to remember, but the scariest thing about parenting is that often our kids are listening much more often and deeply than we think. What I probably took for the bored look of someone not paying attention was Bella focusing on my words and analyzing what they mean. Just because she walked away doesn’t mean she wasn’t turning my words over and over in her head. At the exact moment where you begin doing price research on adult-sized diapers is when they’re finally ready to put all that behind-the-scenes thinking into practice. I’ll probably end up taking this wisdom, passing it out to every other parent that I talk to in the next two years about potty training their own child, and then throw it all out the fucking window when its time for Surrey to ride the plastic throne. Because that’s how I roll, son!