February 18, 2011
By Ekta R. Garg
I have officially surrendered. The decree has been issued, and I have thrown down my white flag.
Potty training for Two has come to a screeching halt.
Okay, so maybe that’s not such a fair assessment, considering potty training really hadn’t gotten off to much of a solid start. Two is in preschool three days a week where they require children in the toddler program to wear Pull-Ups and not diapers. The idea is to use the Pull-Ups and introduce the idea of using the bathroom, and since Four was in the same class (with the same teacher, in fact) as Two is now I know the system does work. Four goes to the bathroom all by herself.
Well, mostly. Occasionally she still needs help getting toilet paper or washing her hands. But for the most part she’s independent in the bathroom.
All that to say that when Four started in school, I decided to let her settle in for a few months before really pushing her to take the bathroom and its duties more seriously. I’ve done the same with Two, but so far she hasn’t taken those duties as seriously as everyone (including Four in a helpful, big-sister kind of way) has taken them.
And I realized this week more than ever that there are several factors playing into Two’s slow progress. Most of you parents can probably relate to what I’m about to say.
The first factor is this: While I do remember the trials and tribulations of potty training Four, now that she actually is trained I don’t spend much time thinking about those trials. Or the tribulations. But if I had to pinpoint a specific time frame, I started really pushing Four in earnest when she herself was two-and-a-half and she was finally fully trained a month shy of her third birthday. All told about five months. So it’s not fair for us adults to expect Two to make dramatic leaps and bounds only two months (and not even a full two months at that) into her own potty training experience.
The second factor: With the presence of an older sibling, it’s hard at times not to expect the younger one to react with the same level of reason or maturity. It’s easy at times to forget Two is…well, two. And being two brings with it a whole set of abnormalities that a parent most probably won’t see at one or three (although there are exceptions to everything, of course.)
Our Two is the epitome of a typical two-year-old: she’s headstrong, insists on doing everything completely by herself (asking for help only as an absolute last resort,) and her emotions turn on a dime. One minute she’s lying on the floor crying and screaming because something hasn’t gone her way, and within seconds she’ll be on her feet laughing and being friendly with everyone. So it’s hard to reason with someone who is two, especially when it’s hard in the first place to remember she is all of 24-some-odd months old.
The third factor: Two’s personality. Aside from it being a trait of someone her age, if she isn’t interested in doing something you could offer Two the moon and the stars—her favorite food, toy, TV show, or anything else, and she has no problem saying she’s not interested. Never mind that at other times she’ll beg and plead for those very things. But if she really does not want to do something—if she’s determined she doesn’t want to cooperate—she won’t. And nothing can change her mind. So the trick, then, is to find a way to make her understand that ultimately potty training benefits her more than anyone else (she has on more than one occasion pointed to full diapers and Pull-ups and said they were “icky.”)
The fourth factor: The patience of her loved ones. The adults in our house are trying our best to keep all of these factors in mind, but it’s incredibly hard when we just want her to get it already! I’ve already said to Two (several times) that she just needs to start using the potty and expected that to be enough of an incentive for her to do so.
Clearly it hasn’t worked yet, or I wouldn’t be writing this in the first place.
Of course we have had some successes, and every time Two does go to the bathroom the “big girl” way we cheer and clap and make a big fuss about it. She’s also excited, proud of herself for doing it and enjoys the attention. But so far we haven’t made the leap from those individual instances to a continuous experience. She’ll get it; I know she will. But she hasn’t yet.
In the end, more than anything, situations like these are a perennial reminder that each of us sees the world in a slightly different way, and that difference of world view starts at a young age. We don’t have to be wizened philosophers who have traveled and lived decades to take a stand. Sometimes it’s something as simple as making the decision to go to the bathroom on our own or letting someone else take care of those particulars for us. In the end, it’s about progressing at our own paces and letting those who love us encourage us through the newest experiences while we decide when we need to play it safe and when we want to take that leap into something different.