June 3, 2011
By Ekta R. Garg
Often I feel like my children move ahead of me, and then somehow I manage to figure out the parenting thing three steps behind them. As you readers may remember, my biggest project for Two thus far has been potty training. Or, at least, introducing her to the idea that most people do not in point of fact pee or poop right where they’re standing. They take a moment to go to a separate place in the house and take care of their business. And they wear underwear. And if they go in the bathroom all the time, that underwear can even be cute Tinkerbell/Minnie Mouse/any-animal-under-the-sun-because-Two-loves-animals underwear.
Or so the theory goes on potty training.
In the last six months my vision has focused solely on the issue at hand—Two will be three soon, and she should be potty trained. I’ve tried bribing, singing, raising my voice, leading by example (which always produces giggles from Two when she sees me go to the bathroom,) and any other thing I could think of. We’ve had more conversations than I could count about what it means to be a “big girl,” how her big sister wears underwear and not Pull-Ups, how big girls go to “big-girl school” and little girls who wear Pull-Ups don’t go to big-girl school.
I never try to diminish who Two is as she is right now, but I also want her to see beyond right now. She’s pretty comfy, though, in her current state.
At least, that’s what I thought. And then her preschool teacher left three weeks before the end of the school year. And the week after that I had to go to Salt Lake City to finalize some of the bigger details for our move there. And Two’s potty training went all the way back to Square Zero. In fact we had gone back to the point before even getting on a square.
Occasionally there are times when I’m in the car alone, and I often use those drive times to think. Think about the move, think about the kids, think about my husband, think about my writing. On one particular alone drive, I started thinking about Two and this entire process. And I started thinking about it objectively; as in, I wasn’t tearing up and wondering how I could be such a failure of a mother, and why couldn’t I convey such a seemingly simple thing to my younger child when the older one seemed to get it by this time in her life when she was the same age.
And at that point, all the pieces started to come to me slowly but surely. In the last six months, the staffing at Four and Two’s school has been in a state of constant flux. Four’s class hasn’t experienced such craziness as lead teachers being pulled out to cover other classes while the assistant takes over or vice versa; Two’s class, though, has been a microcosm of changing staff. And the children have felt the stress of it. In a parent-teacher meeting with Two’s new lead teacher earlier this week, the teacher mentioned seeing certain negative behaviors (like biting) cropping up again that she and the former lead teacher had managed to stamp out. And all the children had regressed in potty training, she assured me.
I was of two minds. The first was indignation that the administration could change staff members without a second thought for how it might affect the children. Kids as young as Two and her classmates don’t have the vocabulary to express the stress weighing on them; instead, it comes out in other ways. In the case of my child, that is a literal expression.
I felt bad for the children; imagine being a young child who craves structure and knowing who is going to take care of you or teach you for the day. Instead, you don’t know what the day will hold. For a young child trying to figure the world out for the first time, this is a scary prospect.
On the other hand—and I would be remiss if I didn’t admit this—I was relieved. I even told the teacher about how I felt because for the last six months I’d been questioning myself, and I finally realized I wasn’t a failure. I hadn’t done anything wrong, other than maybe not be as cognizant as I could have of how this kind of situation would affect Two directly.
Today is the girls’ last day of school, and thankfully we’re not going back to that institution. Because it’s privately run and a national system, the curriculum has been wonderful. The kids have gotten a fantastic academic foundation, and they’re absolutely ready for the next step in school. The teachers, too, have been great. The national company running the school requires extra training for all teachers who teach in their schools, and no teacher is allowed to be on the staff without showing evidence of that training. So I’m not worried about the academic part of it.
And the potty training? Well, I’m going to sit down and put together a game plan to help Two. She already knows what it means to use the toilet versus going in her Pull-Ups, so I don’t have to introduce the idea to her. I just have to build on her knowledge with positive reinforcement and making this a fun and challenging experience that she absolutely can conquer. We don’t have much time before leaving town, but I’ve decided to do my very best to give her extra attention before the big moving day.
So it took me six months to get here. At least I finally did. I wonder, though, what the next challenge might be, and what my learning curve will be on that one. I hope it isn’t quite as long in the duration of time as this time around.
Someone said parenting is the hardest job in the world. That was an understatement.