July 22, 2011
By Ekta R. Garg
I’m living my life in a state of disbelief these days.
After almost a year of cajoling, explaining, scolding, bribing, keeping my mouth shut, and finally accepting the situation (and not necessarily all in that order,) Three has finally been potty trained.
Does my reaction sound anti-climactic? It almost feels that way. For you parents out there who have waited as long as I have (or who are still waiting) for this result, you understand that feeling of not quite believing that the goal you’ve kept in your sights for so long is finally in your grasp. You keep waiting for the ball to drop or, more accurately, for an accident to happen (yes, I understand the physical implications of that metaphor; forgive me, readers. :>)
How did it happen? How did we finally manage to potty train Three?
It’s very simple: I have no idea.
It has now been 10 days since the beginning of The Experiment. On Wednesday of last week, Three asked for underwear. Real, big-girl underwear. She’d been asking for a few days, and we’d given them to her a few times before with accidental results. Inevitably Three would forget she was wearing them and have a pee-pee accident.
So last Wednesday when she asked first thing in the morning for the underwear again, I hesitated for a beat and then decided to play along. I figured that if she was asking for them with such regularity, she probably wanted to give this an honest-to-goodness try. I displayed her choices before her: Minnie and Daisy, the Disney Princesses, or Rapunzel from Disney’s Tangled. She chose Tangled with glee, put them on, and we proceeded with the rest of the morning routine.
She’s been in underwear during the daytime ever since. She’s only had one pee accident in the last 10 days, and she’s even napped two or three times in her underwear without incident. Hey, don’ t look now, Mom, but I might actually be getting the hang of this.
We’ve continued to keep her in Pull-Ups during the night, but I’m starting to get the feeling she might be ready to go overnight in underwear too. Just a hunch, but we’ve come far enough into this Experiment that I’m willing to believe it might be more of a Change instead.
My relief at this latest development in Three’s life is conditional. I keep waiting for her to call out to me that she’s had an accident. And every day that we go accident-free, my relief settles a little more deeply into me.
Again, I have no idea what finally nudged her in the camp of “big girls” for good, but I have a hunch as to something that might have helped. A potty timer.
Now, before you parents scoff or, worse, ask, “How DARE you?”, hear me out on this one.
A couple of weeks ago I went to the store on a grocery run and picked up a box of Pull-Ups. Immediately I noticed this box was different because it stated that aside from the Pull-Ups, it included a potty training DVD that promised all sorts of fun games and interesting information. The box also included a watch.
We never got around to the DVD (it’s still in its original plastic wrapping; anyone who wants it is more than welcome to it. Just let me know.) But the watch caught my eye.
Because I was buying the girl Pull-Ups, the watch had the Disney Princesses on it. It functioned as a regular watch but also had an additional feature. I could program it to go off at any interval from 15 minutes to 2 hours. For the alarm I had three options. I could set it to play the Pull-Ups signature tune of “I’m a big kid now!”; I could set it to vibrate (so it could be more discreet, I suppose); or I could actually record a five-second message for Three in my own voice to remind her to sit on the potty.
I wasn’t sure at first if I wanted to give Three the watch. After all it seemed a little Pavlovian to use a timer to make Three go pee or poop. But interestingly enough Five saw the watch and asked for all the details behind it. When I explained to Five what the watch was for, she promptly turned to her little sister and displayed all the enthusiasm and interest grownups use in situations like these as she explained to Three how cool it was for her to have a watch of her own.
Three seemed slightly skeptical at first, but once I put the watch on her wrist she seemed charmed by it. When it went off the first time, she gave me a look that said, “Really? I have to do this now?” But amazingly she went to the potty. Even more amazingly, she actually peed.
For the next three days she wore the watch whenever she was awake; she asked for it first thing in the morning and requested it be safely kept before going to bed at night. And 95 percent of the time when the watch played its little tune she hopped right up from whatever she was doing and stated she had to go potty.
Unfortunately after those three days the watch stopped working because she was wearing it one too many times when she was washing her hands. The back of it got wet two or three times, and the poor hand piece just couldn’t take it anymore. It finally shut down completely.
There was a space of about four or so days when we went back to Three peeing and pooping in the potty at will, which meant only about half the time. But then we came to last Wednesday when she asked for the big-girl underwear. And here we are.
In those days before last Wednesday, my husband and I discussed Three’s progress before the watch stopped. He isn’t sure whether it actually did anything. I think it helped give Three a sense of ownership. It put the onus on her to be responsible for something because when the timer went off, it was up to her to acknowledge it to herself, the rest of us, and then go to the bathroom and actually do something.
Given a child’s inability to express so many complex ideas at such a young age, we’ll never really know what gave Three the motivation to finally take it upon herself to use the bathroom the “grownup” way. But I can say this: with each passing day, as we get further away from having to use Pull-Ups on a regular basis and as our respite from them increases, my relief has begun whispering in my ear that it is prepared to turn into excitement. It has also suggested I need to send off the Diaper Champ to charity with great fanfare.
And I’m almost tempted to do a little dance and sing: She’s a big girl now!