Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Prison of Urine: A Potty Training Guide

Today is an exciting day because I'm going to act like I am an authority on something. Which is ludicrous, but y'all know how I like to sound like I know things.

I have now officially helped TWO, count them: not ONE, but TWO people learn how to (semi) reliably go to the bathroom. I know this doesn't sound impressive, because's not really. There are many other people in the world that have done this countless times, but when you're desperate and searching the Internet at two AM on toddler potty training methods even a hair-brained amateur like myself looks like they really have their wig on straight. This is basically the first lesson we should all be teaching our children, that is after: Do not lick ranch off your toes at the dinner table. (Sadly, that phrase has come out of my mouth more than once.) Do not believe everything you read on the Internet...except me, you can totally believe me.

I have a four and half year old son, and a daughter that will be three in June. I have never been an overachieving mom. I was sort of hoping that they would learn to just figure things out on their own. But alas, that's not really how it works. So you can imagine my dismay when I realized that I would be the one to have to teach them how to not shit their pants.

The mind boggles.

As you can imagine, I put it off as long as possible. To be quite honest I would have paid Target for those diapers until Henry went to college if it meant I didn't have to potty train him. I'm fairly certain he would have picked it up by himself at some point, he's a smart kid. But he was two months shy of three and he had been taking off his wet diapers and handing them to me for a month. At one point I think he even looked at me, pointed at the potty, and said, "I can pee in the potty?"

I think I said, "Shhhh. Sweetheart don't look at that. A snake lives in there. Don't you like peeing in your nice comfy diaper."

While I wait for my Mom of the Year award to get engraved, I'll have you know I bucked up and we did the damn thing.

And here's how:

Let me just say there are hundreds of different ways to potty train. Whoa, back up Emily, you're already lying. That's probably an exaggeration. Let's say there are ten different ways to potty train a child. This is merely one way of doing it, and let's face it, it may not be the best for you. But it worked for us. It was relatively quick in the scheme of things. By things I mean life. It was quick when you compare it to your whole life. If you compare it to say, a shorter time span, like a week, than by that standard it took for fucking ever. I mean never ending.

Now that I've got you super amped up, lets get down to bizznass.

1. Don't start until your little human is ready. I know you, you Kate Spade diaper bag toting, fresh as hell mama. You want to be the first one on the play ground to boldly announce that you have potty trained your kid. But if you attempt this before your child is ready you will be fighting the most drawn out, miserable, Suicide Prevention Hotline-calling battle ever conceived.  Like ever.

Signs of readiness include:

*Child noticing when they are peeing and pooping.  The simple act of being aware that you are taking a dump while you are taking a dump is actually a skill. I just need to go back to being a toddler then I can start acing tests again.

*Voicing dismay over dirty diapers. Not wanting to sit in pee and poop is also a step in the right direction. I feel like we're in AA here: you have to SEE a problem before you WANT to change! Amen.

*Staying dry for longer stretches of time. Waking up from naps and bedtime with dry diapers is also a good sign. That means that Bill is developing the control in his little pee holding muscles to not let it all run out willy-nilly.

*An interest in potty goings-on, and an ability to pull up and push down pants independently. My daughter was very interested in watching us all go to the bathroom. This is just one small indignity that comes with parenthood. None of us want it, it just comes with the territory, like stale fortune cookies. Sometimes if you are open to it, which not everyone is and I get that, it can be helpful for your child to see you go to the bathroom.  The whole nine yards. Don't worry, hopefully at this point their verbal skills aren't on point enough that they could explain the whole sordid event in detail to a stranger...

Unless you are my son, and then your sweet voice never rang clearer than when you were exposing my bathroom habits to the grocery store checker. Thank you son.

These are a few signs that your child may be ready, you can also google "Potty training readiness" and get a much more dependable and thorough list, as I'm sure you already did five minutes ago when you realized I'm a hack.

I'll just continue.

2. Gather your supplies. Buy your oxen, load your wagons and let's get ready for this.

*A small toddler potty. You can let your child pick it out, that may help them get really excited about the whole process. I mean really, annoyingly excited.

*A separate potty seat that will fit on a standard toilet and a step stool. We have a love affair with anything princess related. And I always judge a toilet seat by its ability to inspire me.

*Your bribery of choice. This is a hotly debated topic. (I'm sure by mothers that hotly debate parenting topics, usually I just talk about Vanderpump Rules...). Some people go the non-treat route.  My sister in law potty trained by giving her son a marble every time he used the potty and when he had ten marbles he could select a hot wheel from a basket. This is stellar parenting work; that's Dr. Sears shit. However my kids didn't buy it. Like their mother they enjoy immediate gratification. So we stuck with candy. I know, the horror.

If you are a first time parent I know the thought of handing your vegan, non-dairy, non-soy preciously untainted child a non-organic seed of death and high fructose corn syrup, aka an M&M, without even a tooth brush standing by makes you have a moment.

But let's just chill the eff out.

The truth is the small treat, like picking out one fruit snack, or M&M, [insert weapon of choice] after a successful attempt (and some unsuccessful attempts) is FUN. They love it! It is great motivation to keep trying. I found that after they did successfully go on the potty and I made a big enough show of it (clapping, dancing, singing, high-fiving, generally acting like a fool) they were so excited that they would entirely forget about asking for the treat most of the time anyway.

In any case, if you do decide to offer treats, just know you are not a bad parent. And the simple fact that you are worried about it makes you a better parent than you realize. Cheers to that.

Back to the supply list:

*Your child's favorite drink. My kids drink very watered down apple juice, so I just made sure I had plenty of apple juice. If your child will drink plain water that is fine too. I must meet you and learn your witchcraft. At my house being told you have to drink plain water is tantamount to a death sentence.

*Carpet/upholstery cleaner and rags. I know, I know. I hate to break it to you, but even the best method of potty training will end up in a mess sometimes. And them's just the breaks.

*Notably ABSENT on my list of supplies are Pull Ups, or any manner of training pants. This is a bold move folks, and it takes time and a dedication to staying at home for about two days. But in this method we go straight into undies.

Straight. Into. Undies.

If you're anything like me that phrase just makes your butt hole shrivel up. It's terrifying, but I promise you, OH SO worth it in the end.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Pull Ups. Except I am a cheap ass mo' and did not want to give Pampers any of my money. Plus, I pondered it and realized it must be rather confusing for a child to be told, "Here is a Pull Up: it is not a diaper, but it looks like a diaper and feels like a diaper. You are not supposed to pee or poop in it like you do in your diaper. However, if you do pee or poop in it it will feel just like a diaper... and nothing will happen.  But I trust you'll make the right decision."

Let's sit in the safety circle, hold hands and repeat it once more, loud and proud: You have to SEE a problem before you WANT to change.

God, that makes me feel so good for some reason.

If there is no consequence, like pee dripping down their legs and getting them all wet then they really don't have much motivation to change the way they're operating. Catch my drift?  It makes sense in a kind of, that doesn't make sense kind of way.  Anyway...

Because we are really taking the bull by the horns in this scenario you also have to be prepared to camp out at home for a few days.


Was that your response? Because that is my response. Every. Time.

Getting out of the house is the only thing that keeps us all sane and alive. I understand. Totally. But this self imposed prison of urine will be short lived. And then you can put it behind you. And by behind you I just mean that you can get out of the house, but make sure you bring some extra undies...and pants...and socks....and the potty seat. And a lot of patience.

SO get yourself together and choose a stretch of days that you know you can stay home, preferably this is a stretch of days that someone else will be home as well. Potty training does not take two people. But it is convenient to double team the situation. I found it extremely helpful that my husband could take charge while I went up into my closet and practiced my noose making; it's a meditative exercise. The knots are a son of a gun.

3. The next step would be to get excited. GET EXCITED PEOPLE!

Get your child majorly excited about what is about to happen. With Addie I planned to start on a Friday morning. All week long we talked about it. On Friday we're going to wear big girl undies!! Tomorrow we are going to say bye bye to diapers and be a big girl!! On Friday we get to put our pee in the potty, YAY!! You get the drift. In the days before you can also take them to Target and let them pick out underwear. This is a highly exciting activity that actually resulted in wearing the pre-selected underwear on top of our pants for the two days prior to the actual event. I consider that one of those battles that just wasn't worth fighting.

4. The night before potty training is to begin set up your base camp. I would recommend this be somewhere where messes are easily cleaned up. Wood floor? Tile? A television handy, toys, books. The ideal situation is that your play room is not carpeted. We were not so lucky, but I just set the little potty in the play room on a big rug with a water proof pad underneath in case of dripage.  Have a roll of toilet paper and a package of wipes handy there as well. Some people like to potty train outside during the summer where messes are no big deal. I could see this working well if you have a fenced back yard, and no creepy neighbors. Just bring the potty out so it is very near where your child is playing. Have your cleaning supplies out and handy. Sad face. Also make sure you have some kind of a timer. We used the oven timer.

5. Have a large cocktail. Read the bible. Watch anything on Bravo. Do whatever you have to do to get in a good head space. Remind yourself this is worth it and the first day will be the hardest day. And the beginning of the second day when it feels like you're starting all over again. But don't worry, you're not.

6. When your child wakes up, sit on the potty and go straight into underwear.  Addie sat on the potty maybe three times total before we started potty training, so I don't think that is a prerequisite. But I would make sure that your child is not scared of sitting on the potty before you begin this whole endeavor. I imagine that could be quite traumatizing.

7. I read this tip on Pinterest about how to begin potty training and I did it with both kids, I think it sets the perfect tune for potty training. And that tune is progress, not perfection! (This was so long ago I don't have the original source of this tip). Get out your acting caps folks, 'cause we're gonna get theatrical up in here.

I found their favorite stuffed animal and held it up and pretended it was playing, and then I held up a little cup of water behind the stuffed animal and poured it on the floor, as if the animal had just had a little accident.  And then I make a big production of saying,

"OH NO! Blueberry just had a little accident, but that's no big deal and we run over and set Blueberry on the potty.  It's not a big deal if we have an accident, if we have to go potty we just try and get to the toilet! It's okay Blueberry! We'll keep working on it, good work Blueberry!"

We emphasized, that when Blueberry noticed he had started peeing he ran over to sit on the potty.  I really think this was a key step before we began because the kids got to see A. What it looks like when the floor gets wet, and what your reaction to that is. B. That it is okay if they have an accident. C. That this whole experience is positive.

Even when you feel like you are clinging to your last shred of sanity there is no shaming in this game. There is no, Why did that happen? Why didn't you make it to the potty? The whole experience is supportive.  So keep that in mind, and take some deep breathes.

Whooooo. Saaaawwww.

(If you have children, or know children, or have seen children on the street than you will never be this relaxed. But we can try.)

(I am chuckling to myself because apart from all the swearing this is sounding like I really know how to parent, like really well; if you only knew how much I would love for that to be the case. Just like dieting, I know the basic principles, it's the implementation that gets me every time. I guess the moral is, try and be a super rad parent during this because it will be worth it and when it's over you can go back to being your regular grumpy, stabby self.)

So I hope you're still with me, because this is getting long. And very boring.

8. Now set up shop at your base camp, watch cartoons, movies, read books, build legos, play with play dough. Just hang out. All the while you need to be offering your child drinks. Keep them drinking. More drinking=more peeing. When you start out I recommend setting the timer for every 10 minutes. This will be a long day. There is no sugar coating it. You are living in 10-15 minute increments. They will no sooner have gotten up from the potty and pulled up their underwear, then you will see a stream of pee running down their leg. Summon all your inner fortitude and don't freak out. It takes practice to make progress. That is the point of all the drinking. They are peeing frequently and getting used to what it feels like before they go and while they're going.

9. You will be cleaning up some messes, but stick with it and adjust your timer schedule accordingly. I found if Addie sucked down a cup of water, after about 10-15 minutes we would sit on the potty more frequently.

The urge to quit will be strong. Like last call to an alcoholic, you will be drawn to the beautiful nirvana of slipping on a diaper and saying, we'll try again next week. Don't do it!

10.  Keep drinking. Keep setting the timer. Try not to kill yourself.

You will notice that children learn quickly. You will see progress the first day. By late morning of the first day Addie would suddenly jump up and say, "I have to go pee!" And we would run to the potty and see what we could do. The first day requires the most rigid timer schedule, but I would say that we continued to use the timer on the second and third day, we just tailored it more to her particular bathroom patterns.  If she had not been drinking a lot, we would set it every 30 minutes. If she just finished a cup of water, we knew that we would set it every 10 minutes or so for a little while. By the third day we didn't use the timer that much, just reminded Addie to get on the potty.

11. Like the little brain training science project that this is, just remember to keep giving the mouse its cheese. Positive reinforcement works. I didn't drink my way through a B.S. in Psychology for nothing.

Just remember one step forward, two steps back. This will take a few days, and don't be disheartened. Your child will do great and go by themselves and then 15 minutes later they will have an accident. It is all progress towards the goal. I would say by the end of the weekend and definitely the fourth day, we had turned a solid corner. Did she have occasional accidents? Absolutely. Did she reliably sit on the potty and go by herself, yes.

Pull Ups are enticing because they lure you with the promise of potty training without the mess, which is unrealistic, in my untrained and uneducated opinion. Things that seem too good to be true generally are: Gwyneth Paltrow (who does that bitch think she is, BTW), low carb chocolate (otherwise known as, whoops I just sharted chocolate.)

At some point the underwear is going to have to go on and we're all going to have to just deal with it. (Man, I feel like potty training is like a metaphor for life or something. I am on my third cup of coffee so I probably just have K-Cup poisoning. Or possibly it's Addie's toilet seat making me have deep thoughts.)

When it's all said and done you won't remember exactly how you did it because you'll block it out. But you'll get through it, and just like every other person in the world will tell you, "You don't see any high schoolers in diapers!" (Ugh, if I hear that one more time, I swear.) So it will probably work itself out at some point.

Just remember when you hear someone talking about how they potty trained in one day and their child never has accidents, you can go ahead and say, "Congratulations!"

Two to one odds says their kid is the one shitting his pants in the ball pit.

Because shit happens to everyone.

{Poop pile emoticon.  #toiletseatdeepthoughts}