Sunday, July 25, 2010

Diapers are Forever

I think that any two-and-a-half-year-old who knows the sound each letter makes and can decode 3-letter words should be able to pee in a toilet. Alas. Turns out one can develop reading skills before mastering bladder control. Apparently the former is not a prerequisite for the latter. Who knew?

So, although she is academically ready to attend school, Sophia is barred from the local preschool program. I got the call from the director two days ago while aimlessly wandering the streets of Target.

The call took me by surprise. A month ago the director told me that the school had been filled since last January. I had only half-heartedly placed Sophia on the waiting list, figuring we'd just have to wait until next year.

I could feel her smiling through the phone. “We’re pleased to let you know that we have an opening, and Sophia was the next one up!” This is a school that is several blocks from my house. One that has really flexible scheduling options. One the neighbors have been raving about.

Sophia was dismantling a display of sun block. “Really? That’s wonderful!” I shot Sophie a look and mouthed PUT THEM BACK.

“So, as long as she’s toilet trained by September….” And then lightening flashed across the ceiling and it started to rain. Right there in Target. I think someone was playing an organ over the loudspeaker.

Six months ago...

It had all started out so promising. We bought her a potty. There was a picture of a girl on the box who looked very much like one of her friends, a bigger girl she looked up to. Sophie nicknamed it the “Callie Potty.” She sat on it. Put her dollies on it. Even made realistic sounds as she pantomimed their toileting behavior. Then, while we were out to dinner one night, the babysitter called, ecstatic, “She peed on the toilet.” We cheered in the restaurant, called my mother and almost missed our movie.

She went again, once or twice, and then…nothing. Worse than nothing. Flat out refusal. If I casually suggested that she sit on the toilet before a bath, she’d screw up her face so that her lips stuck way out and her eyes got all squinty and she’d shout, “No. I. Don’t. Want. To!”

I adopted a “just ask, don’t push” policy, hoping that when she was ready, she’d go. But secretly, I worried that I missed my window of opportunity. Now, her heels firmly dug into her general oppositional 2-year-old stance, she declares, “I do not want to pee on the toilet. I want to go in my diaper like a little baby.”

Again, if you can articulate that…shouldn’t you be able to sit on a toilet and do your business? I am convinced it is not a matter of skill, but of will.

And without the will, she won’t. Regardless of how much one can spend in pursuit of potty training.

For those who are not there yet (and others who were in my shoes many years ago) you will not be surprised to learn that potty training, like all other aspects of child development, is an industry. There are small, free-standing receptacles children “go” in that you have to empty into the real toilet and clean, adaptive rings that you can set atop the real deal so tiny tushies don’t fall in, and folding travel seats that have been known to pinch babies’ butts. There are potties that praise, cheer and sing. There are toileting books, videos and dolls. There are how-to manuals and charts and stickers.

And the programs. Oh the programs. Three-day Potty Training. Potty Training Boot Camp. The No-Cry Potty Training Solution. Early Start Potty Training. And yes, even Toilet Training in Less than a Day.

But, according to research (and, anecdotally, parents I know) you can push and cajole and praise and reward and work at it. Or you can wait. Apparently, left to their own devices, children will train themselves. Free of pressure and expectations they typically wake up one day and decide, that’s it. No more diapers for me. This usually happens around three years of age—give or take. I have even had parents of these children tell me that their kid never had an accident…and they never looked back.

This method (or lack thereof) is really appealing to me. No confrontations. No M&Ms. No props. No programs. No sweat.

But it also means…no local nursery school. At least not this one; not for now. Well, so be it. I was prepared to wait another year anyhow. Let's just hope it isn't that long before Sophia decides she's ready to ditch the diapers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Based on our experience with child #1, I have adopted a "laissez-faire" approach with child #2. However, because she has been making lots of progress, I actually just blocked off next weekend to devote some concrete focus to the task (continuous timing so she gets in the routine). We'll see what happens. When we were shopping for schools, I remember being so disheartened that preschool was dictating the potty habits of my child. So, I empathize completely with your situation. Although some schools enforce certain rules due to staffing or no-diaper changing regulations, I think a draconian demand for potty training does reflect something about the school's overall philosophy that is not ideal. I remember how relieved I was when the kids' former and current preschool stated upfront that they did not enforce a potty deadline because it went against their philosophy about child development. Not that they were denying that there is an average age when kids have the physiological goods to make it happen, but that there are also so many other emotional and social factors involved. They then added, "If this has been a struggle for you, we'll work on it with you." Music to my ears! PS: Talk about societal attitudes and the marketing machine influencing the process: I'm sure you know that kids in other parts of the world (eg: Europe) are potty trained much younger than in the US. And then there are those countries and cultures (often very rural "undeveloped" communities) that don't use diapers and have their kids controlling their pee in no time!!!