Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Potty Endeavor

I am inclined to write about potty training just now because one of my FB friends recently posted a status about having seen a mother shopping with an older-looking child in a diaper with a pacifier.  He conceded that the child "might have something wrong with him", but declared that to him, that is "just laziness on the parents' part."

Ahem.  Let me find my soapbox and get into position.  Okay, I'm ready.

At our house, potty training has been a three-year-long affair including books, multiple family members, therapists, teachers, stickers, M&Ms, a musical potty chair, a social story, a special poster, and more Pull-Ups and pairs of undies than I can count.  We have had successes, messy failures, plateaus, and disasters which have required rewards, consequences, and tons of scrubbing.  And while Ben is now five and it is still a work in progress, I don't ever remember lounging around and declaring, "Aw, I don't feel like messin' with this today.  Here, just wear a diaper."  Not ever.

Ben and I began potty training when he was two years and three months old.  I started right after school let out, armed with two children's books called "The Potty Train" and "The Potty Book", an instructional book about training, a musical potty chair, and little blue and white star-printed undies.  I thought for sure we would master that in a summer since I planned to work on it every day, and I was looking forward to having it over with.

Ben liked the potty just fine, and he never protested it much.  Our days were filled with trying every thirty minutes and celebrating successes with cheers and hugs.  Accidents were dealt with by firmly telling him no, and what was to be done instead.  We tried and tried, but it just never went anywhere. If he just happened to be on the potty when he needed to go, he would and that was great, but if he wasn't then he had an accident.  This was way before his diagnosis, and I had no idea why he couldn't indicate when he needed to go or why he just didn't seem to care.  His speech therapist (because he was non-verbal until he was 3&1/2) worked on signs for pottying with us, and I took some comfort in the fact that my Aunt Lenis, mother of three and sitter of many, told me not to stress because little boys just didn't give a rip and that I would probably be packing little pairs of undies in my purse for many years to come.

But mainly, since mothers have such guilty bones, I felt like a failure.  I had done it wrong.  I had misread Ben and thought he was ready when he wasn't.  I wasn't consistent enough, smart enough, etc, etc, etc.

School started again, and Ben began daycare in Pull-Ups instead of undies as I had hoped.  We still worked on it and we still had no progress.  I initiated the use of a sticker chart and a clapping ritual for his successes, and built up the greatness of using a potty.  We spent a lot of time working on it, to the point that I often felt like my life revolved around poop.  We tried everything we could think of, and almost everything anyone suggested.  Potty training was an arduous battle, punctuated with successes that gave me great hope, followed by massive failures that dashed it.

I don't think I ever could have been called lazy, though I saw the smirks of other parents at Mommy and Me Gymnastics when they saw the waistband of Ben's Pull-Up peek above his shorts, or when I bought those Pull-Ups with Ben in the cart, and the cashier would cluck, "He's such a BIG boy."  And, of course, there were the stares and whispers when he had an accident.

Thankfully, three years after starting this process and at the age of five, Ben is now mostly successful at pottying "like a big boy".  He has a social story and a social story-ish poster for pottying that were made by our wonderful Parent In Home Training teacher through the school district.  He wears undies during the day, even to school (thanks to his vigilant teachers), and a Pull-Up at night, though he rarely wets it.  He mostly tells us when he needs to go, and has recently begun to go on his own.  He takes off his own pants, etc., following the steps on his poster, even at daycare or Noni and Poppy's house where he doesn't have one.  And right before I began typing this post, I heard him singing a song he'd made up about pooping, and there he was on the potty, all by himself, just like he is supposed to do.  He does still have accidents, but there are fewer and fewer all the time.  After three years of hard work, he is now truly ready.

The main point of this rant is that you just never know why someone else's child is still in a diaper or has an accident or has a pacifier or whatever.  No, not every parent does everything they should for their child, but a diaper does not necessarily symbolize laziness, nor does it mean something is "wrong" with someone.  You never know what someone's child has gone through medically or developmentally and if you don't know, you shouldn't judge.

Now please excuse me while I return my soap box to the closet.