Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Potty Training: Part II - by Cara Potapshyn Meyers

I should have known better. I should have listened more attentively. I am the kind of mother who pays attention to her child’s burgeoning milestones. But somehow, I missed the cues on this one.

When my son was 11 months old, he wanted to “walk” down the stairs face forward. I let him. I held on to his hands as he dragged one foot after the other down the flight of stairs. And then he would crawl to the top and we would start all over again. Everyone fought me, allowing my 11 month old, who wasn’t even walking yet, walk down the stairs face forward. “Teach him to crawl down backwards,” I heard. “You’re making a big mistake letting him do that,” was another comment (I defer to our Blogger, Laura Houston’s blog from last week here). Still, I held my head up high and said plainly, “He sees all of us walking down the stairs face forward, he is going to learn to do it eventually anyway, so why not teach him the proper way now and allow him to practice while supervised?” Still, I got horrified looks and comments.

At age 2, my son wanted to learn to cut using real, adult scissors. Not the blunt tip, children’s type. Real, sharp, adult scissors. He was relentless. We had them locked in a top drawer in our kitchen and my son would hang on the drawer, cry and tantrum, aching to use those scissors himself. One day, I couldn’t take it any more. I thought, “You want to learn to cut using real scissors, go ahead, let’s cut.” We sat on the floor for almost an hour with my son perfecting the cutting  of tape off a spool. Once all of the tape was used up, I explained that there was no more, but when I was able to get more, we would practice again. My son has never had a scissor injury, and every nursery school teacher had commented that they never saw a child my son’s age cut paper for crafts so well.

By age 3, my son was done with the toddler climbing apparatus at the park. He was ready to master the apparatus for ages 5 and up. I let him go. Again, I had horrified looks from parents. One mother could see my son’s Pull-Up sticking out above his pants and actually said, “Children who still wear diapers should not be playing on this equipment!” I asked her to show me where that “rule” was written anywhere in the park facility. She turned her back on me. My son mastered the “older children” apparatus. And when he was unsure of himself, he always knew to ask me to help him off. But in general, I let him test his wings to his heart’s content. And to this day, other than bruises, he has never injured himself doing any of the things he knew he was capable of doing. He even jumped off our local pool diving board at age 3 with my husband assisting him to the side of the pool. Today, at age 7, he does aerial flips off that same diving board and swims to the side himself. The lifeguards cringe. I stand next to them and reassure them that my son knows exactly what he is doing.

Finally, when it came to potty training between 2 - 3 years old, my son resisted with a vengeance. After getting into so many exhausting battles, I gave up and thought, “Fine.You want to take Pull-Ups in your backpack to Kindergarten and change them yourself, be my guest.” I literally gave up. My son was not ready to make this monumental change yet. I backed off and went my merry way.

One day, my son’s nursery school teacher pulled me aside on a Friday afternoon, when I went to pick my son up from nursery school. She said that he told her that he wanted to wear the Spider man underwear like the other boys. He was a little more than 3  and 1/2 at the time. So his teacher and I devised a plan that I would take him to buy Spider man underwear over the weekend, make a huge deal about wearing the underwear to school on Monday instead of Pull-Ups, and I would pack several changes of clothes and shoes should he have accidents during the day.

My son had one accident that first day, and never had another after that. He knew he was ready. He knew it was time to “graduate” to “big boy underwear.” By letting him take the lead, he was hugely successful! And it was all because I let him determine when he thought the time was right!

So, I was rather taken aback when my son, who has been wearing Huggies Goodnights to bed since he was 4, all of a sudden said to me that he didn’t want to wear them anymore. They were always fully saturated every morning. And my son is a very sound sleeper. There is no waking him in the middle of the night to take him to the bathroom. But I wanted to respect my son’s request even though the “evidence” proved otherwise.

I put a water absorbing liner on top of his sheet and explained that we would use it “just in case” of an accident. We also restricted his fluid intake 2 hours before he went to sleep. He also had to empty his bladder when we saw he was getting sleepy. And we sent him off to bed that first night with me thinking, “This is not going to work. He’s too sound a sleeper.”

My son did have an “accident” that first night. However he went 2 weeks straight after that night not wetting his bed at all!! He knew he could do it! He knew he was capable! Yet, to my surprise, after all of these years, I failed to see the cues and be more in touch with my son and his own understanding of meeting his own needs and milestones!

This past weekend marked 2 straight weeks of no accidents! I gave my son a “Medal” of accomplishment and I asked him to help me take the liner off the top of his bed! He was ecstatic! He graduated to “Big Boy” status!! Yet, unlike the times I knew he could accomplish certain risky things, this time I wasn’t so certain that my son would be as successful in this situation. But I did honor his request to try. And now I am as unsure as to who is more proud, my son or me!

I’ve always been highly in tune with my son. But I think that, of late, my own life events and personal issues have overridden being more in touch with my son and his emerging needs and fulfillments as he grows. I never want to lose that innate understanding of my son. And I always want us to have strong bonds through communication and nonverbal actions.

This was a huge wake-up call for me. One that I am taking quite seriously.

We started putting a Lego set together over the weekend but never finished it. I think tonight, it will be successfully completed!

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