I have this annoying way of not easing into things and changing my mind on a whim without notifying my number one ally in parenting, Mark. One day I'll say I'm waiting to potty train Levi until he turns 3 and the next I'll be wishing I tried it at 18 months. For the most part Mark handles this tendency of mine in stride. Like this day, when he walked in from work and found Levi sitting on the pot with a pull-up around his ankles, a water bottle in his hands, and the Blues Clues bear singing a potty song on our TV.
Mark - "Ok, I guess we're potty training now."
Me - "yep."
For the longest time, I was set on waiting. I've heard so many people say "boys are harder"..."there's no point until they're 3"...."why force it when, if you just wait until they're ready, it's easy?"
Mark was totally on board with this. We figured Levi has enough going on being squeezed between a 4-year-old sister and 3-month-old twin brothers. But then my mom (who is with us along with my dad for the winter) and I had a string of, what we not-so-endearingly call, "poopapalooza" days. Levi is a large boy who produces formidable loads of output. On this particular week, most of the loads were extra sticky and required a bath to be completely washed away.
I wanted to be done. I felt like I was losing the ability to smell anything normal without a hint of feces attached to it.
At the end of poopapalooza week, we had family visitors stay with us who gave more motivation to get started with training. My cousin Monica, who is a teacher and all around super mom, said she trained her boy just before he turned two. Granted, she didn't have twin boys to manage at the same time, but sometimes I start to think that I use that as an excuse too often. Like somehow I should buck up and get over it. Twins aren't that hard. Look at that lady who had six of them at the same time.
Geez Mick, get over it already.
And then I remember that twins are actually really hard, and I finally give myself a break. I personally believe that motherhood is hard whether you have one or 19 kids. Everything is something you've never faced before and the responsibility of raising humans is both breathtaking and frightening. All moms should give themselves a break. (If you're a mom and you're reading this, you're amazing).
Anyway, Monica was encouraging in the best way. She wasn't judging me or giving me unsolicited advice. She simply answered my questions and said training might be worth a shot. (I feel the need to say that because I tend to not appreciate moms who brag of their successes when it comes to early potty training, birthing without medication, or getting their body back "better than it was before"....really? thanks, I would be proud too, but please find a mirror to sit in front of and admire yourself for it.)
Sorry for that snarky sidetrack, but seriously, don't brag to moms who are in the thick of it.
Back to Monica, I asked her and my cousin DJ, her husband, what their secret to training was for their son, Luke. First they found his "leverage" or what some moms have told me they call "currency". He was obsessed with little green army guys. So they bought a pack and for every time he went #1, Luke got one army guy. When he went #2, two army guys. Then at the end of the day, they'd go through the house, collect all the army guys, and start over with the same pack the next day. Genius.
They made it sound so easy. It took about a week or so and Luke was a regularly regular guy. Hearing this, my sense of smell perked up. There was hope for feces-less aromas in our near future.
I started "training" the day they left town.
It started out ok. He was used to going on the potty in the morning on occasions where he had a dry diaper. But then I tried again, and again, and again. His patience went from zero to zero in no time and my leverage evaporated. Basketball shirts didn't even do the trick. So, I eventually had him sit on the pot while he watched a show in the living room until something happened down south. We would sit like that for a half hour, sometimes even longer.
Then the minute I said we had enough, he proceeded to stand up and pee all over the floor.
After that experience, I found ways to keep him on the pot for longer and he eventually did go. But I could tell it didn't click yet. He didn't understand what the goal was. All he cared about was watching a show, which didn't seem like progress to me.
Thankfully another cousin came into town after those two days of utter frustration. Jessica is a Pediatric GI Nurse Practitioner and she and her mom (also a pediatric nurse practitioner) stayed with us for the weekend. Jessica also has a little boy named Oliver who turned two in February. Right when they arrived I told her how I was potty training and she said she wasn't going to start until her boy was three. "If they're not ready, it just makes the whole process longer," she said. I have to admit there was a part of me that thought I could be the exception to this rule. Somehow I'd find that secret sorcery that would make potty training an easy ordeal.
I told her there was no turning back now, I was committed.
Instead of tearing my dreams apart, Jessica offered her medical knowledge. Her advice came at the exact time I needed it and I can't imagine how everything would have gone if she didn't come to stay. Our floors would definitely be flooded.
She said if I'm going to start, I might as well increase my chances for success. The time when a child is most likely to go potty is about 15-20 minutes after meals. This is because the gastrocolic reflex, a cramping of the colon, starts when the stomach is full. She advises parents to put their child on the pot after meals for about 5 minutes, and reward them for both trying and going. "The real struggle is getting them to consistently sit still and wait, so that should be a victory in itself."
You'd think that I would have looked this up and known about it before I jumped into the boy potty training business, but no, I did that annoying thing where I just start and hope all goes well. I think the fact that Evy was so easy made me believe I didn't have to research much. At least I have medically trained family to inform me when I'm being ridiculous.
After Jessica told me about timing, I changed things up and made a plan, which made it a bit easier on us all. But Levi was still resistant and not understanding the concept like I thought he would. It didn't help that there were times I just couldn't be consistent. The twins have been in a growth spurt for, what seems like months, and they demand to be fed often. I simply can't do the potty thing when I have two babies attached to me.
I honestly thought I'd be writing this blog with a potty training success story to report. I wanted to give those nuggets of wisdom that were passed to me by my cousins and share them. I'm still doing that, and I will use those methods. But what I'm reporting here is a different success. The success of failing and moving on with life. Levi is not ready. I'm not ready.
That doesn't mean my child isn't smart, or that I don't have the gumption to get this done. It just means the timing is not right. I'm choosing to give myself some kudos for reading the situation and doing what's best for our relationship (and my sanity). I started thinking that anything but a fully trained Levi was a #momfail, but now I see this outcome as a victory.
We're waiting until we're both ready, and I'm sticking to that.
*Sniff sniff* - smell that?
With this crew below, I might as well get used to it.