“Well, that means you missed the window.”
This is what some one told us when we explained how Jack had gone from being very excited about going on the potty to not interested at all to, now, actually being afraid of it. We missed the window. I remember thinking that it sounded over-alarmist and had a little too much finality for a 2 year old. But, what do I know? Well, for one, I do know my son.
After some discussion we decided to proceed with an aggressive potty training approach based solely on this persons declaration and ignoring the more passive opinion of pretty much everyone else. What could go wrong? After all, we didn’t want to miss another window. It all makes a sort of sense, we have another child coming in August and wanted to get another milestone under our belts before we are up to our elbows in diapers. So, last Thursday we decided we would start taking Jack potty in 20 minute intervals and switch to undies for everything but nap and bed.
I suppose we didn’t realize how much control we were putting into enjoying life. Not that it ever got bad. Far from it. In the first few hours of taking him every 20 minutes to the potty he got over his fear and even utilized its actual purpose. Which, it turns out, is NOT a container for random Hot Wheels or Legos. Jack would go a little bit, but save his full streams for collecting on the floor a few minutes later. He only understood part of the equation. If I could even begin to translate his thinking it might be something like this: Poo Poo goes in the potty. Pee Pee goes in the potty. All of this is null and void if I am not actually sitting on the potty though. Also, there is no difference between undies and diaper. Both can be peed or pooped into and not catch on fire as a result. Continue to pee and poop with willful abandon.
After a few days with progress, but certainly not case closed results, we reevaluated. This time, as we usually do, heeding the advice of a few like-minded friends. As soon as it got to the point in those few days where we were attempting to force Jack to use the potty we knew it was time to relax, but it was nice to hear a chorus of agreement. What is wrong with the idea of “He’s just not ready”? Especially considering everything of note in Jack’s development has come a little later than most his age, and that it’s COMPLETELY OKAY! I realize this may be a little alarming to some. We live in a time in which parents seem to, in my opinion, watch their kids way too much. We are so over concerned with the idea that they MIGHT fall that we guard from the lesson’s learned by ACTUALLY falling. You can’t get back up if you never fall. Actions have consequences. So, I’d rather Jack pees right through five pairs of undies while we’re eating at Hamburger Habit and feels what that’s like then I would lock him in the house for 3 days and drill the notion of POTTY POTTY POTTY into his head every 20 minutes. If he’s playing on the bottom stair and I tell him to stop because he’s gonna get hurt, he will KEEP on doing it until he falls. At two and a half kids are just looking for anyway in which to affect the world. They are so reliant on our reactions for that ripple effect. This is why just yelling at a two year old doesn’t work. It’s also why trying to explain to them like they’re a little adult doesn’t work. Actions have consequences.
Now, I fully realize that there are many different approaches to parenting. I hesitate to use the word “styles” for any attempt to create order out of something that can be as varied and chaotic as being a parent. To do so would relegate it to the same category as sideburns and skinny jeans, and it’s just not that simple. The more confident among us seem to think that their approach is best and, at times, have no qualms about dishing out unsolicited advice. If some one hasn’t asked for advice, you are essentially judging them. One of the things I’ve come to learn about my own communication is that I was never really listening with an attempt to understand. I was usually only listening and waiting for a chance to reply. That’s not healthy and it’s not communication, it’s brief interruptions in my vocal parade of how awesome I am. I do my best to curb this behavior now, but not everyone does. That’s fine, I’m confident ENOUGH that unsolicited advice doesn’t bug me usually. However, I’m also just insecure enough that sometimes it does. Slowly, but surely, I’m finding the comfort in my approach, but more than that I’m finding comfort in the idea that you don’t have to like it. You don’t have to agree with it. You don’t have to condone it.
I’m a good father. I believe that to be true. Now. That doesn’t mean that I always was or that I always will be. There are a lot of things that I have to file under “I don’t do that anymore” and likewise I cannot simply stop progressing. I can’t stop growing because Jack won’t stop growing. He’ll keep on showing me the ways in which I can better myself and I’ll keep on suiting up and showing up to the game. I’m grateful that today it is ONLY about poop.
So, screw the “window”. We’re gonna take the door.