Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Best Potty Training Advice You Never Heard

We potty trained Smartypants right when he turned 2 out of desperation -- the kid had been putting his hands down his pants since forever and this germophobic mama was losing it each and every time she left him for like 3 freaking seconds and returned to find poop smeared on everything within a 3 foot radius of the pooper. He wasn't intentionally painting with poo -- more like he just happened to pull his hand out of his diaper, his hand just happened to have poop on it, and he just happened to be leafing through my favorite copy of "Alice in Wonderland."

We (read: I; my husband had about 0 to do with the 8 month long fiasco for which I am still suffering intermittent PTSD fallout) also succumbed to very stupid advice from friends and family I trust were well meaning (but secretly fear were playing an evil prank on an ill-informed new mother) to make sure Smartypants was potty trained before the new baby came because God forbid you have two in diapers.

Two in diapers would have been awesome. So long as Smartypants' diapers were covered by zippered, footed pjs donned backward and safety pinned at the top.

Fast forward nearly 3 years: Sweetiepants has been allowed to do her own thing in her own good time as regards potty training. Because this is the potty training advice I read everywhere: she'll do it when she's ready.

Well, Sweetiepants has been waking up with a dry diaper going on 6 months. She tells me 2 minutes before she's going to pee or poop that she's going to pee or poop. Yeah, and she's almost 3 years old.
High time.
But I wait...because I wouldn't want to force her into anything now would I?
And I wait.


Sweetiepants rips off her diaper -- what turns out to be her last diaper -- unbeknownst to the rest of the family. Well I guess it was beknownst, since she was jumping around naked singing, "I have to poop!" What we did not realize was that right before she took her diaper off she had pooped big time. Dozens of jawbreaker size nuggets I like to call "reindeer poop." Half a dozen of which were rolling around between the living room and the kitchen where Sweetiepants had thoughtfully deposited her diaper in the trashcan. The remaining 18 or so poop balls were hanging out on the living room rug. Make that 17 poop balls -- the last one was still firmly lodged between her tiny bottom cheeks.
"I can't do this again." This meaning deal with poop that is not in a diaper or a toilet -- not that I'm thrilled with those options either, but them's the breaks when you choose to have kids. Again meaning evereverever.

And with that, Sweetiepants is wiped, bathed, and fitted with a pair of Tinkerbell panties, then Mommy says at least one bad word for every poop ball she finds while she cleans up the house. In my defense, I also maintained a 1:1 ratio of swears to prayers (please God don't let me find petrified poop next time I move the couch to vacuum.) I'm also pretty proud of the fact that I cleaned the kid before I cleaned the carpet.

Over the next 3 days I set a timer every 15 minutes, grabbed Sweetiepants, and plopped her down on her potty seat. And waited. And waited. And held her there while she screamed her bloody head off. She'd refuse to try to pee before bed -- having stayed dry since about 6pm -- and she'd wake up dry but still refuse to pee. We were almost late taking Smartypants to school twice while she sat down on the potty and we said mean things to one another and still she would not pee. Sweetiepants and I would return home for round...6? 7? I'd lost count, but after another 90 minutes or so she'd finally pee and we'd both feel much better.

The rest of the day went along in much the same vein: "Let's go try to pee!" "No!" "Come on--your tummy won't hurt anymore!" "No!" "Sweetiepants-Middle Name-Last Name: Get over here and sit on the potty now!" "No!"

Convinced Sweetiepants was well on her way to a urinary tract infection I Googled "potty training holding pee" and now we arrive at the promised best potty training advice you never heard -- potty training advice that was not for typical "pleasers" but for kids like mine -- "strong willed" kids. I wouldn't have them any other way (God it must be so boring to have a good kid) but it's not easy parenting brilliant children with minds of their own -- and most parenting advice I read is irritatingly child-led (e.g., the "whenever you're ready" potty training method).

Here's the link: Toilet Training Problems: Underachievers, refusers, and stool holders

Here's the bottom line:
Make it the child's responsibility to initiate a potty visit. The choice to start potty training is the parent's, based on pretty universal signs of readiness. But the choice to actually walk to the bathroom, climb up, and go is the child's.

Here's the method:
I stopped asking (cajoling/demanding/reminding/begging) Sweetiepants to use the potty.

Here's the result:
Within 30 minutes of me shutting up already Sweetiepants yelled from the bathroom: "Mommy I did it by myself! I peed!"

6 days later...
Sweetiepants has woken up dry every morning. She pees when she needs to; poops when she needs to. She had one poop accident at CVS the first panty day, but since she didn't pee as well I finished my shopping, lined her car seat with a plastic bag, and took her home to change her.

And tossed the panties.

We took the kids camping -- Sweetiepants stayed dry during the 2 1/2 hour trip. Later that day she pulled her swimsuit down to pee on the lake shore, then pulled her swimsuit down to poop on the lake shore a few minutes later. Neither occurrence bothered me as I didn't have to figure out a way to sit her on the campground toilets without covering both of us in someone else's fecal matter.
Home now for 3 days, she's been 100% dry.

Counterintuitive potty training advice works for me. Loads more advice at We Are THAT Family. Just realized there's a theme this week, so...organizing...can't go wrong with "a place for everything and everything in its place." Works for poop too.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

English As a First Language, Funnier By the Second

I was on the phone to my mom telling her about Smartypants' new school, how the kids all appear well taken care of though the school's reported poverty level is about 70%.

We live in a rural-with-a-Target agricultural community with a large Hispanic migrant population. It had never occurred to me to ask until that moment:

"Smartypants, are there any kids in your class who speak Spanish instead of English?"

"Well, when Mrs. Roldan talks to Luis I don't know if she's speaking Spanish or Chinish."

Gotta love it. And with Grandma in the audience to boot.

The Case for Kindergarten

Smartypants is not enjoying Kindergarten. We're 5 days in and already I'm getting, "I wish I were sick for 152 days so I wouldn't have to go back to school."

I'm sorely tempted to pull him out of his public half day Kindergarten and homeschool him. And I may do that in the end. For the moment I'm trying to pin down solid reasons for why I want Smartypants to go to school this year.

1. Leadership: If one does not have anyone to lead, how does one become a leader? At home, pickins are slim--he can try to get Sweetiepants to do his bidding; stuffed animals don't follow unless you tie them to a rope and pull.

2. Cultural Literacy: From silly songs to the flag salute, I want him to share a collective experience with his peers.

3. Someone else's rules: Smartypants has a strong personality so I have no qualms about allowing his teacher to "boss him around." There are many situations in life that require obedience and cooperation; I'd like him to learn to adapt to an adult perspective and directive different from his parents'.

4. Long-haul socialization: Smartypants coos over babies, plays well with his 2 year old sister, and can hold his own with his 12 year old best friend. But his experience hanging out with same-age kids has been contained to Sunday School (1 whopping hour) and sleepovers with cousins, who are more like siblings. I want him to develop relationships with his peers, learn how to be a friend--and how to defend the friendless.

5. The chance to be the best: Sure, he's the most intelligent, most talented, most beautiful--er, handsome--boy I know, but I want him to be a big fish in a big pond. I want him to bask in the glow of the teacher's praise over his precociousness, revel in being the best hanger-upside-downer (or whatever the best thing to be is that day) -- and learn how to graciously accept defeat (should that defeat miraculously occur) then plan and work to regain Golden Boy status.

If Kindergarten takes, I'm in--he's in. If he still hates school by Halloween...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Smartypants: First Day Of Kindergarten

"That wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," I said to my husband as we walked to the car after dropping Smartypants off for his first day of Kindergarten.

Then I realized: we just dropped Smartypants off for his first day of Kindergarten! "This is harder"--and I teared up.

I expected Sweetiepants to take the separation harder than I did: this would be the longest time she'd ever spent away from Smartypants in her entire little life--3 1/2 hours. I was not disappointed.

Sweetiepants did OK til Daddy left for work. She looked at me as if to ask, "So, what now?" I looked at her in response: "I have no idea."

Then Sweetiepants got an idea. An awful idea. Sweetiepants got a wonderful, awful idea:

"Turn the TV on NOW!"

Now I talk a lot. But Smartypants leaves me eating his wordy dust. She couldn't stand the relative silence.

"Let's have a teaparty!"
"Turn on the TV!"
"Want to wear your tutu?"
"I want to watch Cinderella!"
"Want to help Mommy make bread?"
"NOOOOO!" As she scooted a chair up to the kitchen counter.

So we made bread. And cuddled. And watched Cinderella.

When the timer for the bread went off we both jumped up--still wearing our shoes (very unusual here): Time to get Smartypants!

When Smartypants saw us he ran out the door. I told him to tell Mrs. Roldan that I was here and that he was leaving. "Mrs. Roldan! Mrs. Roldan! Mrs ROLDAN!" Mrs. Roldan looked up from helping a student into a backpack twice the size of the student with a frazzled confused look--the look I must have when I finally register that the barrage of "Mommy Mommy MomMEEE!" is directed at me.
"Oh! Ohhhh! Goodbye!"

Smartypants declared the day "Good." No exclamation point. But no refusal to return either. On yet another hand he didn't give the speech he consistently offers when he really loved an event and is upset it's over ("Why did you take me to Disneyland? I didn't want to go to Disneyland. We should have stayed home so I could play Legos.")

After an extended round of 20 questions Smartypants proved himself Daddy's equal in reticence:
Did you color?
Holds up a coloring page with a yellow mark and a blue scribble and the first 4 letters of his 9 letter name written remarkably neatly.
Did Mrs. Roldan read to you?
What story did she read?
This one. (Again holds up the coloring page with "Spot Goes To School" noted at the top.)
Did you play?
We had 2 recesses: a practice one and a real one.
Did you learn anyone's name?
Allie was there. [He met Allie at last week's orientation. First friend = best friend.]

And so on.

Smartypants has a particular way of digesting important things. The importance of the thing can be determined by how long it takes him to start talking about the thing.

After dinner I heard him singing to himself, "Did you ever see a goose kissing a moose? Down by the bay down by the bay...." So I know the singing bit was superfun.

At bedtime he told me that one kid pushed another kid off the ladder on the playground. So I know this was troubling him.

The next morning he told me that "the kid who got pushed off the ladder" is his friend. So I know that Smartypants was more worried for the pushee than about the possibility that he may be the next one pushed.

And this is perhaps the hardest part of sending Smartypants out for Kindergarten: he has his own life now, a life he can choose to share with me -- or not.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Kindergarten Screening: Aced by My 2 Year Old

Bored as a cord. That's what was screaming through my head as Mrs. Roldan ran through a few Kindergarten drills with Smartypants. During our casual meet and greet last week she asked Smartypants to sit with her so she could do "a quick screening."

Uh Oh I thought. Did we doom our kid to play catch up with his class by not preschooling? Is she going to ask him who the President is? (and would he say "Obama but I wanted John McCain to win because he looks like me" again?) Is he supposed to know his multiplication tables already? Should he know how to hold a pencil correctly (something no teacher was able to teach his mother)? Or for that matter, be sure which hand to hold the pencil with?

I figured she was starting out slow when she held out a crayon: What color is this? "Pink!" yelled Smartypants. Well, yes, the wrapper is pink, but what color is this part (points to the crayon tip)? Oh, red. She goes through a few more colors. Are there any I forgot? Smartypants reminds her: black and green.

Next up: Shapes. Like all four of them: circle, square, rectangle, triangle.

Numbers? Mrs. Roldan shows Smartypants a page with numbers 1 through 10. As he reads the numbers she points to, Sweetiepants chimes in: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 twelveteen....

Come to think of it she was yelling out crayon colors too. And "Circle!" So far my 2 year old is passing Kindergarten screening with flying colors.

Mrs. Roldan has Smartypants read rows of capital letters; he rattles them off so quickly she can't move her ruler fast enough. Then lower case letters--he misses q and calls b "d."

She raises her eyebrows and I wait for it--the condemnation: Well, we'll let him in but you'll have to work with him every night to bring him up to speed. Instead I hear: Wow! Has he had preschool? Um, no. So you must work with him a lot? No? But we read a lot and we talk A LOT. She goes on with so many praises and glowing remarks that I realize: this is not a kindly Kindergarten teacher's attaboy!--she's truly excited about how much Smartypants already knows.

Expected condemnation morphs in that moment to sweet sweet vindication.

Next up: First Day Of Kindergarten

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My Baby Is Starting Kindergarten

God, please keep the calls from the school to 2 max per week.

Smartypants starts Kindergarten Thursday. Where did the time go?
Image: Smartypants at 8 months old

Mrs. Roldan, Smartypants' teacher, invited us to meet with her last Friday. Smartypants toured his new classroom and chose to follow my advice to shake Mrs. Roldan's hand and respond verbally to her questions. Honestly it could have gone either way: when he knows you want it he's less inclined to deliver the goods.

Smartypants has not attended preschool so Kindergarten will be for him what it was for us parents some 30 years ago: Kindergarten, not his 3rd year of "school." There are a few distinct advantages Smartypants' preschooled peers will have over him:
  1. They can wipe their own bottoms. I hear tell that most preschool teachers are not supposed or disposed to assist kiddos with the messier aspects of personal hygiene. So 1 up for the preschooled kids. Expect multiple posts with all the gory details.
  2. "Write your name in the upper right hand corner": I assumed most of Smartypants' class would already know how to write their names. Though I made a few weak attempts to convince him to practice I'm glad I didn't make too big a stink about it as Mrs. Roldan will be teaching this skill in the first few weeks of school.
  3. Yeah...I can't think of another point either. And really, #2 has been eliminated. So that leaves only #1, which is really about #2.
Up next: The Kindergarten Screening: Aced by My 2 Year Old