There are several ways in which I could give this post a theme, and I've decided it's got to revolve around a quote which I often remind myself of when things get a bit dicey: There can be no rainbow without a cloud and a storm.
I had told myself we were going to do potty training with Blake over Christmas; I think he's really of the age where he should be able to go to the toilet voluntarily, he has shown some interest in it over the past couple of months, and I thought that having the added support of Matt at home over the break would help make the whole thing easier. As is often the case when we contemplate overcoming a "milestone hurdle" during a vacation, we ended up being too lazy to do anything over the nearly 2-week Christmas break. On the one hand vacations are the ideal time to focus on things like getting rid of the pacifier, or potty training, or whatever the heck it is that will come next (that I haven't even thought of); on the other, it's meant to be a break and it seems like we give so much attention to parenting as it is, that it's nice not to have some extra stress to deal with. So, in the end, we didn't really tackle potty training with much gusto. I had started to use the method described in the book Toddler Taming, which is where you keep taking the child to the potty or toilet, where you read them a story or entertain them for a bit, all the while hoping that while they're sitting on the pot, something will happen - and then you can get really excited about it. The child will remember that praise, and you're on the road to success. I did try this a couple of times, but nothing was ever deposited in the toilet, and Blake was usually only ever slightly perched on it, so that if he even did attempt something, it probably would have not created a splash or a plop. He also got bored of the stories, so that seemed like it was going to take FOREVER. I did give him a chocolate coin when he cooperated with a visit, but he lost interest in these too.
When I dropped him off at nursery yesterday, I reported my mediocre attempts over the holidays, and they asked whether I wanted them to try there instead of at home. I felt I should be the one to kick it off, so I told them I would start today, with the approach often called the "bare bottom" one; essentially, take the nappy off and if they wet or soil themselves, they'll soon learn. This morning I woke up ready to start, and it was exciting. I had bought some Mickey Mouse "big boy pants" a couple of weeks ago, so I kitted B out in these and we were off. There was a lot of excitement in the air and I thought I would go hoarse from all the pumping up I was doing about how wonderful the toilet was, won't it be nice not to need a nappy changing, poor Noah, he'll still have to be in nappies because he's a baby, ad nauseum. Two hours in, and nothing had happened, so I thought, ooh, maybe this will be easy! Stupid woman! Haven't you learned anything in your nearly three years of being a mother?! Of course it's not going to be easy...!At some point soon after (why was I out of the room?! I'm not sure) I heard him say from the living room, "Mom, come look what's happened!!" I entered to find a small puddle on the floor and congratulated myself for having rolled up the rug earlier in the morning. I reacted without emotion - that's ok, let's get you cleaned up and mop up this wee wee, that sort of thing. He was instantly interested in another pair of pants, so we went to select those. Not too bad, I thought. He'll get it eventually. I did periodically ask if he needed to go, but after I had finished changing Noah and was washing my hands, I heard Blake say excitedly, "Mom, it's happened again!" This time, it was on the edge of our bedroom and the hallway, so I had to deal with some carpet clean-up. Ironically, I had the carpets cleaned yesterday, having scheduled it for what was supposed to be the "Post-Christmas-break/post-potty-training" clean! We'll eventually get rid of the carpet when we finally get around to re-doing our kitchen, but still...I thought, "Oh, it was so clean yesterday!" Still, nothing too serious.
Around midday I got my hopes up that everyone was going to be tired at roughly the same time, so that maybe we could all have a nap together. Blake intimated that he was sleepy so we all headed up to my bed; Noah isn't 100% healthy (he seemed to get a cold starting yesterday afternoon and had a fever last night, probably related to three teeth which are literally about to pop through his gums) and fell asleep right away, but Blake decided he wasn't in fact tired and started lining up all his toy cars on the side of the bed. I think I must have dozed off, but Noah then woke up after 20 minutes anyway, and that was the end of naptime!
I had put Blake in a "pull-up" diaper for the proposed naptime, and didn't change him out of it immediately. This turned out to be a mixed blessing, because he did in fact do his number 2 business while he had the pull-up on. Good on the one hand that it didn't require me to clean up the carpet, but not good in terms of the "training" aspect. I was back to changing a nappy!
It is always quite a long day at home with both boys if we don't go out, even longer when neither of them really has a decent nap. At around 3:00 I realised that we were desperate to get some groceries, so I was in the dining room finalizing the Ocado order when I heard from the living room, where Blake was watchin an episode of his new favorite show, Handy Manny: "Mom, it's on the sofa!" The huge wet patch on the couch was not from him spilling his cup of water, so off came the cover and in that went into the wash. More non-emotion from me and yet another change of pants. Very very shortly thereafter I hear an exasperated, "Oh no, not again!" and he's standing by a puddle near the tv. How have I missed all of these? I despair to myself, before heading off for more towels and yet another pair of pants.
At this point something interesting happened, which is that Blake then told me that he needed a poo, so we headed up to the toilet. He also told me that he needed privacy, so he left me and Noah in the hallway while he shut the door. I listened carefully, and thought - although now I wonder if it was hopeful imagination - that I heard a sound of something in the toilet. He excitedly said, "Mom, I did it!" and I went in to have a look. There are two options about what happened here, and one is that it was one of those "phantom sinkers" - i.e. you think you should see something, but there isn't anything that could confirm your actions just seconds before; the second is that he made it up, and I am ashamed to admit I think it may be the latter, based on his reaction and the fact that he was very very keen to have his chocolate coin right away. His usual time to do a number 2, if he's going to do a second one during the day, wouldn't be at that time, either; it would be after dinner. Anyway, I shelved my doubts and got really into the celebrations - clapping and whooping and of course going and dutifully getting the chocolate coin. Whether or not he actually did something in there...I'll probably never know!
I was making some dinner and asked Blake to let me know if Noah headed toward the stairs (we've installed a stair gate at the top but the layout of the banister at the bottom is proving tricky for a bottom gate). He reported with a shout that Noah was going up, and indeed Noah was a few steps up already. I told Blake I was so proud of him for letting me know and calling me in, and I could definitely see in his face that he was excited for this praise. Hilariously, the next thing Blake said was, "Mom, I'm so cute!" You little stinker! I had to smile though...
The final accident was again in the living room, making it five for the day. A huge puddle, which Blake tried to tackle with a broom (me shouting, "No, no, sweetie, not with a broom!"). To be honest, I was so sick of seeing him mincing around in his Mickey Mouse pants - the fifth pair of the day - that as soon as Matt walked through the door I had to get on to Google to see if I was actually doing this right. I think tomorrow I'm going to try the approach of no pants - truly bare bottom, as I do wonder if the fabric feels too much like a nappy for Blake to know the difference. Of course, as many people will tell you, and which I completely understand, the ideal time to do this is obviously not mid-winter, but rather spring or summer when he could be out running around naked in the back garden. And who knows, we may still take advantage of that opportunity if there isn't any progress!
I'll of course be crossing my fingers that tomorrow is better. I know better than to visibly lose my patience; after all he has had nearly three years of just letting it go, so it's bound to feel like a big change. I also need to work out this whole reward thing and see if I can improve that; right now he's not getting to the toilet to even earn the reward, so it feels a bit chicken and egg!
By 7:30 I was exhausted. It had been a pretty boring, yet demanding and challenging day, and I just wanted both of the boys to be asleep so that I could take a break from thinking about responding to all their needs related to bodily functions. To add insult to injury, though, I had just given Noah his bottle and had to pop downstairs to get his sleep sack. He coughed, and given that he's always been a bit of a pukey baby, and that he actually isn't well, he then threw up his entire bottle - plus what smelled like the strawberry yogurt he'd had for dessert - all over me as I was standing on the staircase. Matt kindly cleaned up the stairs while I went and changed Noah and me; I'd had enough of mopping up messes today.
I then went out for a bit of fresh air - my exercise for 2011 is going to have to be running, despite the fact that I don't really like running and that it probably won't be good for my dodgy knees. At the moment anything else - swimming, for instance - is too complicated to figure out in terms of logistics. I smelled like strawberry puke, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that there had been a light sprinkle at some point in the afternoon that I hadn't noticed as I was dealing with all the sprinkling in the house. I did 20 minutes of running and walking, and contemplated this post. I decided that I am going to have to hope and believe in the idea that there can be no rainbow without a cloud and a storm. I just hope we get to see that rainbow soon! In the meantime, before I forget, I have a third load of laundry to put on...