Tuesday, February 26, 2008
There Will Be Poop
Potty-training (toilet-training?) is always an interesting combination of parental optimism, manifested in high-pitched praise, clapping, and marshmallows and that depressing realism manifested in grinding teeth, muffled swearing, and the admission you really can't MAKE anyone do anything. Let alone an almost three year-old.
This juxtaposition confuses both parent and child. It's like the best of intentions get slapped in the face by a stinky reality you chose to ignore. The really stinky, messy, you-Clorox-but-you-still-know-it's-there reality. I'm really not that impressed that my almost three year-old can "tinkle in the potty" because I think he should already be doing it by now, but I'm pretending in order to trick him into doing it in order to gain my approval. I'm bribing him with a loud fire-truck I wouldn't normally buy. Isn't that weird? Blatantly manipulative? But what's the alternative?
This is the part of the blog where you think about it, offer silent suggestions in your head about what you've done, what your sister does, what that one neighbor did, and what Dr. Brazzleberry told you to do, and then, ultimately, agree with me. As the saying goes, you can lead a child to the toilet, but you can't make him care about how much you have to clean up.
This trial of bodily functions has me thinking about how much calculated manipulation is needed in successfully raising children. How do I get my kids to pick up after themselves? To "just say no" and everything else I want them to do or not do to be responsible adults? Before I had children I thought that my excellent reasoning skills would guide them through life, but now I know it's just extra video game time, and treats. He will not potty-train himself because he's uncomfortable sitting in his own filth. He's quite content to do that. He will not potty-train himself because he smells bad or because he's spreading germs that will make us all sick all over the house. He's perfectly content to do those things as well. I know that in order to potty-train my son I will need to use bribery. I've been around the toddler block before. I tried to hide vegetables in their food, but just as the purees were silently chilling in the freezer, I read an article in Bon Appetit! that referenced the cookbook Deceptively Delicious (and, on a side note, apparently not the brain child of Jessica Seinfeld--but that's another scandal for another time) saying, ultimately, what does eating mac and cheese with cauliflower and beans snuck in teach kids? It teaches them to eat mac and cheese, it doesn't each them to eat their veggies. Touche, Jessica. (That'll teach me from a. taking advice from privileged celebrities, b. taking advice from a mother whose children are still little, and c. doing extra work)
I take comfort in the fact that I have successfully potty-trained three other children and they all did it for different reasons, using a different technique. The intricate recipe involves a lot of praise and some stern warnings sprinkled with M&M's over about a week's time. So, despite my superior reasoning skills, I know what the next few days will be like-- frustrating and messy. There's no way around it. What I have changed this time is using bribery for myself. Yesterday I got french fries, today a soda and a fancy salad. I will use, despite what all the diet gurus tell me, food as a reward. Because it WORKS.