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.

22 comments:

Gina said...

You go mamma. Potty training is the black hairy mole on the face of motherhood. It's irritating, but must be addressed. You may remove it, but it still leaves a scar. Shaming and a lot of peanut M&Ms work (kind-of) in my house. Tell me when you're done and I'll send Syd over.

Lyle said...

our three year old was pretty much potty trained until I had to take my hiatus here in NE. Now he's back to soiling himself and he doesn't care about the smell, the feel, etc. Oh how I can't wait for this nightmare to end.

I too thought that my superior reasoning skills could get through most parenting trails...what was I thinking?

AzĂșcar said...

I want cement floors before we have to potty train any more children.

I am never going to try to train them until they are absolutely ready. Those are 6 months I am not getting back.

I remember my childless friend explaining to me last year, "But have you just had a conversation with him and told him that his actions are unacceptable? He needs to understand!"

OHhh...

b. said...

I was wondering if hiding all that pureed crap in their food gives them the runs......

ps. I have no potty training advice. Only more questions.

lisa v. clark said...

My favorite parental advice on anything is "Just have him do it." Oh, just have him do it? It's just easy enough to work!

Gina: SHAMING, I'd forgotten about that one! Thanks!

Bek said...

I am with you.

My current bribe is letting him go outside naked in 50 degree weather and play with the hose.

Everyone wins.

P.S. Mine is older than you. Lately he has been beggin to wear his sisters underware. I am not one of those that think you can make a child gay, but you MIGHT encourage a love of wearing womens unders.... what to do.....

Kacy said...

Yes, you need to just have him to it Lisa. And from now on, I'm going to Bon Appetit for all my parenting advice.

Emily S. said...

LOL. Nice post. Threats and bribery are all I ever use to parent my kids - oh and occasional praise :-) Good luck! (What reward finally got two of my 3 year olds to go poop in the potty? Charles E. Formage. We went once in California - for Isaac's reward. Not too nasty - tolerable. And we went once in Utah - for Cate's reward. Whoa! Just a few more kids were there...After the Utah trip - I swear I will never go again!)Good luck!

~j. said...

That'll teach me for...taking advice from a mother whose children are still little

I love you.

compulsive writer said...

What? You go on a blog posting spree and I almost completely missed it! Shame on me.

I never give advice about potty training. I will, however, tell you what worked for me, because that's what moms do, no? (It's not the same not the same method I have for dealing with the pile of paperwork on my desk at work, which is, "If you wait long enough to deal with the really tricky problems they'll become obsolete and you can toss them in the round file." But close.)

If I wait long enough they'll practically train themselves.

My method works with a lot of things. But not learning to do the dishes or the laundry.

Hailey said...

I'm just thinking about the soda and fancy salad.

But yeah, before you know it he'll be an old pro and you'll forget what all the fuss was about until the next time around.

(Can you remember to tell me that when I'm potty-training twins in two years, please?!)

Hailey said...

P.S. I love that "Where's the Poop" book.

Also, my sister-in-law told me that Jessica Seinfeld also offers real vegetables with the hidden ones, but a)I don't know where she gets that info and b)if it is true, that sounds like even more extra work. So, I'm just sticking to my system of throwing carrots and spinach into smoothies. No extra work there.

Nellie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cotton_in_the_medicine_bottles said...

Moira refuses to go poopie in the potty but has taught herself to go peepee in the big potty. I did virtually nothing on that. She's just a go getter. But that poop. She just sits in the kitchen crying as she goes number two in her TinkerBell panties.
There is no be all end all answer to this conundrum, but time.

The Dally Llama said...

Whoa! Blast from the past. I saw the picture for Cotton_in_the..... and it totally took me back. I LOVED The Never Ending Story. I was frustrated for a minute b/c I couldn't remember the character's name (she was the first girl I ever remember thinking was hot). And then I remembered, DUH! She didn't have one. That was the problem that was destroying Fantasia.

Anyway, because I'm a male, I feel the need to try to solve the problem you've presented, because that's what we do. As with so many problems in life, the answers are clearly contained in Japanese cartoons.

This is a link.

Problem solved.

You're welcome.

wendysue said...

I don't know if that link will do anything for Hugh, but Miles and Owen will LOVE it. That was hilarious.

Cafe Johnsonia said...

So, I'm one of those moms who waited long enough until my daughter basically taught herself (please note sarcasm.) My question is this: How do you get them to start wearing clothes once they've "trained"? We can't use the potty without getting totally undressed. I say "we" because it's a family affair, apparently. And are they ever really trained? I mean, when does that happen? When they are ten?

Bribe away. Our pediatrician told us to use candy, plain and simple. She said, "Food is part of our society. Use it as a reward. It's the only thing that works." And it did...sort of, 'cause we still have the naked issue.

And how do you do this with a newborn anyway?

lisa v. clark said...

Well, it's still cold and I have a newborn and it (was?) is flu season so we're still inside all day, and he started taking off his diaper when he had finished his business, SSOOOOO that's why I started this monkey business in the first place.

I won't lie, its been a long week. BUT he's keeping his pants dry and he did a big poopie in the potty today (thanks to Hailey for giving him "POTTY POWER!" it worked!!!). But I, too am having a hard time with the whole "wearing clothes" thing. (or, rather, HE is. I don't like to be naked right now, but that's another blog.)

Shawn said...

My little guy never started going in the potty until he was three, and it drove me crazy, but I was more laid back with the 5th one...

As for my older son, we used to have everyone come into the bathroom and exclaim about how amazing his poops were and what they looked like, etc...

Imagine my embarrassment when he decided to do that when we had people over for dinner. It was, "Hey! Come and see the train that I made, everyone!!
Crazy...

Rynell said...

I testify of the power of M&Ms.

(and professional carpet cleaning in a couple of weeks.)

Geo said...

Pa, pa, pants man!

Advice? I got nothin'.

I think though you probably need to up the bribes for yourself. Instead of hiding vegies in the family mac-and cheese, maybe you should be hiding yourself a party box of Pepperidge Farms cookies.

Queen Scarlett said...

I'm so late to this conversation...oh this brought back nightmares. It sends me into shock and germaphobe mania to find poop logs on the carpet. So glad that's over...until my second child decides it's time to mark her territory.

My Mom has this saying in Chinese... it's related to husband-raising...but relates to kid-raising...your post reminded me of it. She says that dealing with husbands is like dealing with kids... you just lie a little to get them to do the right thing. ;-) It sounds really cute and affectionate in Chinese...