So I have been a little absent from my blog for awhile now. About 9 months. There are times in our lives when we have to take a step back, evaluate how we are spending our time, and make adjustments. As life got a little crazy, writing blog posts was one of the things that I had to let go of for awhile. While I love writing, it was making life a little more hectic, and taking time away from my family. This post has been in the works since last fall, and I finally have the time to sit down and complete it. So, enjoy my thoughts on potty training my third child!
At the beginning of last summer I set out on a mission. A mission that I thought was going to be impossible, but I was determined to do my best to give it a go. Potty training my third child. The third child who up until that point would throw a fit and scream every time you would attempt to put him on or get him to sit on the potty, talk about potty training, or get out big boy underwear. Brett at the time was two-and-half. I knew that he might not be ready given his responses to the previous efforts I had made, but I also knew there was a chance that this extremely strong willed child might really be ready, that maybe he had just been expressing his strong will and independence. The ” do it on my time” attitude.
Let me just start out by saying that potty training a toddler when you are 40-years old is not what it was when you were 30-years old. Okay, I will be completely honest. Nothing I do with my toddler now that I am 40-years old is what it was when I was 30-years old with my second child. Less time, less patience, and of course, a strong willed child added to that. Sigh. Yes, here it is again. The discussion about the milestone birthday I recently had. But I digress…
My first child, Garrett, was relatively easy to potty train. In a matter of days he had the whole thing down. From the first day we started he woke up dry in the morning and at nap time, and immediately started using the potty chair. It was a piece of cake until we soon after hit a snafu with going number two on the potty, which he had mastered and then suddenly the tables turned. Getting through that was somewhat of a struggle, but the whole situation was not nearly as difficult as I had anticipated. All in all, I thought it was a breeze.
Bring on child number two, Lydia. From birth Lydia had a bit of a sassier attitude. Of the two, she was the climber, the one that got into everything, the one that pushed the limits. She wasn’t really strong willed, just determined and curious. She was not, however, determined to go on the potty. She didn’t really want to have much to do with it. She didn’t resist being put on the potty, she just wasn’t interested. I put off potty training knowing it was going to be a waste of time if I attempted it too early. We finally started potty training and… it took forever. She was certainly on her own schedule. Even once she had mastered going on the potty, she still wasn’t dry in the morning or after nap.
Enter child number three, 8 years later. And me 8 years older. Brett can certainly be considered in the class of strong willed child. I thought Lydia had determination. Oh, she had nothing on this one! If he doesn’t want to do something, it is nearly impossible to force him to. Over the past several months I had tried to slowly introduce him to the potty chair, big boy underwear, the big boy toilet. At first he would sit on the potty chair, read the book, push the buttons (oh yeah, 8 and 10 years ago the potty chair we had didn’t have buttons to push!). He seemed interested somewhat. Until I began to attempt potty training. You would have thought I was murdering the child! All of a sudden a switch flipped and he wanted absolutely nothing to do with the potty. Try to put him on the potty chair or toilet, he would scream bloody murder and fight you. Try to show him big boy underwear and he would scream “No!” and run away. I tried buying fun underwear with his favorite characters, Paw Patrol. I tried buying a fun toilet seat that you put on top of the toilet. I tried talking up the potty and being a big boy using it like Daddy, Bubby, Sissy, Papa, Nana and Mommy. Nope. None of it helped. In fact, I think it made him even more determined to not do it! I even tried bribing him with M&M’s, which is something we never allow him to eat. Nothing was working.
I finally decided that any “slow” method of potty training was not going to work with this one. Early in the summer we had a week that we didn’t have to be anywhere. So I decided this was the time. We stayed home for a week, he ran around the house nearly naked, and I put him on the potty every 30 minutes or so. We went through many accidents at first, but then it started to click. He was going pee on the potty! Hallelujah! The angels were singing! The trumpets were blaring! But… number two was still not happening. Can I tell you how tired I was of cleaning poop out of underwear or off the floor?! After the week was up, we had made great progress, but we still weren’t there. And he refused to go on a toilet outside of the house. In lieu of dealing with accidents when we weren’t home, I ended up putting him in pull ups when we had to go somewhere, which only confused him and he would just do the deed in the pull ups instead of attempt to go on the potty. While I was frustrated, I didn’t give up, and we kept plugging along. And during the process, I realized something that was even more important than potty training and getting my toddler out of diapers.
I mentioned earlier my two older children. They are now 14 and 11. So, there is quite an age gap between them and Brett. They have always been very helpful with him, love to play with him, and seem to really care about him. But the potty training was what really showed me just how much these two care about their little brother. They encouraged him, they helped to praise him, they would sit with him while he used the potty. They even helped to clean him up after we finally started going number two on the potty. They were completely involved in the effort, wanting him to succeed, wanting to help, wanting to show him love and praise. That was the moment that it occurred to me just how lucky we are. As a parent I am so lucky to have three amazing children. Lucky that the older two are good kids. Blessed that the older two have adjusted well to our blended family. But most importantly, I realized just how lucky my kids are. Brett gets to grow up with an older brother and sister who love him from the bottom of their hearts, who want to be supportive of him, who want to be there for him, who want to teach him. And the older two kids? Well they get to grow up knowing that they are doing all of these things for their little brother. That they are a part of him, and molding who he becomes. They get to carry the satisfaction of being a role model for their little brother.
There are many times that I feel guilty. I feel bad for both my toddler and my older two children. There are times that it isn’t fair. It’s difficult to have a toddler and teenagers, and keep them all involved and happy with activities. It’s difficult to find things that all three of them will enjoy. There are times that Brett has to sacrifice while he sits and watches Bubby and Sissy play sports or attend practices. There are times that Brett can’t go do the things they do because he is just too little. There are times he is upset because they are not home. And the big kids have to make sacrifices too. Now that Brett is getting older they have to sit through his activities. They get drug along to things he will enjoy like bounce houses and the zoo. There are times when they don’t get to do the things they would rather do, or go the places they would prefer to go. But you know what? They all understand and accept the fact that we are a family, and there are times when we have to make sacrifices so that our family members can enjoy life too. All in all, I think each of them will grow up a better person for it. More well rounded, more understanding, more accepting. And as as a parent, it is teaching us to remember that phrase that my parents engrained in my head. Life isn’t always fair. But guess what, in the end, it is. They all get their fair share of fun and age appropriate activities. They each get our affection and our time in different ways and at different moments. It evens out in the end. It can be challenging, but clearly we are doing something right when we see just how much the older children care about their little brother.
And as for the potty training, my mom reminded me in September, that it really didn’t take that long to have Brett fully potty trained in spite of how long it SEEMED. I really wasn’t cleaning up poop forever. Once again, mom is right!