Saying good-bye to diapers is a glorious day both environmentally and financially, but be careful what you wish for! I donít like to change a ten-wiper any more than the next mom, but potty training is just a swapping of evils. It is like having to make a fire escape plan for a building every time you go out. From the moment your toddler sounds the alarm, you have approximately thirty seconds to find the nearest public restroom. If you donít find the quickest, most direct route, you will indeed get burned. Frankly, battling flames might be easier than peeling layers of wet and stinky clothing off of a fidgeting child. And if, in all the hoopla of trying to leave the house, you neglected to bring a change of clothes, forget about it. Abort the mission and head for home!
While many experts say not to try and rush your toddler into toilet training, there is one external pressure to conquer it: preschool. By June we had our little one enrolled and as mentally prepared as a three-year-old can be for the beginning of school in September. The only remaining hurdle was consistency with the potty. Even those relentless days of summer were passing by so quickly that I was starting to panic.
It was time to brave the garage in order to dig up the notes and books I saved from Psych 101. Had I realized during those narcissistic days of youth how important behavior modification would be once a small child was in my life, I am sure I would have given that information a more prestigious and more easily accessible place both in my memory and in the garage.
Since our daughter spent her first verbal year saying "no" more times than any mom would say in a lifetime of trips down the junk food aisle of the grocery store, reverse psychology seemed like the obvious first step. I must admit that it took award-winning acting to pretend that it didnít matter to me that she peed all over my clean floor instead of in the potty that was just three feet away!
As clever as she is, it didnít take her very long to figure out that I was far from indifferent to her haphazard displays of urination. Perhaps the first clue came when she noticed the way I jumped so quickly for the disinfectant. The whole act was blown for sure when my dry heaves accompanied the clean up of the other kind of mess. You know, the one that really inspires potty training. I could just see that look of recognition in her spunky little eyes. If she had the vocabulary, I am sure she would have said, "Like this really doesnít bug you, Mom. Do you think I was born yesterday?"
Since, Lord knows, there is no aversive therapy imaginable that is worse than walking around in a pile of your own feces, we thought the next logical step to be the employment of positive reinforcement. Lest you think we are idiots, I must explain that we began this whole process by overwhelming her with the praise and encouragement best understood by a professional cheerleader, but to no avail. We needed a desirable external stimulus, one with a bright colored exterior coating that only revealed its milk chocolate center when placed in your mouth (not in your hands!). The ever-delicious M&M approach worked wonders! I canít say that most dentists endorse the sugary method as readily as I do, nor can we know at this time the long-term effects that a chocolate addiction will have on her health. We can only assume, due to evidence found on her family tree, that the price she will eventually pay will be one of pant size.
My angst continued for two more page flippings of the calendar. Then, finally, it was more of a routine than a fluke that her cute little cheeks would perch proudly on her potty seat. I would like to think that my college education played some role in the making of this milestone, but the truth is that ninety-five percent of her success can be attributed to her physical and emotional readiness, and, much to the dismay of the medical community and her mother, Americaís favorite confectioner can claim the other five.