Thursday, January 28, 2010

Leap of faith

We are one week and two days into no daytime diapers. So far, we’ve had just a few half-accidents at home. I call it a half-accident if he starts to go, realizes it, and announces it in time to finish in the potty. And we’ve had one accident in public. But that was when we kept him out past his bedtime. He was so tired while kneeling on the floor that his head fell back against the sofa and his eyes were closed. I think he may have fallen asleep. When I put him on the potty shortly afterwards, I saw his pants were wet. Since we accept that he doesn’t have any control when he’s asleep, I’m not sure whether to count this one as a true accident or not. There have been no pooping accidents during waking hours, though that hasn’t been an issue for a long time.

I admit there have been times during the week when I’ve been really tempted to put on a diaper, a plastic cover, something. First, it was visits to the library that freaked me out. The carpeted floor there doesn’t help and I was sure an accident would bring on lots of disapproving looks. But we’ve made it to the library several times, no problem. Then I worried about taking him to participate in research studies. Again, peeing in front of the researcher wouldn’t make a good impression. But we did that twice and no problem. Finally, I was tempted when I took him to the gym. I used to be able to leave him in the gym for up to two hours. Sometimes I’d even run out and go grocery shopping. But with the risk of an accident, I knew I’d need to stay close by. In fact, I’d probably need to pop in after the first hour and see if he needs to go. The gym childcare, which used to cost a few dollars, is now free. I value being able to leave him there and I didn’t want to upset the caregivers with an accident. But again, I took a deep breath, decided to trust him, and let him go. Again, no problem. I’ve worried about accidents in the carseat, but it hasn’t happened.

I’m learning that the hardest part of potty training is probably more of an issue for the parent than for the child. River does his business. He has an occasional accident here and there. But overall, he’s doing just fine. But it’s us, as parents and caregivers, who fear the accidents, who fear the public embarrassment, who fear the censure.

I admit, I’ve been less than enthused about the prospect of a potty training toddler (other than my own) spending a lot of time in my house. I really don’t want another kid’s urine on our newly finished hardwood floors. At the same time, if a parent provides enough opportunities to go and is ready for an emergency (a quick towel on hand will clean up even shiny hardwood floors) the chances of an accident may not be all that high.

At the times I’ve been tempted, I’ve thought of perhaps putting on a diaper only for a few hours, during this potentially inconvenient or embarrassing time. Then I thought about the message that would send. That diapers are OK sometimes when it’s not convenient to use the bathroom. That I can’t trust him to get through an hour or a few hours on his own. And I decided it’s not worth it. I’d rather take the risk. I’d rather he have an accident or two, if necessary, so that he understands what happens.

It’s really a leap of faith for parents to put away the diapers and say – no more, I trust you, little toddler, to listen to your own body. I wonder if perhaps he would have been ready earlier. If I took too long to take the leap. The signal I was waiting for was some advance notice of having to go. We got that just a month or two before we got rid of the diapers, so I don’t think we waited a very long time after he might have been ready. But I am surprised at how much of the process has to do with me, Mark and other caregivers letting go and having faith.

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