There's been a lot of talk about poop in our house recently.
Not just because I'm a nurse. Anyone who knows a nurse socially knows that no bodily function is off conversational limits. Even over dinner. We will occasionally toss a preemptive apology in the direction of any non-nurses present, but that is generally the extent of our decorum.
Not only because I just had a baby, either. Though there was a fair amount of discussion surrounding my fear of (and relief after) my first post-partum poop. For those who are curious, it was not as scary as I expected.
Nope. It's because Sam is potty training. It's something I've been meaning to do for quite a while, and Sam was showing interest around Christmas time, but I was working too much to be consistent with it and then we traveled East for New Year's . . . and then his interest was gone. A friend had sent me a link to a three-day potty training boot camp that had worked for her son, but the recommended age to do it was 22 months and we were already 5 months past that. And while I know that kids will potty train when they are ready, you can't force them, none of them are still in diapers in college, etc. . . I was starting to feel guilty that I missed the window and was somehow doing Sam a disservice.
When I pulled Sam from daycare in April, I thought that would be a good time to do it since I would be home monday to friday and we could really focus, but I won't lie . . . I was hugely pregnant, tired and uncomfortable, and I got kind of lazy about it. I would ask him if he wanted to use the potty or toilet and he would say no so I would let it go. I rationalized that training now would be a waste of time because he would surely regress when the baby arrived anyway.
All the same, I knew it had to be done sooner or later. Sam will start preschool in the Fall and it's a requirement. Also - and I know this is a projection of my own self-consciousness - I was starting to be worried about judgment from other parents because Sam is so verbal that he seems older than he is. As it is he is 2 years and 9 months and still in diapers. Some of our neighbours' kids of similar ages have been trained for many months. Of course, no one ever commented because they are decent people and they've been there before - or will be soon.
After Lucy arrived, I had recovered from her birth, and we saw that Sam was adapting to his little sister's presence without objection, I started to realize that it would be much easier to manage potty training and a newborn if we tackled it with two parents in the house - i.e. before David went back to work. Neither of us had done much reading on the how-to of it, but I had chatted with some other mums of toddlers and been given a few helpful ideas.
So off Sam and I went to the local big box discount store (actually, it was my first outing with both the kids by myself and it went very well) to buy pull ups, stickers, and M&Ms (we already had undies, a potty and a toilet seat with Thomas on it). By the time we got home Sam already knew the plan and wanted that first M&M reward, so he took off his diaper and peed in the potty. After that he wanted to put on underwear . . . so we were kind of in it. That afternoon we made a potty chart for his stickers, finalizing the incentives for his new bathroom habits.
Twenty four hours later, David and I wanted to kill each other.
Did you know that potty training is effing boring?!? In the beginning you can't really leave the house. And since I hadn't really done much reading or planning about the execution of potty training, I didn't know how long this was supposed to take and how long before we could venture out into the world. Luckily the weather has not been fabulous lately so it wasn't such a big deal, for the first couple of days. But by day three we were all going stir crazy!
On top of that, we discovered that while peeing for an M&M was well within Sam's readiness, has a mental block about pooping anywhere but in his diaper. He didn't poop the whole first day that he was in underwear. He's still in diapers at night, but he didn't poop that first night either. He is a pretty regular kid so we were a little worried about this. By the second afternoon he was saying that he had to poop every 20 seconds or so and was clearly getting distressed, but he just wouldn't go in the potty or on the toilet. We kept encouraging him gently . . . and soon found ourselves saying things that would mortify even the least modest nurses I know!
Gosh, I love having a good poop!
Hey Sam, I have to go poop. Do you want to come?
Wow, that was a big poop! I feel so much better now!
And so on.
Our praise of poop did not seem to affect him, so we offered to let him put a diaper back on so he could poop and for a little while he said no thank you, but eventually he agreed and within 5 minutes he dropped a mother load. Poor kid. David checked with Dr. Google and apparently this is not an uncommon thing.
After that we adjusted our expectations of successful potty training. Diapers for bedtime and pooping are totally fine. Peeing in the potty in the front hallway so that we don't have to race up to the third floor where all the stupid bathrooms are in this house - also fine. Pull ups for car rides and longer outings - absolutely ok. In the end, whatever keeps the process as stress-free for both Sam and us is acceptable. What's the rush? Why the pressure? And you know what? It's working. Sam hasn't had an accident since the first day. He can play outside with his friends and still take a pause to go in to the potty without worrying that playtime is over or that he is missing anything. We've had several dry outings in the car or on foot (in undies, not even Pull ups!). And he has no problem with public washrooms. For a week in, I call that success. The rest will come in time.
An excerpt from one of the early days (bearing in mind that Sam is two and a half and his favourite questions are "Why?" and "What kind of . . . "
Me: That was a great poop, I feel so much better!
Sam: What kind of poop was it?
Me: (biting my tongue not to laugh) Um . . .
Sam: Was it a white poop?
Me: (stifling giggles) No, it was brown.
Sam: Oh. I had a brown one too! What kind of brown poop?
Me: (laughing openly now) Well, let's see . . . what did I eat for dinner last night . . . ?
David: Oh Christ.