This has a reason.
Like Mummy K, I find that I write the future. Or rather, the inverse of the future. Writing about anything on my blog, especially drawing beautifully tied-up-in-a-bow conclusions about anything, will almost guarantee that it changes the next day. For example, no sooner had I written about my son’s lack of interest in reasons and how he never asked “Why”, or he decided that maybe that was quite interesting after all and now I can’t blink without him wanting to know why I did that.
Potty training has been the same. Back in November of last year, I wrote that he had pretty much cracked it once he discovered you could make numbers and letters with poo. Almost as if he had been reading my blog and was determined not to let me be too smug, he instantly reverted to soiling his underpants and has not really stopped since. Also, having been pretty much dry in the daytime initially, the novelty of going to the toilet soon wore off and he found that these visits to the bathroom were just an annoying distraction from play or TV watching or Doing Numbers, and he started leaving it just a little bit too late. Every. Single. Time.
For months, we have been going through on average 4 pairs of pants a day. On a Shy Poo day (as I call it), when the Boy very slowly releases little bits of poo into his underpants, squeezing them between his bottom for maximum discomfort and mess, this might be more like 6. The washing seems endless. I am forever hanging upside down scooping poo from a little boy’s bottom with toilet paper, then needing to change to wipes to get the really stubborn bits off (sorry, hope you weren’t eating dinner or anything).
“Remember,” I say when he gets impatient, “If you go to the toilet and do your poo there, Mummy only needs to do one wipe. If you poo in your underpants , it will take twenty minutes and half a roll of toilet paper. Your choice.”
Two months ago we hit a crisis point. I was getting increasingly wound up by the situation. I started getting very angry every time he had an accident – or “incident”, as I preferred to think of it, as calling it an “accident” implies that no one is at fault (thanks Hot Fuzz). I started to feel that he was deliberately choosing not to go to the toilet, therefore doing it on purpose, therefore being defiant. And defiance is a bit of a red rag for me.
Toilet trips became more and more stressful for both of us. We would both get very angry. Things were not improving.
Then two things happened:
1) My husband said to me one day after another toilet related confrontation: “He needs to know you are on his side.” Those words stuck in my head: He needs to know I am on his side.
2) I was idly flicking through my old friend Penelope Leach again, and happened on her chapter on potty training. She suggests that for young children their poo is something they can control, and they will often use it to take some control in a situation where they feel powerless.
I put these two things together:
The Boy is most likely choosing not to go to the toilet, as I suspected. He is doing it to exercise control. Why? Because he feels powerless and he doesn’t feel like I am on his side.
This was a sobering thought.
The next day I sat down with the Boy and I told him: “I am really sorry that I keep getting angry with you about going to the toilet. I promise that I will do my very best not to get cross with you. You are a big boy and you can choose when to go to the toilet. I will leave it up to you. It is your choice.”
The Boy gave a very decided nod and said: “Yes,” in a tone that suggested this was what he had been thinking all along and he was pleased I had caught up.
So that is what we did. There weren’t any more or any less accidents, but we were happier.
Yesterday I realised that things were actually very gradually improving. The Boy is taking the initiative to go to the toilet more often than he was. The other day, he even went up without making any fuss and did a poo without any prompting or help, and kept his underpants clean. As the Fairy Godmother remarked, his hit-to-miss-ratio seems to be improving. Maybe it’s 2-3 pairs of underpants a day now instead of 4.
Of course today, while I have been writing this post, he has been burning through freshly laundered pants and shorts like there is no tomorrow and even managed to smear poo on the IKEA step, the bathroom floor and the lovely cream carpet on the stairs.
But still I want to record that I am proud of him. That he is making progress, even if it is slow. He is making an effort. He is starting to care more about whether he is wet or dry.
“My pants are clean! Mummy is soooo proud of me!” he beams, sitting on the toilet.
And I really am.
Linking up to Loud ‘n Proud.