When I finally asked Facebook for potty-training tips, the comments I received helped me to realize that we had, indeed, tried everything: underwear boot camp, M&Ms, stickers, promising a toy, taking away toys, TV, potty-training episodes, everything. Facebook friends suggested variations on all of the above, and the one underlying theme that came up was the one thing we lacked: the kid has to want to do it.
She simply wasn’t ready. So we backed off until we knew beyond a doubt that she was ready. And that time has come. Now, we’re helping her be ready.
Siena is our kid. After three-plus years with her, we know her pretty well. We also feel that we are getting to know her. And this potty-training thing–jeepers, are we ever getting to know her. This kid is afraid of failure. (Like me! S*&!)
And in the process of getting to know her, I’m also learning more about myself.
We find that underwear boot camp–wearing underwear exclusively for three days–is too intense. Halfway through the first day, she gets frustrated and cranky. Paying attention to new sensations in your body all day is exhausting.
So we practice underwear in the morning, and then do pull-ups the rest of the day–the in between stage where she doesn’t have to pay attention ALL the time, but we can still practice the potty sometimes.
“But what if I have an accident?” she worries.
“That’s okay,” we say. “It’s part of practice. We try, have accidents, try again.” We’ve told her stories of all the things we have had to practice to get it right–learning to use the potty, playing instruments, driving a car, cooking food…
One of the things is too adult–or abstract–for me to tell her: about how I feel like I have failed over and over in my career. They haven’t been failures, really–just times when I haven’t been picked for the job, when my book hasn’t been picked for publication, when I’ve almost made it–but not quite.
I have felt like I’ve almost made it to the potty–but then I have an accident. And over the last few years, I have had a LOT of career accidents.
“That’s okay,” I tell us. “It’s part of practice. We try and try again.”
What else is potty training teaching me?
Sometimes we just have to sit on the potty, and then the pee comes. (Sometimes we have to sit at the computer, and then the writing comes.)
When you’ve had an accident, and Mommy tells you it’s okay, you need to believe it’s okay. There’s no shame. Get rid of the shame.
When you get the urge, GO WRITE.
First thing you do in the morning: go sit on the toilet. Do your work.
You don’t have to practice all day. Practice for a little while, then take a break. Go about your day.
Breaks are okay. Even breaks that last the whole day.
Listen to your body.
Try, and try again.