Potty training “backup”

Potty training after the first week seemed to be going along swimmingly.  However, this past week was, shall I say, so challenging that every day Eliza brought me to my wit’s end after exhausting me mentally and physically.

She still loves to go pee in the potty and every time she gets super excited, squealing in joy, pointing at the pot and saying, “Mommy WOOK, Yaya pee peed in da poppy!  YAY!  (Clap clap clap).”  The problem arises when she has to poop.

You might recall she was hesitant to poop on the potty in the first place.  She held it in for hours the first few times.  The problem is this created a vicious cycle of being afraid it will hurt to poop, holding it in, and pushing it out after impacting it.  This – of course – hurts, and so her fears about pooping have been confirmed.  Thus, each time she feels the urge, she believes (and knows) it will be a painful experience.  She doesn’t want to poop at all now.  Not in a diaper and not in the potty.  Picture a two-year-old who cannot stop her tantrums for hours on end, as every few minutes she says in a whiny, scared voice, “Mommy, pee!  PEE!” while holding her tush and squeezing her legs together.  It culminates in crying combined with an expression of terror as it starts to come out against her wishes and will.  In a way, I feel bad for her, but in another way, I wish so badly I could reason with her.  (And those of you who are reading this and have older children who are not yet trained are probably feeling pretty justified right about now.  Go ahead, it’s okay.)  Nothing we say helps.  We try to relax her.  We try to assure her.  We tell her how happy all her favorite people will be if she will go.  We bribe her with chocolate.  None of it is working.

I called the pediatrician and have started her on Miralax this morning, which will make it much softer and get rid of the pain, and in so doing (we hope) erase the fear of the act.  I will keep you updated.

In the meantime, I will count my lucky stars that she does still enjoy using the potty and has only had one pee accident in 12 days.  I’m going to try to focus on that when I am at my wit’s end again (which should be within the next few hours as she has been doing the poopy dance all morning already).

TV: My necessary evil

Last week, amid potty training and puke, I think Eliza watched each of the 7 DVR’d episodes we had of “Dora the Explorer” 2-3 times.  She sat latched to me like a lap parasite for hours on end in a Dora daze.  I wouldn’t normally allow such a thing, but during a 104.3 degree fever, she can do whatever she wants.  And besides, it dawned on me that when I was home sick as a kid, that’s pretty much all I did.

Now I’m trying to wean her from the experience, because she thinks she can still say, “watch Doda” (she has the Latin rolling her Rs thing down) and she’s going to endlessly sit in front of the tube mesmerized.  Obviously, I don’t want her to watch hours on end of television every day, but I must say that it is a wonderful time buyer sometimes.

I remember reading that the American Association of Pediatricians recommends that toddlers watch no more than 1-2 hours of television per day.  At the time, I was pregnant with Zach, and I laughed at the thought, saying to myself, “Who allows a toddler to watch even THAT much?  Eliza only watches about 20-40 minutes.”  Once Zach came along, I knew exactly what toddlers watch 1-2 hours a day.  Or more.  Those with siblings.  (Or fill in the blank because I completely understand now.)

In my perfect world, I entertain my children all day long with educational games, puzzles, and toys.  We run around and chase each other.  We sing songs.  Zach sits still (safely) somehow while Eliza obeys my every command so I can get things done like cooking and cleaning.

In my real world, I have to prioritize because there is no way to keep a clean house, nurse a baby, entertain a toddler, plan and make baby food and healthy meals, have clean clothes, run errands, and tend to others’ needs 24/7.  Something’s gotta give.  Right now, it’s television.

First thing in the morning, in order to be able to nurse Zach, pump extra milk, and make some breakfast for Eliza, I put on an episode of Dora.  I don’t know how else I could do it (though I am all ears for suggestions).  We generally watch another episode sometime before nap in the afternoon because I need to buy more time to get things done.  After nap, we often watch another episode, usually while I’m trying to make dinner.  And I must confess that some days, like today when it’s rainy and wet out, we’ve already watched four episodes.  (I know I promised not to mention it, but Eliza has spent the past day and a half regressing in her potty training.  She is not sleeping well, either, so having to pee and poop and holding it in endlessly is really causing problems.  We’re back to her clinging to my lap, begging for boots and Isa and Tico and Benny and all her Latin TV friends.)

Does this make me a bad parent?  I know I’m not the only one who wonders that.  Last week I was at a friend’s house and she turned on Yo Gabba Gabba and confessed that sometimes she sets her two in front of it to get some peace and quiet.  Then she said, “I know that’s bad.  Is that bad?”  It was like I could tell she thought I would never do such a thing, and I would judge her for doing it.  And I said, “No that’s not bad, I do it, too.”  She was so relieved.

Why is it that it’s so hard to feel like a good parent when you can’t keep the card house from falling without a little help?  No, I don’t propose letting television raise your children.  We do play games, sing songs, read books, and chase each other.  But the dishes have to get done somehow, too.  And the cooking.  And the cleaning.  And the laundry.  I’m curious to know from other moms how much they think is too much.  And I’d love some tips on other types of distractions for young children.  Because I, too, can only take so much “Dora Dora Dora the Explorer, DORA!”

With kids, you fix a drip and bust a leak

I wouldn’t have believed it if you had told me last weekend that the potty training was really going to work.  It seemed like all we had done was torturous, tear eliciting exercises.  Eliza didn’t want to sit on the potty.  She seemed to be clueless about when her bladder was empty.  The book didn’t address how to deal with the road bumps we hit.  And yet, I sit here writing to say that our big girl has not wet her pants, not even with a drop, since Tuesday.  Despite an awful virus causing a 104 degree fever, vomiting, coughing and a nasal drip on Wednesday, I managed to resist the very strong temptation to put her back in diapers.  And the girl, after not peeing all day, peed into a cup on the potty at the pediatrician’s office for me.  I wanted to cry I was so proud.  And though she’s still adapting to going #2 on the toilet, she’s accident-free in that area as well.  (Hey, it might take 45 minutes to get it out, but at least it’s ending up in the pot and not on the floor.)  I guess the one part of the process she does seem to still have difficulty with is putting her pants back on after going (as she seems to enjoy being half naked).

The thing I’m learning about parenting is that no training ever seems “finished.”  It’s exhausting for someone who loves the feeling of completing projects!  You just seem to go from one challenging phase to the next. With Zach, I’m so glad he’s nursing so much less frequently now.  But the introduction of solids presents a new set of feeding responsibilities and another checklist of items I have to remember to bring when I want to get out the door.  With Eliza, now that she knows how to pee on the potty, I don’t have to pack diapers in my bag for her, but I have to remember spare panties and pants.  And speaking of pants, I have to invest in ones that are completely elastic around the waist without buttons, snaps or zippers so she can easily pull them up and down until she gets really good at dressing herself.  I have to make sure I have contraptions on-hand such as toilet seat covers and a “car potty” so when nature calls, I can be prepared.  And praise God that I don’t have to clean up poop diapers anymore, but I still have to wipe her butt.

This leads me to my final poop thought, and then I promise to switch gears away from potty talk the next time I write.  The book we read for training (which I will now say I recommend) says that unless your child is confined to bed with diarrhea, you should not put diapers back on him.  So for all the mothers out there who have been through it – am I in for my own torturous, tear-eliciting exercise when she gets the runs?  (I just want to prepare myself mentally.)

For those who are waiting with bated breath (the potty training update)

Today things went even better.  Eliza only had one real accident, and otherwise pottied herself with much less whining and crying than yesterday.  She is getting better at the parts of the process that are more difficult for her, such as physically walking to the potty in the first place and pulling her pants up and down.  She is very proud of her new skills!

The big news, however, is that she got her #2 into the potty for the first time!  She wasn’t happy about it, but after several tries of squatting and whining, she managed to relax and make it happen.  And then she couldn’t stop pointing at it in there and squealing, “Mommy WOOK!  YAZA POOP IN DA POPPY!!!”  (Translation: “Mommy, look!  Eliza pooped in the potty.”)

I must share my two secrets with all of you:

1) She did it when we were outside and she was in her bathing suit.  She could not bring herself to go in the suit, unlike in her training pants where it just fell right through them and down onto the ground.

2) It happened after several tries when I finally got her distracted and relaxed enough by combining blowing bubbles with telling her how proud all of her favorite people would be with her if she pooped in the potty.

As soon as I can get away to do it, I’m taking her for a special trip to the store to pick out some Dora underwear.  I think adding them to the equation will give her a sense of pride and help keep the doo doo where it belongs.

This was day three of “Toilet Training in Less Than a Day.”

Yes, you read that correctly.  Did you catch the irony?  Greg spent all of Saturday and half of Sunday following the guidance of a book with the above title.  It’s the book my mom used to potty train my brothers and me and she says it worked.  It makes it seem like all you have to do is put in 3-4 hours of focused training between breakfast and nap time and, voila, your child potties herself.  However, either we’re missing something, doing something wrong, or Eliza is a poor student.  Or some combination of the above.  Regardless, we have so far failed.

The good news is that she peed twice in her potty today and only wet her pants slightly twice.  Yesterday, she went in the potty probably eight times, but also wet her pants eight times.  You can see the progress.  She is learning bladder control and when it is full and when it absolutely needs to be emptied.  The bad news is she seems terrified of pooping in the potty and thus has chosen to do that act “elsewhere.”  As soon as she gets better at pulling her pants up and down, we’ll add underwear into the equation.  My hope is it won’t be as comfortable to do that into underpants.  Especially if they have, say, Dora on them, who definitely doesn’t like to be pooped on.  (Thanks for that idea, Molly!)

But this is a classic example of my unrealistic expectations.  I am the queen (remember I’m Type A) of setting a goal, putting together a game plan for getting there, following it, and getting the expected results.  (This is probably why I enjoy cooking and baking.)  Children in general don’t work this way.  I expected Eliza to be a super student who followed the book example.  I expected her to be instantly great at all parts of the process – realizing she needs to go, walking herself to the potty, pulling down her pants, pottying, wiping, pulling up her pants (so they cover ALL of her butt, not just some of it), taking her pot to the toilet, dumping out the pee and tissue, flushing, and replacing the pot.

Instead I have a little girl who has mastered about half of the steps.  But I am learning that is okay.  In fact, it’s more than okay.  She’ll get there.  I have to focus on how much she’s learned so quickly.  A random woman said to me the other day that our daughters won’t walk down the aisle without being potty trained.  One of the reasons people postpone and avoid potty training is because it’s a pain in the butt.  It’s one of those parenting moments (whether swift or slow) that everyone talks about and remembers for years to come.  What I want to remember about it is that amid all the training, she and Greg started playing a new game where she runs away from him giggling and then runs back at full speed and pounds into him in the most massive bear hug she can muster.  She blessed me with a round of it today.  And I savored every moment, even though in the back of my mind I was thinking about whether doing that would make her pee herself.  (Hey, eventually I will learn to let go.)

And the book?  Well, I would neither enthusiastically recommend nor fervently steer you clear of it.  If you’re interested, the authors are Nathan H. Azrin, Ph.D. and Richard M. Foxx, Ph.D.

Kids say the darnedest things. How should I respond?

Eliza’s current state of curiosity has her saying some interesting things.  For example, she loves to kiss things to show her love, whether they are inanimate or not.  As she talks about her favorite people, for example, she’ll talk about kissing them.  But she’ll also hear a helicopter overhead and say, “Kiss el-i-pop-ter” or she’ll hear the jingle of the ice cream truck and say, “Kiss eye keem truck.”  Along those lines, our dog, Abbey, poops in the backyard.  I have to clean it up daily so we don’t step in it while playing outside.  Eliza walks around with me to help me spot the piles, and at every one, she says, “Eat poop.”  And I say, “No, Eliza, we don’t eat poop.  It’s gross.  Dirty.  Yucky!”  She’ll repeat me, but it doesn’t stop her from saying it day after day.  Nor has it kept her from sticking her fingers in it sometimes, just because, well, probably because I don’t want her to and it’s so darned interesting.

Now fast forward to this afternoon, when I was changing Zach’s diaper.  She’s really intrigued by his private parts, and I can tell she’s not quite sure why they’re there.  I’ve used the word penis with her.  So she was trying to wipe his penis off with a wipe today, and I said, “I think he’s okay.  His penis is clean.”  And she said, “Eat penis?”  And I said, “No, we don’t eat his penis.”  And then she said, “Kiss penis?”  And I said, “No, let’s not do that either.”

Am I just a loser at coming up with the appropriate things to say to her?  Should I have never used the word penis with her?  I want to call it what it is.  It seems like a waste of time to teach her it’s his “pee pee” only to make her learn a new word for it when she’s older.  And I’m sure she just as easily would be saying, “Eat pee pee” and “kiss pee pee” if that’s what we called it, which doesn’t fix the problem.  She’s entering that, “kids say the darnedest things” phase, and I have to say – I really love it!  Now if I could just figure out the right way to respond …

My little mimic

It’s pretty amazing how easily an almost two-year-old finds it to repeat words and sounds you make.  Greg likes to play a musical game with Eliza where he makes “bah bah bah” or “lah lah lah” sounds in varying patterns and she repeats them.  This would be an example of a good mime.  This morning at our usual diner for our weekly Saturday morning family breakfast, Eliza decided she wanted to take part in the conversation, so she kept saying, “So, um … “.  This she has picked up from me.  I think I start most conversations this way.  I would judge this to be neither good nor bad, but a sort of annoying habit (of mine).  Then there are the imitations you wish you didn’t know came from you.

Eliza and I were making hazelnut gelato this morning.  She wants to help with everything in the kitchen, and I’m embracing this as best I can by having her stand on a stepping stool by me while I prep or cook.  (You can see where this is going.)  She was so helpfully stirring the cream mixture on the stove when she decided that our sweet gelato needed some salt.  She dipped her left hand in the salt bowl I keep next to the stove, and as she lifted her hand to sprinkle a handful into the pot, I stopped her mid-move and said, “Oh, geez, we don’t want salt in our ice cream.  No thank you.  That would be bad” (or something like that).  Yes, she got a little in the pot, but most of it went all over the counter and stove top.  It wasn’t a big disaster.  But my tone and volume made it clear to her this was a no-no.  She looked at me and said, “Dammit.”  I said, “Wha-hut?”  And she said, “Dammit.  Dammit.  Dammit.  Shoot.  Dammit.”  I started giggling, which is probably not the best way to react to behavior you want to curb.  And as she continued to say it, I then explained to her that “dammit” wasn’t a good word and I was sorry for using it myself.  She probably picked it up  four days ago, when she grabbed my empty glass while I was nursing, started walking away, and after I asked her to bring it back and she didn’t, dropped it on the floor, breaking it into pieces around her bare feet.  Or perhaps she heard it three days ago, when I walked into the kitchen for TEN SECONDS to get my pumping supplies and I heard a crash, and she had knocked over my full cup of coffee onto the floor, breaking the mug and making a huge mess.

The important thing is not how she came to know how to use the word “Damnit,” but that she came to know how to use it.  In the salt mess of this morning, I realized just how much she is learning from me, whether it’s good or bad.  This is the only job I’ve ever had where every word that comes out of my mouth is unforgiving; where someone else’s development into the person he or she is going to be is dependent on my actions.  So, the first thing I’m going to do is switch to “Darnit.”  The second thing I’m going to do is start counting in my head to ten before I say anything after an accident.  She is a toddler and disasters big and small are part of the job.  And third, I’m going to count my lucky stars that at least it’s “Damnit,” and not an uglier word.  At LEAST I have that going for me.

Nor can I go #2.

Toddlers know exactly when you are unavailable. It’s like they have innate radar that alerts them to do something naughty when you’re at your most vulnerable. How are they so smart?

This morning while pumping (clearly a case when I’m not able to jump at the drop of a hat), Eliza managed to find the small shells I had hidden from her in the bathroom drawer and do – I can only imagine what – with. I have found two of the five, and the other three? I honestly would not be surprised to find them come out the other end in her diaper tomorrow.

Which leads me to poop. Here’s another example of her craftiness, fresh from this morning. I sat Eliza down at the dining room table with her oatmeal, set Zach on his play mat in such a way that if he rolled 3 times in any direction he’d be relatively safe, and took the moment to head to the bathroom. Of course, tonight I’m supposed to make a French side dish for a fun girls dinner party, so I grabbed my “Art of French Cooking” masterpiece and sat for what I hoped would be 4 or 5 uninterrupted minutes to flip through the vegetable chapter. Not so. One of Eliza’s current annoying habits is calling my name over and over and over until I respond. I chose to ignore it (again, if she doesn’t get what she wants, which is a response, perhaps she’ll stop), but after about 25-30 “MAAAAAAA-MEEEEEEs” I finally got up and went to look. She had punished me. Her oatmeal was everywhere – on her clothes, the rug under her, her cloth-padded chair – and she was standing up in a pretty precariously dangerous position. She then proceeded to require me to feed her, probably because I started Zach on solid foods yesterday and she wants the attention.

The point is that I have to start giving her more credit than I do, and I must begin anticipating her antics. Both of these situations, at least to some extent, were avoidable. I have a child lock on the bathroom doorknob, but I had failed to close the door before sitting down to pump. Likewise, Eliza has this week decided to refuse sitting in her high chair anymore. It’s a timely choice because I now need it for Zach, but the only alternative we currently have is for her to sit in the Bumbo on a dining room chair. It’s not safe, for one, and she can’t be strapped. She’s also not tall enough to reach her food easily, which is part of why she threw the oatmeal everywhere. (Thank goodness we have the dog. In fact, I’m sure I will complain inexorably about Abbey, our mutt, so this is a good time to remember why I keep her around.) So I could have asked Greg, my husband, to sit with her and help her eat while I went to the bathroom, or I could have brought her to the bathroom with me before sitting her down to eat. Or I could somehow make the time to get to the store for a proper booster seat.

Part of being the parent of a toddler is accepting a lack of control. Things are going to get messy and that’s part of the fun. But another part is realizing she is learning how the world works, and because I already know the answers to that, I can prevent a lot of frustration. The best offense is a good defense, right? Eliza might have stealth radar, but I have the atom bomb.

I know why they’re called the “terrible twos.”

How is it possible that every request requires some combination of squealing, crying, whining, and jumping up and down? Eliza is 22-months-old and knows how to ask for things appropriately. (For example, she knows how to say, “Apple juice, please,” “shoes, please,” “crackers, please,” etc.) Yet despite all my teaching, she generally scream-whines “AP-PAL-JOOS, AP-PAL-JOOS!” or “SHOES ON! SHOES ON!!!” or “GODEFISH, GODEFISH, GODEFISH!!!” Where did she learn this? Please don’t say from me, because although I do raise my voice sometimes, I don’t jump up and down or scream requests and then continue to “fake cry” to try to get what I want. Not only that, but every time she behaves this way, I either 1) ignore it until she calms down, 2) correct the behavior by getting her to calm down and ask the way I’d like her to ask, or 3) ask her to grow up. (Okay, maybe the third approach won’t work.)

So, if I didn’t teach this to her, and it doesn’t work to get what she wants, why on earth does she continue to act this way? Is there an innate truth here about her age? Is she just in her “terrible twos” and there’s nothing I can do? I believe she is trying to learn boundaries and she is also constantly testing me to see how much independence she has. I personally think the behavior continues because she is incredibly strong-willed, so it will take some time to break the habit. But if I’ve missed something, can you point it out? If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears. Because I can’t wait until she’s three to get through this. “HELP ME PLEASE!!!” (I’m stomping up and down.)