Parenting lesson #7: The harder thing to do is most likely the right one.


Do NOT let your child be plagued by one of these.

As a parent, there are a lot of times I have wanted to change my mind about something Greg and I already decided because the easier option is so much more appealing in the moment.  Last week, for the second time, I was ready to undo potty training Zach.  (The first was in the middle of it.)

For the six of you who read my sporadic blog faithfully, you will recall that a week ago, Zach was interrupted – mid-business – by an automatically-flushing toilet that launched a powerful whirlpool attack underneath him.  The two days that ensued are a blur of pee accidents: at a friend’s house for dinner, at the breakfast table in his seat, twice in Eliza’s bed, and perhaps others that I’ve blocked from memory.  (Greg was traveling for work and I was in a place where I might have approached a stranger to “borrow” my children for a few hours.  Is anybody with me?)

Zach had become terrified of every toilet.  It broke my heart.  He would walk up to the potty whimpering, pull his pants down, sit down, and cry, “All done, all done!” before letting anything out.  He knew what he was supposed to do, but he just couldn’t do it.  And frankly, I thought I had done enough pee-cleaning duty two weeks earlier when we trained him.  I really wasn’t interested in going back to that place.  I wanted to give up and put him back in diapers.

But I knew that Zach wanted to do what he had learned and fear was the problem.  I assumed I would confuse him if I asked him to use a diaper again.  I imagined him as a five-year-old, still conflicted about where he was supposed to dispose of his waste.  I envisioned him holding it all in anyway, afraid to let it out in the diaper because he knew that wasn’t the right place for it either.  So I didn’t give in to the seemingly easier choice in the moment.  I stuck to the plan.

I’m so glad I did.  On Wednesday morning, reluctantly, I took Zach to the museum-like house where I have a Bible study and took him to the basement, describing to the babysitters our situation.  I went down a couple of times to take him to his potty that I brought along for familiarity.  I knew he had to go.  He knew he had to go.  I was frustrated.  He was uncomfortable.  I told him it was going to be okay.  I told him the potty could not flush.  I named all the people who would be proud of him for letting his pee pee out, including Buzz Light Year and Lightning McQueen.

He still held it in.

He got to a whimpering point.  I had lost my patience.  I was done talking sweetly because the niceties were not working.  He was sitting on the potty, crying in fear.  And I stared him down.  In that tone every mother has that says I mean business, I demanded, “Zach, we have to leave soon to get Eliza, but I’m not going until you pee.  You MUST let your pee pee out.”  And his eyes got really big, with full tears waiting to fall, and he released it.  And then he smiled, and started telling me in a delighted way how happy he was that he was peeing in the potty.  It was like he flipped a switch.

That was Wednesday last week, and for the next two days, I stayed close to the toilet, asked him often if he needed to go, and gave him cookies and gummy snacks every time he got it right.  We went to New York on Friday for the weekend.  He spent hours in the car.  We went to the zoo.  He used public toilets successfully, even the auto-flushing ones.  And he has not had an accident in five days.  The training stuck.  I knew that he knew what to do.  He had to overcome his fear, and he did.  I’m so proud of him.

I know that as my kids grow, there are going to be a lot of times they’re afraid, and it’s going to be so challenging to know when to push them and when to give in.  I often ask myself what the harder thing to do is, because more often than not and unfortunately for us as parents, the harder thing to do is the right thing to do.

If you learn anything from this, remember not to put your kids on automatically-flushing toilets.  Both of my children have suffered from toilet flushing trauma disorder.  And if you have no other option (HERE’S ONE!), then cover the sensor with your hand the WHOLE time your child is on the seat.  Leave no room for accidental flushings.  It might be difficult in the moment to both cover the sensor and keep your kid from falling in, but in the long run, you could save yourself a lot of pain and suffering.

I wish there were Mary Poppins for instant potty training


It's not rocket science ... but it can feel like it.

No matter how you potty train your children or when you believe it should be done, the truth is you have to do it (well, someone does).  It is as inevitable as diapering, and feeding, and answering millions of inane questions.  And like any training, it is learned over time.  It must be worked for, like anything worth having.  Sure, there are methods for speeding up the process, but even so, the concept of “Toilet Training in Less Than a Day” sounds too good to be true because it is.  Accidents after training are a part of life.  (Eliza’s been potty-trained for half her short life, and yet she pooped in the pool last week, remember?)  For my kids, so far it has been “Toilet Training in 3 Days.”  If that sounds like magic to you, read on.

This morning around 10:30, Zach walked up to his potty, said, “Mommy, pee pee,” pulled down his pants, sat, peed, got up, emptied the pot into the toilet, flushed it, and put his training toilet back together.  I’d call that success.  It was proof that he now understands not only the urge to go, but what to do with that urge before urine starts trickling down his legs.  He has kept his pants dry for about 24 hours (except when sleeping).  But about an hour later, he came and got me because he had pooped himself.  You see, in all the training time so far, he has only pooped twice, and both times it’s been during his nap (in a diaper because he’s still in a crib).  Now he has to connect the fact that yes, even for poop, he needs to get to the toilet as well.  We are far closer than we were on Saturday morning when we began, but we are still working at it.

The point is that I wanted to give up.  It seemed inexorable at times, and Zach just seemed to be struggling so much.  But now he’s proud of himself and his new skill.  I would still recommend this book to anyone looking to potty train his child.  It’s just intense.  It also has some flaws, so even if Greg and I are partly to blame for our kids not “getting it” by the end of a morning, the book should shoulder some responsibility.  The most frustrating thing about this book is that it makes it sound so easy, so if you have issues, it does not give you troubleshooting help.  For example, it gives a specific process you are to go through with them when they wet themselves, yet we almost never made it through that process without our kids peeing during it, which completely derails what you know you’re supposed to do.  It also doesn’t account for children who cry throughout the process because they are upset about wetting themselves, or sitting on the potty, or peeing out the front of the toilet seat.

Regardless of the details of this method, or any method anyone uses, it takes a lot of effort to get your children to connect their brains to their bladders so they pee in a potty before they pee on you or your furniture.  Accepting the responsibility of toilet training is accepting that you’re going to have a lot of crap to clean up, accepting it’s going to be gross and uncomfortable at times, and accepting that your wishes are basically on-hold while you go through it.  In retrospect, it’s a Cliff’s Notes version of the whole parenting experience.

It’s not magic.  There’s no Mary Poppins, spoonful of sugar, snap your fingers and it’s done process.  No matter how you do it, it’s hard work for everyone.  But in the end, you get to look back and realize what you’ve accomplished, and be thankful you’re not changing poop diapers any more.  And I’m hopeful I won’t be cleaning it off of Zach’s legs or washing it out of his pants very soon, too.

The potty training saga continues


Zach has spent a lot of time the past two days on this - doing nothing.

Zach was not trained yesterday, either.  I would detail out our frustrating issues right now if I weren’t afraid that taking my focus off of Zach would result in more accidents.  (I’m really, really tired of cleaning up pee.)

I was in tears yesterday and this morning.  I was ready to throw in the towel.  There are so many things that seem to be going wrong.

But for the first time, Zach just peed in the potty on his own.  Not in the middle of wetting himself and our carpet or floor or faces.  It ALL went in the potty.  I have been given new hope!

Here we go …

Baby products you simply don’t need


A friend recently sent me a Reader’s Digest article about baby products that are a waste of money (thanks, Irene!).  I agreed with every one of them, and it got me thinking that the list wasn’t exhaustive enough.  Thus, I’m posting the list here, as well as adding my own additions to it.  Right now I have at least half a dozen friends who are pregnant (three with their first children), so this is for you guys (or I should say gals)!

Reader’s Digest list:

1. Diaper Genie – You have to buy specific brand trash bag refills for this.  I used a Diaper Champ that allows you to use regular medium trash bags.  I used it a little while for Eliza, and then realized that no matter what you do to mask the smell, you just have to get diapers out of the house on a daily basis.  My kitchen trash can became the receptacle for all diapers.

2. Pee pee Tee Pees – Sure, Zach peed on the wall and on me a few times while getting changed, but you can just keep the dirty diaper over a boy’s anatomy while you change him and quickly recover the area with the new diaper.

3. bottle sanitizer

4. bottle warmer

5. wipe warmer

6. baby powder

7. diaper caddy

8. receiving blankets – I would recommend Aden + Anais swaddling blankets,

9. hand mittens – My lactation consultant chastised me for ever putting these on Eliza, saying a newborn only has so many ways to learn about the world, and one of them is touch)

10. baby food processor (I have another post about the Beaba)

11. baby video monitor – You don’t NEED to see your baby while he sleeps.  An audio monitor will suffice.  If you WANT to, that’s a different thing entirely.

12. Baby Einstein DVDs

13. shopping cart cover – You bring the cover home, which now has all those germs on it anyway.

And now, my additions …

14. a portable crib with any bells and whistles – the one I got was $170 because it had a changing station attached to it, a music player, a vibration machine … and I never needed any of those things.  I’ll say it a million times: you want your kids to learn to fall asleep without help, so getting in the habit of putting them down with sleep crutches is just dumb.  (My disclaimer here is I’ve never had a child with colic, so I’m sure if I did I would be willing to try anything.)

15. crib or bedroom ambiance toys – ocean wonders, noise makers, etc. all become sleep crutches.  It depends on you if you want to have to travel with these things for life.

16. special detergent – find a scent-free detergent you can use for the whole family and be done with it.

17. backseat mirror for the car – they’re safety hazards because they can cause accidents (because they distract you) and in an accident they can become airborne weapons.

18. car seat head supports – unless you have a preemie or your baby is underweight for your car seat and your pediatrician recommends this, you do not need it.

19. sleep positioners – aside from them being ridiculous to begin with, recent research has warned they are safety hazards.

20. Special stroller organizers or umbrellas – Honestly, marketers will try to sell you ANYTHING …

21. strap covers for car seats or strollers – My opinion is car seat makers have to meet strict standards to keep your kids safe.  Why add anything unnecessary to such a piece of equipment?  My kids are perfectly comfortable in their seats without these.

Stay tuned for a list that’s just the OPPOSITE – all the things you just can’t live without!  And I’m curious if you have any baby products you got that you found to be useless.

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.