Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Potty Training

I know that most of you will think I’m crazy even starting to write about potty training when my daughter is 8 months old. My husband certainly thinks I’m crazy. But here goes…

Potty training is one of the things that scares me about parenthood. It’s completely uncharted waters (uncharted poopy waters…). How on earth does one go about doing this? OK, it’s not really uncharted waters. LOTS of people have done it before. There are tons of books. In theory I even have experience with it, being potty trained myself (I thought I should clarify lest you think I keep the Depends people in business, given my stated fears. I mean it scares the crap out me. But not literally.).

So I started reading books early – and a lot of them have suggested it’s possible to potty train early. Or, if not to potty train, to get your baby comfortable with the potty so that it’s less of a struggle when the right time comes. I guess I should give a little more background… Some time, several months ago, my sister in law mentioned a friend whose in-laws swore up and down that they could potty train her child of less than a year while the friend was away for a week or two (when you come back, he will be potty trained). Apparently they were not wholly successful, but it brought up the discussion and it turns out that other cultures (they are Eastern European) potty train much earlier than Americans do. She told me this and I thought – you’re crazy. How do you possibly potty train a child that can’t yet walk? It’s not possible. I dismissed it out of hand (because that is the type of open minded individual I am). But it must have been in the back of my brain because I decided to look up some information on potty training last month and found out that apparently other people do potty train much earlier. In fact, if the book I was reading last night is true, even Americans used to potty train infants (to some extent) until the 1940’s or so. In a world before disposable diapers (or “good” cloth diapers), it just made sense to potty train earlier. And children likely wanted to potty train earlier rather than be cold and wet (a feeling hidden by modern diapers). So from very early on, parents would learn to read the potty signals and hold a child over a toilet (or pot or hole in the ground or fill in the blank depending on the appropriate time and circumstance). This book suggests that babies can read their body signals to know that they need to go (or are going?), but because modern diapers remove the need to read that signal, they lose the ability / desire / etc. Hmm…

So this got me thinking… When my daughter was a newborn, you could always tell when she was pooping because she made a face as she went. (Yes, there was also a lot of noise and sometimes some poop on your jeans to let you know, but the face was consistent.) But she’d pretty much stopped making that face for pooping over the months that followed. However, she had her first solid poops recently and I noticed that the face returned for these – as, I guess, this is a new and different sensation – one she is none too happy with as she tends to cry then too. If the books I’m reading have any value then – well, she’s giving me poop signals right now and she’s unhappy about pooping / sitting in poop – maybe I could start getting her used to the concept of the potty.

I know, I know! My husband laughed at me when I told him this plan last night. And really – I don’t exactly think it’s going to work or that I’m going to have a potty trained 12 month old. But the stuff I was reading had some other points that seemed to ring true (to me!). The big one was that toddlers often don’t like the potty / are scared of the potty / or just plain refuse to sit still long enough to be on the potty. So it becomes a war – which the parent inevitably loses (or possibly EVERYONE does). It made the point that now might be a good time to start putting my daughter on the potty because she can’t walk yet and therefore will be happy enough to sit still there and get used to the potty. Then, as a toddler, she won’t be scared of it and she’ll be OK with the concept of sitting on it when she actually needs to.

So this is the great experiment. I haven’t bought a potty yet, but when I do - feel free to come back and laugh at this one – it does seem just a little bit insane to me too. But, whether it seems insane to you or not, please tell me about your own potty training experience – what worked, what didn’t, when you started (and ended!).

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