For parents, one of the most important milestones in their lives and the lives of their children is when their kids become potty trained.
It is a moment of supreme liberation. No more wiping buttcracks and crevices free of compressed and smeared kiddie poo. No more emptying the Diaper Genie® and filling up the garbage pail outside with a long string of diaper filled plastic resembling a python that swallowed a dozen or so softballs in a row. And the best part of it all is the money that is saved from no longer having to buy diapers.
That is why I am thrilled that my daughter Kelly, who will be four this coming February, has finally and officially become toilet trained. In the past, there have been false starts and disappointments, but it has been over a week now, and Kelly has been pretty consistent. Tonight was a true turning point though, as she made three bombing runs in the toilet.
My son Andrew fell into line when he was three years and three months old. My wife and I told him on Labor Day weekend of 2004 that from now on he would be wearing underpants instead of diapers during the daytime, so if he didn't go to the potty, he would get his underpants wet or soiled. After months of trying to get him to make the leap, he was actually pretty cooperative, and apart from the occasional accident, he made the transition rather seamlessly.
We expected that Kelly would become toilet trained even sooner than Andrew because she is in many ways more advanced than Andrew was when he was her age. She is very assertive and fiercely independent. She will have a major hissy fit when we try to do things for her, like open up a bag of snacks or putting her jacket on for her. Kelly takes tremendous pride in being able to do things by herself, which while an admirable trait, can also be very frustrating when I have to get her to daycare so I can catch the next train to work, and I have to wait for her to struggle with the zipper. It's not for nothing that I call her the Baby Diva. Therefore, my wife and I assumed that she would become toilet trained much earlier than Andrew. Alas, it did not turn out that way. Nothing we did seemed to work, whether we wielded the carrot or the stick. When Kelly was around the same age that Andrew became toilet trained, we tried the underwear trick with her, which only resulted in us going through almost her entire supply of underwear in a day as she proceeded to wet herself four times in the span of a single afternoon.
Based on my experience with my two children, I have learned that kids become toilet trained based on their own inner motivations, regardless of how much we cajole or prod them. At some point during their childhood, they decide that they are finally ready to take that next step.
I am especially glad because when we all flew to the Philippines in the summer of 2004 for my wife's sister's wedding, my wife and I had to suffer with changing the diapers of a 3 year old and a 14 month old in the cramped bathroom of a 747. It is not a pleasant task, and by the time we were on the flight back home a little over a week later, I got to the point where I would just stand my kids up, take the old diaper off and slap the new one on right there in their seats. Now, when we go on our next planned trip to the Philippines in late June of 2007, it will be a diaper free journey.
Over the course of some five years of diaper changing, I had become quite the connoiseur of kiddie-poo. I had seen it all and came up with my own classifications for the different kinds of poop I encountered. The best and easiest, I found, were what I called "asteroids." Those were the large, dry and generally round shaped poops that left the kids' butts relatively clean and required little wiping. Then there were the "Milk Duds", which were also dry, but came out in little bits resembling the aforementioned candy sold in most movie theaters in America. The worst thing about them was that sometimes some of them spilled out of the diaper as I tried to roll it up. Progressively worse were the "chocolate frosting" and the "Grey Poupon", both of which were soft and found there way into virtually every crevice and which required the use of many wipes to clean up. The last category, which was more common during infancy, was the dreaded "minestrone soup", which consisted of lots of undigested pieces of vegetables mixed in a clear liquid. I really hated having to clean that up.
But now, thankfully, it is all just a memory. Now I eagerly look forward to the halcyon days, where the kids can go to the bathroom by themselves and are low maintenance. From preschool through the early elementary school years is a time where children are not yet pressured by a conformist peer culture to embrace raunchy music, the latest trashy fashion rage, and the temptations of cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and sex. I believe it is these years that are a critical window for instilling in children positive values, in encouraging a love of learning and experiences to broaden their minds, and to establish a bond of trust and affection in preparation for the trials and tribulations of adolescence to come.