Saturday, November 26, 2011

Potty Training, Part 2

So, Gabe was potty trained after a week of movies.  He continued to have the occasional accident or wet bed, but these dwindled slowly away.  To be on the safe side, when we took a car trip to Michigan, Gabe wore pull-ups, but as it turned out, they were unnecessary.  Gabe continued to use the toddler potty for a couple of months, but I finally got tired of cleaning it, so I encouraged him to switch to the big potty, and he did so with surprising enthusiasm.  He even insisted on not using the toddler seat or stepping stool, choosing instead to balance precariously while doing his business.  Good job Gabe!

I took this all for granted until Gabe came down with a really nasty bought of diarrhea.  To be fair, he had had diarrhea a few times previously, and on most of the occasions had done a remarkable job of getting himself to a potty in time.  But this time. . . let's just say that one of that week's library books couldn't be returned.  I had Gabe in the shower to hose him off, and he just continued to dribble uncontrollably there in the bathtub, poor guy.

I had assumed that this was just a one-off bout of unpleasantness, as most diarrhea is.  We put him back in a pull-up diaper just in case, but otherwise were promptly distracted by the loss of power, brought on by the wet snow that fell right before Halloween.  The snow fell on trees that still had their leaves, and the trees came down, leaving a third of our town in the dark.  Chris chopped firewood and we build ourselves beds in the basement in front of a roaring fire.  Gabe's tummy issues were forgotten until the middle of that cold, dark night.

I had just finished a long struggle to get Kaylee to sleep, so Chris took Gabe upstairs to get him cleaned up.  There was yelling.  And more yelling.  Finally I went up, and found what looked like a scene from the Blair Witch Project, as Chris was attempting to depoopify the freezing cold child with wipes and a flashlight.

Thank the FSM for our gas-powered heater.  A hot shower made everything better that night.  But Gabe's tummy ick turned into vomiting the next day.  For the next ten days the poor dude had an eruption from both ends every twelve hours, like clockwork.  He lost his appetite and even getting water into him was tough at times.  As a result, he was only using the potty twice a day.  It went on long enough that he developed his own illness lingo.  "Mommy, I have beans" was his way of saying he had just vomited, or was about to.  I guess the texture seemed bean-like to him.  His other goofy word was "throats".  As in, "Mommy, I have throats!"  I learned that a hand on his throat meant send in the bucket, quick.

I was so. Very. Glad. To be done with the mess and misery, that it hardly seemed like a big deal when Gabe woke up with a good appetite in a soggy bed.  He then peed his pants.  And again.  And again.  Day after day.  There were days where he woke up dry, but that was only because he had wet the bed during the night and had already been cleaned up.  The bathtub featured an ever-present pile of pee-soaked clothes.

 I would try to force Gabe to sit on the potty before outings, because I didn't want him to pee in the car.  Ironically, he never had an accident while outside of the house, with one exception.  But Gabe would under no circumstance be forced into peeing.  My efforts resulted in some of his most outstanding tantrums to date.  Chris and I both got angry at Gabe, and as a result we were all miserable, and absolutely no progress was made.

At this point I should mention one mistake we had made previously in Gabe's potty training.  My sister had mentioned that when potty training Gabe's cousin Mason, Mason had developed an impish tendency to pee on things on purpose, complete with a grin.  They trained him out of this by putting Mason in a cold shower whenever he pulled that stunt.  It worked, and it worked quickly.

There were times during Gabe's potty training when he refused to use the potty, and within five minutes had peed his pants.  So we tried the cold shower.  I think we did that twice, or maybe three times, before Gabe developed a complete terror of getting "the cold shower".  He had a couple of accidents that resulted in him proactively begging me not to be put in a cold shower.  And it was in the same awful, pleading voice that I could imagine an abused child begging a parent not to hit again.  It made me think, "oh god, what have I done?!"  I promised Gabe there would be no more cold showers, and I apologized to him profusely.

This was on my mind as our anger levels at Gabe's accidents spiked, and spiked hard.  For days, it was all I could do to tell Gabe to get himself to the bathroom and stripped without screaming.  But then I caught my breath, and took a closer look at the situation.

Gabe was using the potty for pooping.  Gabe was denying that he had to pee, and he was delaying potty visits for as long as possible.  After a few days of angry reactions from us grown-ups, he was no longer even telling us when he had peed, opting instead to continue playing or sitting on the couch in wet clothes.  Obviously, our yelling was making the problem worse.

What had caused this?  When he had diarrhea, Gabe would go for as long as 12 hours without needing to pee.  When I finally would coax him into sitting on the potty to try to pee, this sometimes triggered his diarrhea cramps to start.  Bad ones, too - he would be in tears.  Almost invariably, cramps or no cramps, his diarrhea would then lead to a bout of "beans".  Effectively, my son had been punished for going to the bathroom with pain and vomiting!  No wonder he didn't want to use the toilet.  I regret that it took me to weeks to put the puzzle pieces together.

As soon as I saw the big picture, I realized I needed to remove the anger and offer some positive incentive for Gabe to use the toilet.  Easy!  "Gabe, when you go pee in the potty, you can have a cookie."  No pressure, he could use the potty when he wanted to.  I stocked up on some really small cookies, and Gabe caught right on.

Well, there was one negative pressure that I continued to apply.  I told Gabe that if he peed himself while watching television, the TV would go off.  This was because there was a sub-plot of Gabe becoming so riveted by cartoons that he wouldn't leave to do anything.  This included massive, evening-wrecking tantrums when it came time for dinner.

We've had, what, four days now without an accident?  Thank the FSM!  There were a few days where Gabe demanded cookies inappropriately, or had accidents despite the cookies.  But now we have moved on to new territory: Gabe will make an impromptu potty trip not because he has to pee, but because he wants his sugary fix.  But we know can work away fro that gradually.  We have used treats as incentive for good behavior before; just like when training a puppy, you start using praise in place of the treat more and more often, until the behavior is automatic.

I'm so glad to have my happy child back to the way that he was.  He was stressed during those post-illness weeks, and nothing breaks my heart like a child suffering from stress.  I was stressed, and how is a stressed and angry parent supposed to help a stressed child?  I had to fix my attitude in order to fix Gabe's derailed toilet habits.

We do still have to work on the television habits, however.  Cartoons have become all-consuming to the little guy.  He asks to watch "movies" first thing in the morning, and at every conceivable opportunity.  I try to keep his screen time minimized, but when I'm home alone with him and I have to get Kaylee down for a nap, crap, the television sure helps.  Then it's a battle to get the idiot box turned off again, and when Chris comes home Gabe goes to him begging for more. . .

There's always something to teach them, isn't there?  Anyway, stay tuned for part three, in which I document the ups and downs of Kaylee's infant potty training.  Cheers!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Potty Training, Part 1

I've been meaning to write about potty training Gabe and Kaylee for the benefit of my friends who have potty training in their future.  Okay, at long last, here it is.  Part one: how we went about potty training Gabe, our three-year-old.

We started potty training for real right around Gabe's third birthday.  Prior to that, we had occasionally encouraged Gabe to sit on the toddler potty, or on the big potty using a toddler seat.  We even had successes.  But Gabe just wasn't really interested yet, and we didn't want to pressure him.

Right around his third birthday, Gabe started habitually peeing on the bathmat after taking a shower.  Holy cow, I thought, he's doing it on purpose.  He's ready.

So we picked up some pull-up diapers, and encouraged Gabe to sit on the potty.  The results were mixed.  We changed a lot of poopy pull-ups.

Then serendipity!  We were picking up diapers at the store and Gabe spied underwear.  Underwear with Cars-the-movie characters!  Wow, did he ever want those undies!  So we took home a pack and that was it for the daytime diapers.

Soggy pants ensued.  I proceeded for a short while on the guess that wet pants would be good encouragement to Gabe to pay attention and get himself to the potty when he felt the urge.  It did work, some of the time.  I learned that wet pants were no problem - just change them, and do a lot of laundry.  I learned that in most cases, underwear are a reasonable containment unit for poop, should accidents happen.  I also learned not to strip poopy undies off of a child anywhere but the bathtub.  Also, a shower on a hose is an invaluable tool.  If you have potty training in your future, get one!  You don't even need to have a plumber install it.

This all happened too quickly to look into training pants.  Anyway, shortly after underwear became the "in" thing, I declared it Movie Week at Casa Clay.  Gabe got to watch non-stop movies with the toddler potty right there in the room with him, so that he could RUN to it when he needed to go.

We did have the added complication of daycare twice a week, and a bout of some minor illness, but if I remember correctly, it was Gabe being home sick one day that lead to Movie Week.  And then I think I was just so focused on the potty training that I forgot to take him to daycare the second time that week.

Kaylee's infant potty training got largely neglected that week, and by the end of it I was thoroughly sick of dealing with isolation and poop.  But after a week, Gabe was reliably sitting on the potty, and I was feeling ready to venture out.

Our first outings were to coffee shops with known, convenient restrooms.  This was followed by picnics at which I brought along the toddler potty, plus wipes and gallon-sized ziploc baggies.  This arrangement had a big yuck factor, but had a huge convenience factor.  On the down side, Gabe once ended up using the potty on a sidewalk in downtown Franklin, right in front of a memorial to the Emancipation Proclamation.  I was mortified that someone would think we were committing some sort of unsanitary commentary.

After the Week of Movies, Gabe was officially potty-trained during the day.  I was feeling so good about things that I did away with night-time diapering, and toughed it out through a few nights of soggy beds.  Very quickly, Gabe started waking up dry.

Aside from an occasional wet bed, Gabe was potty trained!  But stay tuned for the regression story. . .