Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Potty and Parenting Pressure

Here is a post about potty training, and how it's going a lot better lately... she wears panties (instead of nothing) and hasn't had any accidents over the past couple of days. I'm reassured by other parents that eventually she will get it, but I think just about everyone with kids will agree that the sooner, the better. I think part of it is because it would be so convenient (and save money) to not be changing diapers on your kid anymore. I think the other part of it, that isn't really talked about a whole lot, is that there is a fear that it will reflect poorly on the parent if they can't manage to teach their kid this skill, like it's singing the alphabet or using a fork. If a kid is potty trained at 18 months, there is a certain level of pride and "isn't my kid a genius?" that a parent probably feels - even though they probably know better than to say it. If a kid is taking a bit longer a parent might wonder if others think they are doing everything correctly, and might even get defensive, because they are more frustrated than anybody, and they know how hard they are working! Potty training a toddler is the most trying part of parenthood for me so far (Yes, I realize I am blessed to have this be my biggest "challenge", and I know much tougher things await me). The truth is, the parents' influence is only a very small part of the equation.

I have heard stories about how my sister potty trained herself at a very young age, coming to tell my mom that she had used the potty - and after that she was magically potty trained! My lucky mom. I wasn't even born yet, so no need to be taking care of a newborn while potty training a feisty toddler (rawr). I have also heard about parents doing everything they can think of and somehow it's not working. Obviously what the parent does (or doesn't do) might not matter as much as we'd like it to. Some people might disagree with me, explaining what method they used and why it was so successful. I still argue that it is ultimately up to the child to embrace the concept, the parents just provide assistance... so good for you if your child was a quick learner in the potty department! Let's not start treading on the dangerously thin ice of "my kid could____at age ___". Lucy is halfway through Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix (kidding... I haven't even read that). Not that we can't celebrate our children's achievements... but every child will hit their milestones in a unique order, and there is a big difference between celebrating a milestone and comparing/contrasting kids. What is very clear, is that Lucy is potty training on her terms. She does understand it (she has been using the potty chair since before she was 2), but has regressed a little (where she gets too busy or doesn't care, and has accidents) which I read about. If I ask her every 10 minutes if she needs to go pee, she will say "no", regardless of the truth. She does better when we just back off, and is physically capable of holding it for a long time (sometimes 4 hours or more... which makes me think she's going to have an accident any minute). Now we just have to teach her not to give herself a wedgie when she's done.

I suppose I can't end this without reiterating the idea that parents can be fairly sensitive about their children (and also tend to think their own children are superior in some ways than other people's kids), and I am no exception. I think it's normal to think that your own child is awesome, but important to remember that they don't have to be the best at everything (and won't be). I have a good friend whose daughter is only nine days older than Lucy and neither one of us wanted to talk about what was happening with our kids (like when they started crawling, walking, talking, etc.) for fear that it would come across as bragging or "my kid is smarter than yours" - even though neither of us felt that we were trying to compare our girls to each other. It was silly because it resulted in us not talking about our kids at all! We would have been better off being forthright from the beginning and laughing about all the ridiculous aspects of parenting, including the insane pressure to be the best "teachers" we can be... So good luck all you parents, with sleeping through the night, using the potty, singing the alphabet, drinking from a big-kid cup, understanding calculus, or whatever you're working on right now. More so, good luck to the kids who are really the ones figuring all these things out.


Katie said...

Thanks for the post, Mindy. I will be the first to admit that I have felt like a parenting failure at times regarding potty training (and other topics as well). I'm fairly level headed but every now and then it gets to me. Every kid is different! Yay for that :)

Dykema's said...

How'd you know that we were teaching Madisyn and Landon calculus?! ;) And even as I write that, I laugh, since at one point in time I taught Madisyn the square root of four (at the same time I taught her one plus one, so really, she only needed to know one answer). :) I'm glad I have two kids, because it makes it A LOT easier to see how they learn things at different times (and how I can't take credit for their accomplishments, which seemed easy to do with just Madisyn, who seemed to learn things quickly).