“You had your chance and you blew it. All the other moms managed to get their act together over the summer and only you didn’t. You’ve got to get yourself together, everyone else did it, why couldn’t you?”
OK, that’s not really what she said. After all, the preschool director is my good friend, she’d never say that to me, even if she was thinking that.
After many failed attempts at toilet training my 3 year old over the summer, I had finally resigned myself to the fact that trying to toilet train my son during my third trimester of pregnancy was not going to happen. For starters, I just wasn’t quick enough on my feet to bolt to the bathroom every time he said he had to go. My brain wasn’t quick enough to watch his face for the tell tale signs that come seconds before the accident happens. Using my knowledgeable experience in the field, I decided it would be an easier feat to accomplish postpartum, baby in hand and all.
But now I wasn’t feeling so confident in my decision anymore. I was notified a week before preschool started that all three-year-olds needed to be toilet trained or they would have to go to the two year old class. 2.5 weeks to due date, I gave it a try for a total of 3 hours and then threw in the towel; relying on my previous wise decision.
So he joined the two year old class.
And it didn’t work out. Because he’s 3 ½, and they were 2. He didn’t belong there.
And that’s where the phone call came in. He couldn’t come back to school until he was toilet trained. And I was only 6 days away from my due date, of which I hadn’t been early in years and suddenly hoped I wouldn’t be; I had to deal with this.
“Failure, failure, failure!” is all I heard on the phone.
“Stop that!” yelled that tiny rational voice in me, the voice that seemed to be shrinking by the day. “You’ve toilet trained 5 kids already, you’re not a failure! Stop blaming yourself!”
“OK, the who IS to blame?” I had enough sensibility not to blame my three year old; after all, he’s super cute, and he’s only three!!
She reassured me again that she’s not saying it’s abnormal not to be toilet trained by 3 ½ years old (she really IS my friend!) but she has to make this policy due to lack of enough hands in the classroom for diaper changing (grr..yes failure).
I hung up the phone and with whatever determination I could find, I decided we’d give it our all. 6 days till due date-6 days to get this done. And I’m never early anyway. I looked at my crew of helpers, ranging in age from 5-11…this was a task we’d all do together. We’d be a team; the Toilet Training Brigade.
Three hours and 5 accidents later, I was losing it.
He HAS to get toilet trained! He HAS to go to preschool!
I upped the bribes, I mean, rewards. Quite honestly, he could have bargained with me for anything at that point.
And then it happened. On day #2, amidst much bathroom-toilet-training havoc, I felt a contraction.
I started panicking. “No way, I’m not due yet! I need to get this little guy toilet trained!”
But the contractions didn’t listen to me…and 5 days before my due date, only 24 hours into toilet training, our newest member of the crew was born (more on that in the next post 🙂 ).
And all I could think about was toilet training.
I couldn’t back out now. We had to get it done. My husband and I had an emergency meeting right there in the delivery room; we came up with a plan. Not only would the three year old get a whooping 9 chocolate chips (up from 3, which was the amount when we started) from each success, but whichever of his siblings would get him to the bathroom would get 9 chips too.
And that’s why, over the next few days, at any given point during the day all the kids were squished into the bathroom. I was also running out of chocolate chips.
And I had a newborn in my arms.
Somewhere in the midst of all of this, I realized I had broken one of the most basic rules of child rearing. A rule that every mom knows from day one.
All the articles I’d read over the past years starting flooding my sleep deprived mind…Toilet training should never be done around the time of the birth of a new sibling. Emotional trauma for the child. Too much change. Breeds resentful behavior. Can be destructive to mother-child bond or child-baby bond. And on and on.
Oh no. I’d broken the law. They’d come after me. The mommy police. They’d expose my wrongdoings. Everyone would know the truth. I’d have to go to mommy prison. They’d take away my mommy license. Where can I hide??
Thankfully, my thoughts were interrupted by the entire Toilet Training Brigade stampeding into the kitchen to demand their 9 chocolate chips, and a very smiling toilet trained 3 year old trailing behind, looking pretty pleased. I scanned his face carefully, to see if the scars of my mistake were noticeable. He looked happy.
Who knows, maybe the resentment doesn’t come out until the teenage years…
My mother was visiting for the week, to help out postpartum. She was nominated as the new director of the Toilet Training Brigade and the official Chocolate Chips Distributor. Things were moving ahead.
Then came the set back day. This smart little boy knew that the only time for a pamper was when he went to sleep. And he claimed he was tired for most of the day and indeed stayed in his bed.
I tried to block out the tormenting thoughts of “You see, you ruined him! You forced him into this! You’re going to pay for this!”
But the next day dawned bright and cheerful and off he went to school, letting everyone know he was officially toilet trained.
Two weeks later, he’s still smiling. And proud.
Maybe the mommy books were wrong? Perhaps I didn’t break the law after all. Maybe it’s not the end of the world if we make decisions based on our own common sense, instead of book based generalizations? Maybe each kids is different and we should tune in to what our own child needs?