Little Yellow Notepad

polls11

This week, for the very first time, I got a call from Gallup doing a study on something or other in America.I declined to participate, but it got me thinking. Coming off election season, it seems all everyone is doing all day is taking polls.

So I figured I’d hop on the bandwagon and do a little study on my own too. Only this one won’t cost us any of tax payer’s money..

The goal of this poll, just like Gallup, is “to deliver relevant, timely, and visionary research on what (children) around the world think and feel. Using impeccable data and behavioral indicators that are vital to strategic plans,” I present to you the Gallup-ing Poll.

To emphasize, all the children in this study are being brought up under the same guidance, environment, rules and adult love and care. Therefore, we cannot say that any of the results are based on the environment, surrounding, exposure or anything of the like. And the results are astounding – see for yourself!

4 out of 7 children, between the ages of 2 – 12, born to the same mother, will put their shoes in their cubby where they are supposed to, while 3 out of 7 will not.

2 out of 8 children will get ready for bed the first time they are told, 1 out of 8 will need to be told 3 times and 5 out of 8 will need to be led by the hand.

And yes, just to reiterate, they are all born to the same mother, raised in the same house with the same rules

2 out of 2 children, between ages 2-3, will prefer to write on the wall than on a sheet of paper.

7 out of 8 children will prefer not to clean up their spot at the table after mealtimes.

4 out of 8 children will need to be told twice, and 3 out of 7 will need to be threatened before clearing their spot.

1 out of 8 children will naturally put their clothing in the hamper.

4 out of 8 children will slurp their spaghetti and ketchup so that it sprays red spots all over the kitchen.

2 out of 8 children will wear their food by the time the meal is over.

2 out of 8 children can wear their clothes for two days straight and it will still be as good as new.

1 out of 8 children needs new shoes every 6 weeks, while 2 out of 8 children can wear their shoes for a year straight and still get more use out of them.

5 out of 8, raised with the same rules, will dump their dirty clothes in any spot they so wish.

1 out of 8 children will only need to be told twice, and then will pick up their clothes and put it in the hamper.

1 out of 8 children will always clean their spot and tidy up around them and leave no trace of their mess.

2 out of 2 children, between the ages of 2-3, enjoy painting toothpaste on the bathroom mirror.

0 out of 2 children, between the ages of 2-3, will put the caps back on the markers they are using.

1 out of 1 newly toilet trained child will enjoy pulling a roll of toilet paper as far as it can go.

2 out of 7 children going to school will misbehave and be sent out of class.

1 out of 7 children will not want to go to school.

4 out of 7 children will love going to school every day.

2 out of 7 children who go to school will get dressed the moment they wake up.

3 out of 7 children will wait until 2 minutes before it’s time to leave, and then get dressed.

And there will always be 1 out of 7 children who will start to get dressed 2 minutes after we were supposed to leave.

3 out of 7 children will do homework on their own.

1 out of 7 children will not do homework, ever.

4 out of 8 children look forward to bath/shower night.

2 out of 8 children only want to shower in the morning.

2 out of 8 shower prefer not to shower at all.

2 out of 8 children wear their socks and shoes from the moment they wake up until bedtime.

4 out of 8 children will put on their socks only when they are ready to leave the house.

1 out of 8 children will prefer to go barefoot, both inside and outside.

3 out of 8 children love to read.

2 out of 8 children love to bake.

1 out of 8 children will help in the kitchen when asked.

1 out of 8 children will ask to help.

4 out of 8 children prefer not to help at all.

The conclusion:

8 out of 8 children, growing up in identical environments, will each grow and blossom at their own pace. Each will have their own personality and will not conform to those around them.

Treat each child like their own world. And my fellow parents, let’s stop blaming ourselves for every time one of our children doesn’t act the way we want them to.

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They’re all back.

It was one week of camp for boys and one week of camp for girls, and there’s nothing like having them all back under my roof.

This time two of my boys went, which doubled the amount of time I had to spend dissecting pictures.

The camp was so kind and sent 378 pictures over the week. But it’s a double edged sword.

Either I can’t find them, so I panic. Or I find them, but I can’t read the expression on their faces, so I panic. Or the picture catches just a sliver of a right ear, so I panic.

So really, I can’t win.

You’d think by the fourth year of sending kids to winter camp – and it’s only one week – I’d be getting better at it. But nope. It’s just one of the many mysteries of motherhood.

But this time, I really panicked.

I scanned each picture, looking for secret messages of how my boys were doing.

After all, it was my 9-year-old’s first time going to camp; he needed a bit of extra worrying.

The pictures were looking good. I saw the hood of his sweater in one. The tip of his nose in another and I recognized the corner of his sneaker in a third.

And then finally, on hike day, there he is! I can’t see his face, but there he is, walking along the path with everyone.

But wait a second. I take a closer look. I enlarge it on my phone screen. I rotate it.

This doesn’t make sense.

Everyone is walking on a straight path. And my son is walking to the far right. Everyone is going in one direction, and he is going off to the side.

Why is he going off to the side?

I zoom in, I zoom out. Yes, he’s definitely going away from the group.

He’s not a wanderer. But why is he wandering away?

I’m really in a panic.

He’s wandering away and no one even notices.

I check again. Yes, every single kids is focused on walking ahead, and no one sees him wandering off.

Where’s the counselor?

He’s not there. Well, not in the picture.

I quickly forward the picture to my Whatsapp group of close friends, fellow moms who I know would understand my panic.

Do you see what’s wrong with this picture? I quickly message. I don’t want to sound to neurotic; I wait to see if they see what I see.

I anxiously wait for an answer. No one replies.

I try to relax. I’m sure everything is OK, I tell myself. Stop overreacting.

I look at the picture again, which hasn’t changed since just a few moments before. He’s still wandering off.

Should I call the camp director and tell him?

No, I can’t be that type of mom.

But what if he did wander off?

I wait an hour, which feels like forever, until my husband gets home.

“Any pictures from camp?” he asks.

“Oh, you bet! Wait till you see this one!”

I try to hid my neurotic-ness and casually show him the hiking picture.

“Nice, they’re going on a hike.” He points to my 9 year old in the photo. “Look, he’s right there, the first in the line.”

“The first in the line? I thought he was wandering off…”

“Wandering off? They’re going around a bend, he’s the first one there, leading the way to the right.”

Oh.

If only moms were gifted with the same (un)common sense as dads.

familyplane

We all went to NY.

That just doesn’t do it justice, let me try again. We ALL went to New York.

WE ALL WENT TO NEW YORK.

When I say we all, I mean me, my husband, my kids, 7 carry-ons, 5 backpacks, 1 diaper bag, 1 food tote bag, 2 suitcases, 2 carriages, 3 carseats and one plastic shopping bag full of odds and ends that didn’t fit in anywhere else.

We ALL went to NY.

And we ALL came back, plus a third piece of luggage.

After purchasing 8 tickets – thankfully two are still lap kids – I decided to go the “economical route” (which I knew I’d regret) and pack a bunch of carry-ons and pay for very few pieces, my way of getting even with the airlines for charging for luggage to begin with.

In a way it felt more organized, a carry-on of coats, a carry-on of Shabbos shoes etc.

So there we were, all assembled and ready to go. One carry-on and one backpack per kid. One stroller, carry-on, suitcase and car seat per adult, and we made our grand entrance into the airport. All was good and well until we got to security. That’s always my breaking point.

We made it this far, we got all our stuff together, the kids are all pulling their assigned luggage pieces…and now we have to take it all apart.

One by one, it all unravels. Sweaters and backpacks and carseats and strollers and water bottles and snacks and laptops and cellphones…it doesn’t end. I was worried one of the kids would hop on the conveyor belt for the ride too, and I wouldn’t even notice.

The only saving grace that TSA has in my book is that they don’t require kids to take off their shoes. If we had to do that, we’d probably all travel barefoot.

Bucket after bucket, we pile the stuff onto the belt, all my hard work and organization going down the tubes. Then we start the marching-through process.

One at a time.

Right. Sure, you really think one child will go through at a time? It’s your rule, so you enforce it, I want to tell the agent. Don’t look at me for help.

But thankfully, she’s of the friendlier type of TSA people, and chats and jokes with the kids, and asks them if this is a school trip.

We make it through the scanners

And now the REAL fun begins.

Putting it all back together again. I suddenly have a whole new appreciation for Humpty Dumpty. I’m beginning to doubt if all the king’s horses and all the king’s men would be able to put this mess back together again.

It’s at this point in our trip that I typically stop looking at the time.

The kids scramble to find their sweaters and backpacks and work out who had which carry-on. It’s also at this point that I usually regret my “economical decision” and wish we didn’t have 7 carry-ons with us.

We work on redistributing all our bags and barely 20 minutes later we start the final trek to the gate. There once was a time when I’d get to the boarding gate and have the luxury of sitting down and relaxing. Maybe even have time to be bored.

Thankfully, not anymore. We arrive in time to skip the line and get onto the plane.

Those four little words – get onto the plane – hold a lot of weight.

Because here’s what it entails; 3 car seats to be tagged and gate checked, baby to be carried on, 7 carry-ons to be wheeled on, and two strollers to be folded and gate checked. My husband and I are a few hands short. I carry the diaper bag and computer bag over one shoulder and hold the baby in my arms and the toddler marches in front of, while the rest of the kids are halfway down the aisle, wheeling their carry-ons over everyone’s toes, while my husband deals with the carriages and carseats.

When my toddler suddenly realizes what “airplane” actually means, now that we are standing in the center of it, he loses his excitement for this long awaited trip and starts to scream. Being that he’s glued to his spot, I have no choice but to carry him. Shifting the baby to somewhere in one arm, I hoist him onto my bag-less other shoulder and make my way down the narrow aisle, which seems to become even more narrow with every step I take.

I debate if I should acknowledge the stares and gaping mouths of my fellow passengers as they count all the little people (or maybe the carry-ons?)  that went on ahead of me. To calm their fears, I tell them not to worry, my husband is coming too, i would not do this alone.

By the time I make it to the back, there is a mountain of carry-ons clogging the whole area as all the kids make a beeline for the window seats, forgetting all the rules and regulations I had discussed with them. We did the “acdf” trick – reserving two rows of seats, minus the middles. Sometimes it works, and we get the middles too, and sometimes it doesn’t. This was one of the “doesn’t” times – the unfriendly stewardess let us know that it was a full flight. We had to do some adjustments of seats, the toddler was still clinging to me, there was certainly nowhere to put the baby down, I’m trying to kick these carry-ons out of the aisle and Unfriendly Stewardess is not helping me, even though this is Jetblue and they are supposed to be friendly.. My husband joins in time to help us sort it all out and our dear Unfriendly Stewardess does her best to be annoyed that it was taking us so long to get settled.

Thankfully they offered to gate check some carry-ons – I’m happy to oblige; it’s not really stuff I’ll need in flight … like everyone’s Shabbos shoes.

They are all seated. Everyone has a seatbelt on. Every last bag is stowed. Tray tables are up. And I breathe for the first time in a few hours.

Like I said, we all went to NY. And we all, every last shoe, sock and backpack, made it back. And there’s a reason we go on such a family trip only once a year.

jenga

Have you ever played Jenga? It’s a pretty neat little game, but I never realized that being a mom includes being really good at Jenga. Real life Jenga.

In case you’re not familiar, Jenga is that game with small wooden rectangles that you stack very cautiously and sometimes seemingly precariously, and then hold your breath that they don’t all topple over… And just as you slowly get that last piece at the top of the tower in place, the toddler or crawling baby will happen to whiz right into it, knocking the tower in every direction and causing screams and cries from all those involved. And then for the next two weeks, these Jenga rectangles will show up in every corner of the house, downstairs and upstairs, garage, kitchen and bathtub. At first you will collect them and put them back in the cool cylinder Jenga container, but at a certain point – depending on the type of day you are having – you will throw them in the garbage.

At least that’s the version of Jenga we play here in my house.

The real version includes very carefully pulling out random rectangles without the tower crashing to the ground.

Being a mom means constantly trying to stack all your to-dos and to-gos – cleaning, organizing, laundry, dentist, doctors, well visit and sick visit appointments; snacks, meals and a million other things – in a very organized, neat and sometimes seemingly precarious stack, like the most delicate of puzzles, so that everyone gets to the right places at the right time on the right day. It takes lots of planning and most days the meticulously laid plans work like a charm.

But that’s not the art of mastering being a mom.

The real art is when your carefully crafted Jenga plans come crashing down – and you don’t crash with it. You stay calm, cool and collected. You don’t get angry or frustrated, just like I tell my kids to act when their tower is destroyed.

I had Thursday planned out perfectly.

Drop the middle division of kids off at 9:30. Two youngest stay with me and we will zip back over, in only 20 minutes, to pick up the oldest division. We will head on over to the doctor, only 10 minutes away, for flu shots. Take them back to their online school classes. I’ll be home by 11 or 11:15, give the toddler an early lunch and then he will go for his three hour nap. I’ll get the baby settled and then ahh…the things I will do. It’s the first short Friday of the year tomorrow and I will do it right – getting in lots of Shabbos cooking on Thursday. I will catch up on emails waiting to be sent. Various other odds and ends that are waiting since Monday and now it’s Thursday. The perfect Jenga creation.

As we are leaving the doctor’s office, I get a phone call. Preschool is calling to say it looks like my 3 year old has pink eye. I’m in the doctor’s office. What better place to be. Except for the fact that he’s not there with me. Preschool has a policy of mom-pick-up-child-immediately if there is a suspicion of pink eye.

I describe it to my doctor who says he can’t diagnose without seeing it. Fair enough.

I feel my carefully stacked Jenga blocks being slowly pulled out…my tower is starting to shake ever so slightly.

I take the kids back to where they were studying and off we go, back to preschool, with a strong sense of déjà vu. I pick up my 3 year old and start heading to the doctor yet again. Seems way to familiar.

The baby seems to be hungry, of course. I know that by the sound of his newbornish baby cry filling the car for the whole 20 minute drive.

My nerves are getting a little frayed…this was not in my plans today!

The doctor looks at my 3 year old – whose eyes look great and have cleared up. Just like that.

He can go back to school. It is not pink eye. The doctor offers me a prescription for eye drops, should pink eye decide to surface over the weekend.

I’m already 2 hours behind schedule..and I’m hungry. I didn’t take food or my water bottle with me.

I want to go home. I can’t bear to think of going the 20 minutes back to preschool for the third time in one morning. I figure it’s more worthwhile to head to Target to fill the prescription for just in case,and then head home.

And anyways, when your day is messed up, Target is always a good solution.

I head to Target, get the baby with his car seat into the shopping cart, toddler in the front seat and three year old walking.

But the baby insists on reminding me he is a newborn and newborns don’t like Target.

So I carry the baby in one arm, pull the cart with the other, that now houses the empty infant seat and the toddler and my three year old.

And did I mention I have no food or drink.

My Jenga tower is slowly crashing to the ground.

The 10 minute wait for the prescription to be filled took 30 minutes. I waited at the Pharmacy, to hungry to do my usual Target stroll through all the different sections. I just wanted to get home.

We finally head to the car.

I pull into the garage 3three and half hours after I had planned, and there’s less than two hours left before having to start my pickups.

My Jenga blocks are everywhere. I don’t even want to check my to do list and my carefully laid plans. And hungry mommies are not happy mommies.

So I haven’t quite mastered my game of Jenga. I’m still working on it.

camera

One of our greatest Shabbos afternoon pastimes is looking at old photo albums. I am a bit obsessive about printing and album-ing all my pictures – but come Shabbos afternoon, it’s all worth it. True, there’s four albums of my oldest child from ages 0-6 months, and the next four albums span 2 years, but there’s more than enough photos of everyone.

Today we looked at our most recent summer albums. OK, I admit it. We did end up going on a #memoriesthatlastalifetime trip this past summer. The pictures prove it. One of them is my favorite. A real pat-on-the-back picture perfect moment.

We are on a boat. My husband is driving. The kids are sitting with their life jackets on, broad smiles on their faces. The water in the background is sparkling blue. The mountains are pristine. The sky is spectacular. It is truly perfect.

Only I know what is not in the picture.

Here’s what really happened:

We took a three day getaway – up to South Lake Tahoe. Unbeknownst to us, there seems to have been a bee problem there this past summer. For those who are worried about bees becoming extinct, go visit Lake Tahoe. That’s where they are hanging out. I mean ALL the bees of the world. At least that’s what it felt like to me.

I know, I should be more grateful to the bees. From my limited research (and ignorance), I know we owe much of our life and survival to bees. But I still hate them. Apparently my kids inherited that particular gene.

And there they were, ruining our trip. On day number three, we were going to head home in the afternoon and decided to take the kids on a boat ride.

We pull up to the marina and get out of the van. And there they are. A gazillion bees. My kids start screaming and run in all directions, pushing and shoving to get back into the van.

My husband goes off to rent the boat and me the brave one convinces the kids to get out.

“Just keep walking, they won’t touch you if you keep walking!” I keep reminding them.

And I hope my theory is true.

We make our way to the marina. They have these tents made of netting set up along the sand for people to wait in, to keep safe from the bees. Causing quite a commotion, we all push our way through the little zipper opening, me trying to act like an adult and the kids acting like kids, hoping to stay safe from the bees.

We zip that thing shut as if we are escaping from the scariest of monsters. The bees buzz furiously all around the zipper to no avail; we are safe. For now at least.

The kids are freaking out and I want to go home too. Only the almost-two year old is enjoying himself, pouring sand over his head.

My husband heads towards us with the life jackets and it’s time to go. Everyone starts panicking all over again.

I know we are making #memoriesthatlastalifetime, but not the ones I had in mind.

He motions to us to come get the life jackets. The kids refuse to come out. I try to get them out but it’s pretty hard when I myself want to stay in the safety of our cozy little mesh tent.

I open the zipper and direct the kids to get out and just head to the boat.

And then things really get hectic.

Half the kids run down the dock – not very safely at all – simultaneously haphazardly putting on their life jackets.

I’m trying to get the little one strapped into the carriage while the bees buzz all over.

One of the kids start screaming from a bee sting.

And one is rooted to his spot screaming at the top of his lungs because the bees are all around him.

I concentrate very hard on ignoring the stares from all across the marina, as I can only imagine what a spectacle this is. And if it was someone else’s nutty family, I would think it it was hilarious. Maybe even inconspicuously take a video of the scene.

But I don’t have that luxury; it’s my crew and I have to get moving.

I’m shouting from the dock for my rooted-to-the-spot five year old to come, the guy from the rental is dealing with the bee sting, my husband is getting the kids settled on the boat while they scream they want to go home and the toddler in the carriage starts yelling too.

I don’t know how, but miraculously we all safely get onto our little boat and speed off to the middle of the lake, where as promised, the bees are gone.

We relax and take picture perfect photos and each kid has a chance to steer the boat. Bluest of skies, bluest of waters, it is picturesque. The stuff that photos are made of.

I admit, sometimes as I scroll through my Facebook feed,I wish other people’s photos would just whisper and tell us what really went on.

Now looking at the pictures, printed and safely displayed in my albums, I marvel at how perfect it looks. What great memories we made. The kids talk about our trip non stop, and how much fun it was. And I quietly sigh with relief that pictures can’t talk after all.

Image result for epidural

When my 12th grade teacher concluded her class on CPR & First Aid and spoke briefly about Labor & Delivery, she asked who planned to have an epidural. I raised my hand.
Not that I knew much about it; knowing that it took away pain was enough info for me.

And when she described how long the needle of the epidural shot is, she again asked who planned to have one anyway. I raised my hand again.

She described some pros and cons and then asked the same question once again, it was me and only one other girl who still raised our hands.

And although it wasn’t a decision I had to make just then, it was already a firm decision for me. I knew there was nothing that could talk me out of it. But it did kind of bother me that the teacher was pushing a pain-filled birthing experience.

Fast forward 5 years, and there I was sitting in my childbirth classes and the instructor went through all the tips and methods of breathing, and she once again described that long needle…and asked who would take it. My hand shot up. I didn’t care the size of the needle; I knew what I needed to know. I’d heard freak stories on all types of births, with and without the Epidural.  I knew my strengths, I knew my weaknesses; and opting for the hard way was not my thing.I was determined to go with the Epidural.

When the time finally came, I tried the breathing first. For about 5 seconds. And I sat on the great birthing ball for a grand total of 38 seconds. It was not for me. I went back to plan A – Epidural. And I thankfully had the most wonderful, exhilarating experience, truly enjoying every moment of the miracle called childbirth.

Fast forward to birth number three. By the time I get to the hospital, even I know I’m further along than I want to be. And although I know I want an epidural, I also know that it may be too late. I’m 9 centimeters.

And so for those who want to go without pain meds, it’s a dream birth. But for me, it’s terrible. Barely 30 minutes later, baby boy is welcomed to the world. Only I don’t feel all that excited. I feel like a wounded animal, lying alone in the forest, moaning and groaning for help. Sure, there’s plenty of people in the room. And everything went without a hitch, Boruch Hashem. I am grateful for that. But it doesn’t replace the feeling of alone-ness and beaten that fills my entire being.

I didn’t get my Epidural. 

The nurse offers me the baby. Unlike my two previous births, I do not want to hold the baby. I can’t deal with that yet. I need to deal with myself. And I feel emotionally defeated.

They wheel me to my room, as I’m paraded down the halls I can’t help wondering, where’s the confetti? The trumpets? The whistles and marching bands? Do you guys KNOW what I just went through?? But I am not a hero. I’m just another mom doing what moms do.

I settle in my room, feed the baby and start to calm down.

My labor coach pokes her head in the room a little later, glowing with pride at how well I did.

“It was amazing! How do you feel?”

And I’ll never forget the response that I blurted out, or the look on her face after I said it.

“I feel like an idiot.”

That was the absolute truth.

“I feel like an idiot because I know there’s an easier way to do this.”

I know I could’ve gotten to the hospital earlier. I wanted to. I should have. It was circumstances out of my control that made me walk in so far into labor.

And I promise myself that I will never ever wait that long again.

With pregnancy number 4, my greatest anxiety was that I would not miss my Epidural

And as soon as contractions began, I was in the car, en route to the hospital. Before I even said my name, I informed them to call the anesthesiologist. I made it sound urgent; that I have quick labors and need it now. And 20 minutes later, on the dot, the guy was there. Only after that incredible sensation of the pain dissipating filled my being did I finally relax and let go of all my resentment from the previous birth.

Fast forward to just two months ago. It’s five days before my due date. And I feel that feeling. The feeling you wonder if you’ll remember what it feels like when you feel it again.

It’s a contraction.

But I’m too tired, not today. I know I was dreaming of being early…but I’m too tired right then.

I go to sleep hoping it’ll go away. Not just because I’m tired, but also because I’m determined to get all my kids well visits done before the new baby arrives. And there’s one appointment left for the following day.

The next day goes as planned, and I watch the clock; I need to get this appointment in! It’s the most obsessive form of nesting and I know it.  

And that feeling comes back. And of course I decide I’m not sure it’s a contraction.

And so I do what we all do these days when we turn off our own brain and rely on an outside source; I whip out my phone and type in: what do contractions feel like.

It took  about 10 seconds to get back to my senses; hello, you know what they feel like!! You’ve gone through this 7 times before, you know it’s contractions!

But I can make it to the appointment…and even a quick detour to Nordstrom Rack because I must get my daughter shoes before I have a baby. I’m not sure why, but I must.

Somewhere between the shoe section and the bathroom, I realize this is real. I need to get home.

And my need-to-get-an-Epidural anxiety kicks in.

That’s when I know I’m really in labor.

It’s barely an hour later that I walk into the hospital and march straight to the nurse’s station.

“I’m in labor and I need an epidural.”

They kind of half smirk at each other, and ask for my name. I hand over my ID and again announce that they should call the anesthesiologist. Images of the birth almost 9 years earlier flash before me and I become more persistent. So I casually tell them that this is birth #8 and things move quite quickly..

Ok, I exaggerated a bit on the quickly part… But for good reason – I needed my Epidural!

It did the trick – they started working in fast forward mode. They say they can’t call him till they get me signed in. I remind them how quickly things move.

When he comes, I give the anesthesiologist the warmest welcome, like he’s a long lost friend.

When he jokingly says you can always name a kid after me, I agree it’s a great idea.

And within in a few minutes, I’m relaxed. Time for my labor nap.

Turns out things weren’t so quick…I gave birth 5 hours later. But that was fine by me. I got my Epidural.

Whenever anyone starts telling me about the beauty of a pain-filled Epidural free birth, I have to interrupt. I did it both ways. You can not tell me how beautiful the pain feels. It didn’t feel that way for me.

So my fellow moms, let’s stop convincing people to feel what we felt. The world is filled with good-intentioned people trying to tell moms what their experiences will be.
But there’s a problem with that – you can’t sell someone an experience. We can’t tell people what to experience; we can provide facts and suggestions and pros and cons; but we must never offer our experience. 

This is all my own personal experience. Now you create your own one.

toilet-training

“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?

Maybe.