This week we began potty training with our little girl. Well, if I’m honest, we actually began a few months ago when, one Friday morning, she woke up and announced “No mummy, not nappy, knickers,” when I went to change her, and (presumably taking my cue from the current trend for developments to be ‘baby led’), I indulged her whim. What followed was a weekend of frustration and spectacular failure. On my part, I hope you will understand.
Because, as I am now starting to understand about this developmental milestone, and probably every other one ever, is that it is a process and, if I am being really, really, honest, it all began even longer ago.
Aside from sleeping through the night, potty training has probably been the part of looking after a baby (although she would now insist that she is no longer one of those) that I feared the most. I feared it even before I fell pregnant. How do you teach someone to use the toilet?
And, so, I approached this fear head on in the way I always do; with a book. Or, because my inner geek just can’t help herself; many, many books. I will claim (even now, after being a parent for long enough to realise that it is almost certainly not the case) that her success in sleeping through the night can be attributed to my hours of study, and so it seemed the only way. As a result, for as long as I can remember, my bedside table has featured numerous titles on the subject.
I felt truly prepared. I had bought all of the suggested paraphernalia and embarked upon the proposed plan. I willingly watched for the signs; was she ready? She appeared to be. She had words for it, wanted to do it and was prepared to try. But, as it turns out, we weren’t.
Even after all of my reading and research (and, in fact, maybe because of it) I had no idea what to expect. I was expecting accidents. I had anticipated a challenge. But, ultimately, I had believed the success of the venture lay in my hands. How wrong could I be?
That first weekend resulted in me feeling as though I had been forced to quit, thinking that I had done it wrong and believing that I had let my little girl down. That weekend there had been many successes; she had used the potty a number of times and she enjoyed the reward and praise when she went, but I could only see the failure, my failure; she hadn’t nailed the whole thing in one weekend as I was so sure she should do. I also clearly failed to see it wasn’t actually about me! Sadly, I admit this resulted in me sulking. Her father and I bickered about my attitude and approach. And, after consulting my friend via text for reassurance that I wouldn’t be causing irreconcilable damage (thanks Bec!), Monday morning saw the return to nappies.
I would not have been able to admit it at the time, but it was me who learnt something new that weekend.
And so this time things are a little different. Thankfully, my daughter is still keen to tackle this challenge. As we are on holiday (I know, according to all my books one of the worst times to approach this task), she has been taken to proudly chose a new, pastel pink potty that is certainly not in keeping with my colour scheme of choice. She happily sits on it in front for the sofa for well over the recommended time frame whilst clutching her ‘sucky’ (a muslin she takes to bed) and watching way too much TV. During the day she is actively encouraged to drink lots with her father offering her the unusual and exciting options of squash or juice. And, when she does finally produce something, her face fills with pride as her grandparents provide a round of applause – but also a look of anticipation as her father has promised her an ice cream for every time she goes!
Things this time are actually very different. Nothing about our approach is the way I had anticipated things to be. I still feel as if I am breaking some fatal rule as I put her in to a pair of pull-ups for a stress free evening meal out. At times I feel I have relinquished all control. But I remind myself now that this is not about me.
For a self-confessed perfectionist and pushy parent, admitting my perceived failings fills me with fear. I worry that all of the warnings my precious books provided will suddenly come crashing down around me and I will return home in a fortnight with a toddler who is so bored of sitting on the potty she refuses to have anything to do with it, one who still wants the security of a nappy whenever we leave the house or (the most likely option) a child with a dangerous addiction to ice cream, sugary drinks and CBeebies.
And, who knows, I may have. But, as she ran the entire length of the apartment the other day shouting ‘quick, quick’ to arrive at her potty just in time, I saw her smiling face and realised that, right now, my doing something different is working for her.
And that should always be my most important thing.