Thursday, October 20, 2011

Happy dance

While this blog does tend to run squarely into daddy territory at least once a week, and I have no problem acknowledging all the ups and downs from how I neurotically overthink the way I am influencing my offspring’s future happiness through my every action and inaction, to the rationality-pulverizing cuteness of little things my kids surprise me with, there is one element of parenting which by and large I tend to eschew in-depth discussion of hereabouts, and that is the near-constant contact with intimate biological functions. I’ve never tried to pretend that my children are ephemeral sprites, and I’m sure I’ve made passing reference to changing diapers or laundering spit-up stains or whatnot, but I try not to dwell on these things. The earthly muck comes with the territory, and I have no qualms with that at all, but I shouldn’t because they’re my kids. Even if you happen to be a blood relative of those kids yourself (and a large percentage of you reading this ona regular basis are) I don’t see the need to wallow in said muck, metaphorically.

However! Without getting too bogged down in details, as it were, I am stoked to report that we seem to finally be on the positive side of potty training the little guy. Arguably another reason why I hadn’t broached this subject before, aside from the unsavory subject matter itself, was that potty training seemed very much like one of those things that would be doomed by too much overthinking and stress and whatnot (I am speaking to the role of the parents here, of course) and yet I found myself overthinking it and stressing about it a lot, especially when we got to the point where the little guy was eligible according to calendar-age to move up a room at daycare but unable to do so because he was still in diapers. And our early attempts at changing the status quo were met by the little guy with indifference followed by stubborn resistance. So we had to resign ourselves to outwaiting him, but it still bummed me out, but I didn’t want to talk about how it bummed me out because … there are actually times when I just prefer not to talk about things, unlikely as that may seem. Anyway, it was a drag, but a drag that my wife and I were determined not to translate into trauma for the little guy, even as we read books on the subject and talked it to death after he had gone to sleep and so on and so on.

And then this past weekend we had reasonably clear schedules and decided we would give it one more try with a concerted push that walked the line between making the option available and very visible to the little guy yet not pressuring him in any way. That lasted about six or eight hours on Saturday and he was as unenthusiastic as ever, even with some really high-end rewards potentially on the table. So I made a desperation play and told the little guy that he would start losing privileges if he didn’t at least try, and that actually made an impression and he did try, and the timing must have finally been right for him to get with the program because he was hesitant but on-board on Saturday night, and then a little less tentative on Sunday, and then I went back to work on Monday and worried that alone with my wife he would slack off some but he actually got even better, and then Tuesday I worried again that going to daycare would throw everything off but he stayed right on course, and now here we are on Thursday and we know it’s too soon to say it’s a done deal and there may yet be some setbacks or other unforeseen difficulties but so far so good. And it really is a huge weight off my shoulders, to the extent that I’m realizing I hadn’t quite admitted to myself how down I was about not doing right by my child and being complicit in him falling behind, until I was out from under all that and I could finally appraise how heavy it had been (ridiculously so, sure, but what can you do).

Things are going so well, in fact, that the little guy has already used the system of cumulative rewards to get two new additions to his beloved Cars toy collection, which makes me laugh on various levels. He now officially has more of those little vehicles than he can possibly play with in any meaningful way, but I don’t begrudge him that of course, since I’m an inveterate completist/collector/toy connoisseur myself. I do of course wonder what’s going to happen if he realizes that there are still more characters from the movie(s) that he wants to possess after the point where his mother and I feel like his behavior is modeled more or less exactly the way we want. We got him to stop throwing delaying-tactic tantrums at bedtime, got him to stay put after lights out when he went from a crib to a bed, and now have him most of the way potty trained. He already is reasonably polite and helpful, and usually eats his vegetables. What’s left? I’m assuming at some point we can transition from “you get toys on a regular basis” to “you get toys on your birthday and Christmas” with nothing more than the authority of parental fiat, and I do hope I’m not underestimating the challenge of that shift. That’s another thing that makes me laugh, of course: my wife and I pride ourselves on being modern and open-minded and in all ways primarily concerned with raising our kids the right way, and yet time and again we have found the best way to get from where we are to where we want to be has been out-and-out bribery. So much so that I would without question or hesitation recommend it to all my friends who might have kids younger than ours and run into challenges. Cars or trains or Legos or Smurfs or My Little Ponies or whatever, find a child-appealing currency and pay them to do what you want. Which sounds terrible when I lay it out like that! But sounding terrible does not prevent it from working, I have found, and I am OK with that.

Kind of a big deal right now
Also at some point I guess we’re going to have to stop hooting and whooping and clapping hands and doing a little dance whenever the little guy manages to make it to his potty in time to put there what belongs there? But I don’t think we’re at that point yet? Honestly, given the little guy’s track record with other ever-evolving rituals of home life, there may very well come a point where he tells us he’s done going to the bathroom and we start to sing and dance and he shakes his head and says “Guys, stop that.”

In the interest of a balanced approach to my two children I feel like I should also mention that my daughter now has two teeth juuuuuust poking through (both bottom front) and has also officially started eating solid foods in the form of a spoonful or three a day of rice cereal mush, and is therefore crossing into the realm where her own diaper contents go from “newborn-inoffensive bouquet” to “ugh whose turn is it?” but see, there we go into the icky business which I so conscientiously try to avoid. She’s doing splendidly in all age-appropriate ways, and perhaps I should just leave it at that.

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