Apr 1, 2011

Confessions from the potty trenches

It may not have the most page views, or be the best post that I've ever written, but among the people I know in person, my EC post (Elimination Communication, or Infant Potty Training) is the number one post to be talked about.  People I know in person e-mail me about it, ask me about it, and now that my three-and-a-half year old son has graduated completely, I want to share the rest of the story.

Everything that I wrote in that earlier post was true.  I didn't know the whole story then (by the way, "then" was a couple of years ago, not last January).  A few months ago when my mother witnessed me changing a poopy diaper, she asked if I was sorry that I had put so much work into EC while he was younger.  My answer was quick, "Not remotely!  Every time he did his business in the toilet, it was one less diaper to change."  A few years later, I think that I do have a more realistic view about the whole process.  I have truly given up my emotional attachment for early results, and have accepted that EC is a journey and not a destination.  However, it is nice to finally arrive.  :o)

Beginning EC now

I really can't blame myself for my early optimism in the EC-ing process.  Babies are easy to cue, and they know how to express their needs.  I am very active in this stage with my 6-month-old son.  Despite his 3-year-old brother in diapers, my baby did his first job in the potty before he was 24 hours old.  It was really handy when we were weighing him during those first few weeks.  We would help him empty his bladder before the diaper-less babe was placed in the scale.  It is fantastic before taking a bath!  I haven't ventured to let him go diaper-less yet, like I did with his older brother.  I have three children ages three and under, and I am very busy.  I have found the balance that works for our family, and a realistic goal for myself that I can feel good about.  I don't have time to be cleaning up little messes all the time like I did when I had only one child.  We are also renting now, and the carpet is a lot nicer than the stuff we had in our last home.

The Toddler Stage

My 24-month-old daughter is also progressing nicely at her own pace.  My parents gave her a doll with a potty for Christmas, and she loves taking her toys potty.  She loves going potty.  For her, the reward of using toilet paper is enough, and there are no candy treats awaiting her when she does her business.  She is doing very well, and I am optimistic that she will "graduate" soon, but I'm not counting on it.

Final Graduation

My oldest son was almost there twice, and then changed his mind.  The first time was before he was two.  It was right after his little sister was born.  He saw us taking her potty, and became very fascinated with it.  He loved his little potty with the stickers on it, and he was down to 2-3 accidents a week for about a month.  Hooray!  Success!!  Ta-da, EC works!  I'm such a cool mom!  Don't count your chickens before they hatch!

Dear mothers of the world: Do not take your child's potty-training success, or lack there-of, personally.  It really is up to them.  I love the advice:  "Teach them correct principles, and let them govern themselves."  This is our new potty-training approach.

That month ended, and it would be another YEAR before we got close again to graduation.  This time he was 2 1/2, and had peers like our next-door-neighbor who were becoming potty-trained.  For the first time, he started asking for the potty instead of agreeing to go potty.  That was a huge milestone!  He started staying dry at night consistently, a talent that he kept.  Then we started re-modeling our home to fix a mold problem, having constant house-showings so I kept him in diapers, and then we moved and he got a new sibling.

About a month ago I was cleaning out a poopy diaper in the toilet and I realized that I was more indifferent than I should be to his potty-training needs.  I was changing diapers constantly, what's one more kid?  I decided to encourage him more.  We started rewarding him by getting to watch an episode of Krypto the Superdog (nothing else worked) when he would go potty.  Then it was only for going number 2.  This helped, but it was still up to him to decide to finish the process.  I was thinking about printing our reward charts and buying stickers, and reading mainstream potty-training books, but I never got the chance.  Two weeks ago, he decided that he was done with diapers, and he started doing what he knew how to do all along.  I am now very grateful to have only two in diapers, and yes, having a graduate really has lightened my work-load!

Final Notes

EC is fantastic, and it really can produce early results.  I am not as die-hard as the parents who do have those results, and the results in my family reflect that.  I didn't have a potty in every room, and this last year my son didn't have a much time in underwear as would have been ideal.  But he did still go in the potty every day, and we gave him the option of wearing underwear every morning.  He often chose the diaper, actually.  I was okay with that.  But he is potty trained now, the results did come.  For us this method was gentle, effective, produced fewer diaper rashes (only a few minor ones), and fun.  Yes, fun.  It is really fun to hold a tiny baby over a toilet and let them do their business.  Haha, try it sometime.

It also taught me to allow my child to progress at his own pace, and to free myself from my vain, emotional attachment to his success.  That was a humbling lesson that I needed to learn.  EC, and early education for that matter, are not about the parent.  Children are not trophies or medals to display your superb parenting.  I never thought that they were, but now I really know it.  Children are people!  Like a flower waiting to bloom, no poking or prodding from the parent will help them to progress any faster, but the right environment will ensure that it will happen.  After all, creating the best environment for our children is what professional mothering is all about.


Ashly said...

Great Job Peter!!! This is a wonderful post. I have a friend who is thinking about doing EC with her soon-to-be newborn and this sums it up beautifully. My favorite about ec-ing with my own babies, is the communication. I just love hanging out with them while they do their business (if it is a reasonable amount of tiem:) Changing a poopy diaper has such a different tone then reading a book or playing peek-a-boo while my baby goes #2. It has really become a family affair too. Lia (2 1/2) will often join us and bring me wipes for my 12 month old. Lia is still in diapers for night time. At one point she stayed dry for a month at night and then just decided to wet the bed. I have no problems with this. I know she will choose and if I think it is time, I will encourage her. EC makes the transition of full-time "potty trained" a smooth and relaxed ride. I am with you Tamsyn; I LOVE EC!

dontfencemein1979 said...

Really needed to read this today. We have a daughter that is four and is still in pull ups because of bowel retention (stubborn-ness) and pure lazy-ness (doesn't want to have to face the music of cleaning it up). We have tried everything. Have seriously considered EC'ing the one due next month. Thanks for the realism in your approach!

Tamsyn Spackman said...

I'm glad that it was helpful. Congratulations on your upcoming baby! I love babies. EC is great on any scale, it doesn't have to be all or none. And good luck with your 4-year-old too. :o)

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