Monday, January 28, 2008

Potty Mouth

Could there possibly be a task of motherhood that I despise more than potty training? I think not. I have heard claims of 2-year-olds happily abandoning their diapering days virtually the instant they are tempted with the promise of a fine-looking pair of Big Boy Undies; however, I have not witnessed it first-hand. About the only thing going for me at this point is that I gratefully live in an era that has become less obsessed about how old a child is when they reach this milestone. Now, it's generally only people born before 1960 that might raise an eyebrow at 3-year-olds in diapers. (Or Pull-Ups, better known as overpriced diapers you can change standing up.)

Though I have taught two kids how to read, add, multiply, spell, write and recognize a liberal, I still consider myself a colossal failure at communicating the lesson of basic sanitation. With my first child, I didn't really try at all until she was nearly 3. She learned "number one" almost immediately, but chronic constipation made "number two" a lesson that lagged for ages. On my incompetent pediatrician's advice, I constantly gave her prune juice, which never helped at all. I switched to a wonderful, earth-mother-crunchy pediatrician (whom I had to leave eventually because she dropped my insurance). She recommended increasing magnesium intake naturally, for which nuts are apparently optimal. One Planter's Cashew jar later, my daughter became regular and never had another day of constipation. So, she became potty-trained when she was 3 1/2.

I thought I had it in the bag with my second child. I tried the old lady method of putting them on the potty when they were little infants, so they would get used to it. That aspect worked out great. He was not afraid of the potty, nor rebellious about sitting on it. Before he was two years old, I could take him to the potty any time and he would non-challantly sit there until he peed. However, he didn't personally care about going to the potty. He saw no particular benefit in being dry, so if I wasn't on the ball, he would be wet (or messy) and happy as a clam. If I had really wanted to, I could have put him in underwear, taken him potty every hour or so, washed two or three pairs of accident pants a day and called him potty trained. Then I could be one of those moms who walked around saying he was potty trained before he was two. But this prospect did not appeal to me. "Potty-trained" to me means they know and care where they're supposed to do their business. They make an effort to go potty themselves or enlist help when the need arises, at least 80% of the time. If they would sit happily in a filthy puddle should you not take them potty in a timely fashion, they are not potty trained, IMHO.

Anyway, I put him back-and-forth in underwear, in pull-ups, underwear, pull-ups over the next two years, waiting for him to reach a point where he would care. He's such an easy-going chap, bless his heart. He never did care until I upped the ante shortly after he turned four. Since he was wild about Burger King at the time, a place you can hardly pay me to go, I let him know there was a flame-broiled patty of mashed-down kangaroo meat in it for him if he could go a week with only smiley faces on his potty chart. Thank God for fast-food bribery. It worked like a charm.

Now I'm facing this monster task of motherhood for the third time. This is my second attempt at it, after a false start in August. At that time, Mason was just shy of three and showed all the "signs" (whatever the heck that's supposed to help) of being able to use the potty. At first, we were wildly successful. He peed in the potty 97 times before lunch. He was "telling me" - i.e., he cared, which is the acid test for me. Then, he took a nap. Someone secretly switched him while he napped. He woke up thinking the potty was the Tool of the Devil. He wouldn't sit on that thing, even if there was a cheeseburger in it for him. If I "gently insisted", it was like trying to sit him on a hedgehog. So I did what any weak-willed mother does. I gave up.

The weird thing was, he did like to go potty in potties away from home. Kind of the reverse of most kids. We would be in church and he would squeal in a weird falsetto, "I got to PEEEEEEEEEE! I got to PEEEEEEEEE!" right in front of Sister Callahanto. So, I knew he was capable of all elements of pottying. He just wasn't going to do it on my say-so.

Now that we're in the dead of winter and our activities are at a minimum, I thought I would revisit the potty concept. I was planning to take a week in February for an intensive, week-long potty workshop. Since I've discovered kitchen timers help my transition-phobic child go along with the program, I was planning to use timers to help the process along. Then, Friday night, for reasons I can't explain, I impulsively decided to resume potty training that instant. I decided I would muscle through the inevitable crying. Of course, Friday night was a terrible night to start, for the very reason that interruptions would be constant all weekend - wrestling matches, errands, sleepovers, church. However, I went along with my ill-conceived plan.

Not surprisingly, he did cry on every trip to the potty, but he mostly sat and then would be happy over his success. The timer did help, but over the weekend it was too inconsistent to be very effective. Today, the timer is helping much more, since we've been home all day. We even got to a few instances of him telling me - again, my acid test of potty training.

I know there are some who would say that you shouldn't be training a child who cries. (A younger version of me would say that.) But for Mason, crying is part of the recipe. For him, mild tears are his usual state and only if he's going ballistic do tears concern me. Thankfully, ballistic hasn't happened this potty-training round. Perhaps cute Thomas the Train underwear are not far off in his future. We'll see.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Telling Stories

At church yesterday, the pastor talked about how our "stories" can help other people. For example, stories of painful things we've been through, or even are currently going through. Then, we had two church members tell a story of their own.

The first man told a bona fide tearjerker. If he had titled it, it would have been called, "Coincidences - or not". At the story's beginning, he had not been going to church, but "coincidentally", he and his wife both had the urge to find a church. They wound up at Cedar Ridge. Shortly after that, their son had a bad fall at the park and had to go to the ER. Which was lucky, actually. Because that is how the doctors discovered he had a rare throat cancer that has no outward symptoms. It was so fortunate, he said, that they now had a church community, because they could not have made it otherwise. Thankfully, their son was able to beat this cancer, a cancer that is nearly always fatal, simply because its stealth makes it undetectable until it's advanced.

Man, we all love a story like that! That's a story that bolsters our faith, moves us to believe that God has our back, makes us feel we're on the right team.

At the risk of sounding bitter, though, I cannot hear a story like that without comparing it with my own. My story is the reverse. At the beginning of my story, I was not an unbeliever. Me and God were buds; very tight. I was at the pinnacle of my faith. My faith that God had my back could not have been more certain. I was pregnant with my third child and believed myself to be so blessed and rewarded by God. I suppose I was arrogant. Subconsciously I think I believed that my life was so great because I was such a good little Christian. It was a very simple formula; trust in God and everything will turn out lovely.

It never entered my mind that this baby that I thought was proof of God's great love for me could die. Doesn't that happen to other people, you know, bad people who believe the wrong things? It never entered my mind that God's blessings can be rescinded at any time, without warning, without explanation. What could be more senseless than a baby who dies on the day of her birth? What is more impotent than a life that ends before it begins?

I have such trouble with My Story, because it is the antithesis of that awe-inspiring story Mr. Steve told about his child. In his case, the God he did not previously connect to said, "Here I am! And watch what I will do!" In my case, the God I was sure was there seemed to walk away, turn from me without reason, torment me for no purpose. What would Mr. Steve's story be if there were no "coincidences" that saved his child? His story would be my story.

I know that there are people who do go through horrible tragedies and come out with greater faith. The thing is, I have no idea how they do it! How do you continue to pray when you've had prayers answered with a heartbreaking "No."? I haven't been able to pray much since Lydia died. For every answered prayer, there is someone else, grief-stricken, whose prayers are not answered.

Some say that the purpose of tragedy is to refine our character. It is true that I am forever changed - in some ways for the better - by losing Lydia. It obliterated any notion I had, subconscious or otherwise, that I was specially loved and protected by God because I was so "good". It sensitized me, exquisitely, to the pain of others. Still, that cannot be the purpose. Could better character ever be a fair trade for the life of your child? Would you take that offer? Besides, losing Lydia shattered my faith in God and people. God, being omniscient, would have known that would happen. So, if He went ahead as planned, He would be saying He didn't want me anyhow. I think maybe that is not so.

That's the other reason why My Story makes such a shitty one. It's not resolved. There's no denouement. I'm still in Limbo, waiting for something to make sense. I may die waiting. I keep trying to hang on to some notion of Faith, without any good reason to do so. I'm like a battered wife who's still trying to find a reason to stay. (There's that battered wife metaphor again. People will start to wonder.) I still call myself a Christian, while my beliefs are downright heretical.

I keep trying. But it's a puzzle.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


When my first two children moved from a crib to a bed, I got double beds for them. I reasoned that this would be ideal any night they had a nightmare or were sick and I chose to sleep in their bed with them. I was pleased with this arrangement, although they rarely woke at night by that age.

When Mason moved into a bed, however, someone had a twin-sized mattress they wanted to unload and, being the cheapskate, I took it. Naturally, he would be the one who wakes up 50,000 times a month and requires a lot more bed-sharing than the other two.

So, last night, as I lay in his bed with a heel in my backside and an inadequate amount of choo-choo comforter on my tenth of the bed, I pondered the name "Twin-sized bed". How did that name ever come to be? Twins are two, so far as I know, yet a bed that sleeps two is a "Double". Perhaps the namer had spent the night with a 3-year-old in a twin-sized bed, and concluded that it's as roomy as twins in utero. But, really, logic would clearly dictate that it should be called a "Single". Then, Queen-sized beds could be called "Talls". And King-sized could be called "Frigid"...err, "Spacious".

I hate things that have bad names. That's why I'm not voting for Huckabee.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Weirder Motherhood Moments

New year, fresh start. That's what they say. Yet, other than taking the two big kids to see Alvin and the Chipmunks, my day was mostly made up of the usual mundane tasks. But someone - most probably a young son - managed to break up the monotony of emptying trash cans. As I emptied the cute, white, cottage-style trash can in the boys' blue-and-white adorable bathroom that looks straight out of a Nantucket beach house, something WET trickled out of the bag. I only had to wonder what could be wet in there for a few seconds before my SENSE OF SMELL informed me exactly what was wet in there. Seems someone managed to use the trashcan as an impromptu potty. Hard to explain, seeing how the actual toilet is 3 inches away. Unless poor aim is to blame.

Now WHAT IN THE HECK would prompt some child in the household to choose such a plan of action??? I puzzled over the question as I washed my hands 76 times. Then I called a certain young man upstairs, and asked him why I was discovering such leavings in the trash can. He, naturally, couldn't explain it. When asked directly, "Did you pee in the trashcan?", suspect looked thoughtful and then pulled the Clintonesque, "I don't know." Now, I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but I reckon if I peed in a trashcan, I could pull that from my memory banks, so that was as good as a confession, I figure. With that, I made a plain statement, "Don't pee in the trashcan. It's disgusting and unsanitary. Okay?" Our pact now secured, he skipped off to carry on with hopefully more useful pursuits.

The things you don't know about until you actually are a mother....! (If you're reading this and you actually AREN'T one yet, you're probably shaking your horrified head and saying, "Well MY child will NEVER do something like that!" Write that down. It will be funny to review later!)

Happy New Year, everyone! Cheers to all the Moms out there, wiping up pee everywhere! May your New Year include a reasonable amount of take-out-food, a few great Sugar-Plum Martinis and a really stunning pair of unsensible shoes!