I had just sat down to start writing and wasn't sure what topic to start with--full of ideas for my new blog--when I was interrupted by Asher waking up from a nap, and the topic became clear. Previously, this was generally a serene event, which involved a lot of rolling around with his blankets, drinking some water, and reading some books to himself. That all changed about two months ago with potty training. Now he wakes with a full bladder and plaintive cries to urinate. Part of me really misses those gradual, peaceful wake-ups. Most of me loves being diaper-free.
I know what you're thinking, "He's so young!" Yes, he is young. We got rid of diapers at 20 months. That said, no, I am not concerned about him having any sort of Freudian issues. For the record, back in the day, they used to strap kids to the potty and hold them down until they went. For hours. Seriously. Kids at any age would have issues after that. We took a more natural, less pressured approach. It worked, and though he probably will have a million other issues related to his upbringing, I don't think any of them will be scatological.
So why a blog post about this? As with all families, this was as huge landmark for us. Asher is officially a little boy, freed of the constraints of infancy. We don't have to pack a bag full of diapers. Wherever there is a toilet, we're fine. Huge change from the newborn days when a weekend away meant a SUV bursting at the seams with baby equipment. Bittersweet in some ways, but mostly just awesome.
Having potty-trained one kid, I am certainly no expert in the matter, but reflecting on it and talking with a lot (basically every mother I know, which is a lot of moms considering what I do for a living) of people about it, I think there are some basic concepts that parents need to get in order to get the job done.
First off, don't worry so much about whether or not your kid is ready. Very few kids come out and just start using the potty consistently on their own. If this happens, you are very lucky, but you also might be waiting until that child is almost ready to start kindergarten, which is not a reasonable option for most of us. For the rest of us, we just have to jump in. If your kid can follow simple directions reasonably well, there is a very good chance, he can figure it out. If you are actually considering potty training, he is certainly ready (I am convinced we underestimate our kids' abilities all the time). It's really a question of whether or not YOU are ready. Seriously. This is a big deal. Your baby is no longer a baby. There are GREAT things ahead, but that's a big emotional speed bump to get over.
When Asher first showed up to his "mommy and me" classes (which he attends
with the nanny...more on that in the future, I'm sure), after missing
just one week, everyone was sure we had failed in our endeavor. He was a bit of a phenomenon among the not-quite-two crowd. None of the other kids had attempted this, and it was a shock to everyone when it worked. And I think that is mostly because no one wanted to admit that our kids are growing up. Admittedly, I cried the first day (I cried a lot the next few days too, but for different reasons--even when training goes well, it is not easy). I couldn't believe he was ready for this, and yet, there he was sitting on the potty and running around diaper-less.
Beyond the emotional aspects, you've got to commit the time. I don't care what some books say, three days of "boot camp" are not going to have your kid potty-trained sufficiently put undies on him and just let him go. You've really got to clear your calendar, I mean REALLY clear it, for at least a week. Which means that you take a day or two off of work, or you get your partner or some other relative to stay home with your child. You use vacation time. Yes, I mean that. This is way more life-altering than that trip to Disney you were prepared to take a week off for. And you clear your weekends for a while after that. No birthday parties or weekend trips or any other unbreakable plan. You keep things low-key and close to home (and familiar potties) as long as it takes.
And you've got to accept that there WILL be accidents. And that's OK, just messy. The accidents are learning opportunities, not failures. At some point, you'll feel like there are so many accidents that it's not working. You will be wrong. Stick with the program, and it will work. Trust me, we've all been there.
As for the particulars, there are a lot of different methods, and I can't have an opinion about any aside from the one we used. In fact, I'm not sure it really matters. We used the "Oh Crap" method, chosen as much for its name as for a big two thumbs up from a good friend (http://www.jamieglowacki.com/). I personally don't think that big rewards or peeing on Cheerios does it. I like the matter-of-fact approach, the concept that doing your business in the potty is the way all of us do it and now a child is mature enough to handle that too. But if stickers or drowning the Cheerio works for your kid, go for it. Whatever you do, just be consistent and put in the time.
Eventually, you will be rewarded in ways you never imagined.