Friday, January 2, 2009
Toilet Training Tanner
I have two sons. Tanner is now 2 and a half, Sage is about five months. Since I'm always leaving Maya with the two of them in pursuit of wily waterfowl, I've agreed to play Mr. Mom today. But if that wasn't enough, I've decided to raise the stakes. On a whim I decide, unilaterally of course, that Tanner is ready to wear his Lightning McQueen Big Boy Briefs. I type "potty training" into the google toolbar. The first site gives me a list of criteria that your child must meet in order to be ready for the potty.
Criteria #1: Does your toddler show signs of wanting to do more things for themselves such as pulling up their own pants?
Although he likes for me to pull up his pants, at least he arches his back so I can pull them over his little buttski. To Mom's chagrin, he loves to put DVD's in the player, poking his finger carefully through the hole so as not to scratch it. He would definitely take my truck for a spin if I let him. Check yes on #1.
Criteria #2: Does your toddler have the required verbal understanding? This includes being able to understand and carry out simple instructions.
Well, he is my son. He talks more than we'd like most of the time. When he says, "I'd like three more warm pancakes please. In a bowl." I think he can get his message across. Let's see, when I tell him in the sweetest voice, and get down on his level, that it's nap time, he throws the appropriate temper tantrum. He'll do just about anything if he knows there are trains involved or at least a Little Einstein Episode. Check yes to #2.
Criteria #3: Is your child's bladder and bowel control adequately developed? For instance, can he or she go for two or three hours before wetting their diaper?
Hmmm. This one's a little tougher. I have changed his diaper after nap time and it's dry. I quiz Maya and I get the look. The one that says: "You really want to take this on right now?"
"He's ready babe. I know he can do this. We'll bust out that sticker chart and bribe him with pieces of the sugar cookies that he decorated." She's still not convinced.
"Babe, you need to follow through on this. Aren't you going hunting tomorrow?"
Dammit, she's got me. I'll have to up the ante. Shopping is the great equalizer.
"Look honey, there's a shopping list here! We've got most of this stuff: the big boy briefs, the sugar bribes, the sticker chart. All we need are a few more Thomas the Train Tighties. You can pick em up when you're out with the girls." I can see I'm starting to win her over. I should be careful what I wish for. "Plus, if we're going to do this, it's gotta be a team effort. You gotta back me up on this one Babe. I need your help and support." That does it. Our Wedding Rings are inscribed with the words: "U & I R A TEAM". I pushed just the right button.
"Alright I'll pick some up at the factory outlets." Check #3.
I'm in the money but I don't know when to quit. "Plus, if you wanted to get some work done at school, we could have my Mom watch them for a little bit in the morning. You know she's got the patience to reinforce what we're teaching him."
"Well, you have to call her then." Whew, I almost blew it there.
She hates it when I use Moms to bail me out so I can go hunting. She likes it when I suffer alone and feel the pain that she feels. But I'm passed the point of no return. As I read on down the website, I encounter the catalyst. Diapers are a sinister conspiracy by the diaper industry to keep your kids in diapers way past the age when kids in other countries are already doing long division. I'm a sucker for conspiracies.
So Maya leaves and it's just me and the boys. I show Tanner the stickers and explain the whole rewards thing. I have an epiphony. This is the first time we've really used positive reinforcement with him. He loves it. He's juiced. He wants to get those stickers and cookies so bad, he'll do anything. He loves his Lightning McQueen Big Boy Briefs (BBBs). He gets a sticker for: telling Daddy he's got to go, sitting on the potty even if he doesn't go, actually going on the potty, wiping and flushing(he loves to flush I tell you) and for washing his hands. When he gets three stickers, he gets a piece of sugar cookie. Things are going swell. The website advises to feed your child plenty of liquids so they get lots of practice. I let the milk and juice flow through those sippy cups. Stickers are starting to pile up. I'm using my most encouraging voice, praising, rewarding. I have the slightest sense that I may be getting taken for the sugar by a two year old because Tanner asks to sit on the potty like every five minutes but hey, if the shoe fits wear it, right?
So Tanner tells me he has to go again and he's sitting there waiting for the pee train when Sage starts to wail. When he was born, I texted everyone that he came out, "screaming like a Tiger." I was so proud. He hasn't lost his knack either. His screams will bring chills down your spine.
"Ok Tanner, just sit here and I'll be right back."
I run to sooth Sage. Actually I just stuff his squeeky rubber giraffe "Sophie" (made with all food-grade materials whatever that means-it just looks like a dog toy to me and Montana perks up whenever Sage squeeks it) into his mouth and run back to check on Tanner.
"I peed" he says and I see that he did. The bathroom is glistening. "I missed" he says.
"I can see" I say, keeping my cool. Remembering the advice of internet guru daddy: "It's not what you say but how you say it." I perk my voice up a notch, "Yeah! Tanner you did it! Lets clean up and get some more stickers!"
"I want a Cookie" he says. I can't fault the kid. He's knew at this. He just missed. What guy out there can say they haven't? We wash up and cash in on all the stickers, carefully reviewing with Tanner exactly why he is being rewarded.
I think it's fantastic that he's now opened every present a boy could ever wish for and yet all he cares about is getting a silly sticker for washing his hands. Did you tell Daddy you went Potty? Yes, here's a sticker. Did you go on the potty? Yes, well not exactly, I mean, Yeah, well you tried and that's what counts yeah!!
The sugar cookie supply is dwindling along with the clean underwear. I hope Maya gets here quick with the back ups and some mini M&M's (recommended by internet guru dad, IGD as he will be hereafter referred as). Also, the wash is filling up fast with soaked articles. By naptime, I'm on pins and needles. IGD says that "once you go to the BBB's, there's no going back." I lay a towel down under Tanner and tuck him in. His favorite blanky "Cha Cha" is already a urine soaked victim, soaking in the wash with the rest of the casualties. I'm starting to realize that sugar cookies (even in small doses) and naptime mix about as well as oil and water, but I forge on.
Meanwhile, Sage is neglected. I think Tanner is seizing this opportunity to get back at least some of the attention he's lost in the last five months since "Baby Sage" was born. As soon as Sage starts sounding off, Tanner needs me. Luckily Maya arrives with reinforcements. Tanner's naptime, usually an uninterrupted oasis of calm for about two and a half hours, has been sabotaged. Tanner calls me in about every half hour with varying success. I'm starting to hear voices in my head going "I peed", "Daddy I PEEEED." My nerves are frazzled but I try not to let it show, Tanner is still racking up the stickers and cookies like, well, like a kid in a candy store.
I don't remember exactly when I threw in the white towel. After all, I'd been dealing with pee soaked white towels all day. Maybe it was when he peed on the floor for the third time. Maybe it was when I realized that we had gone through 10 pairs of BBBs that day or when I saw there was a full load of urine stained casualties. Whatever or whenever it was, I did. I threw in the towel and grabbed some pull-ups. I needed peace, I needed security. I didn't care that I was single handedly funding the entire diaper industry for another six months or so, I was done. I think Tanner was actually bored with the sugar now and content on his Thomas the Train set.
When we went to bed that night, Maya told me that she was proud of me for what I took on. She didn't even say I told you so. She didn't have to. I swallowed my defeat like a man.
The next day, while I was quacking at ducks from my duck blind (what Maya likes to call the porta-potties), Tanner woke up and refused to put on his diapers. He wanted his BBBs. And stickers. And M&M's. Three green ones.