“No More Diapers any more, I’m as happy as can be // I get to wear big kid pants// I’M SO PROUD OF ME!”
So ends A Potty For Me, a fine example of children’s self-help literature. I was in favor of it, because it eschews videos or rewards and emphasizes the child’s own triumphal joy. It also emphasizes the agonizing arc, from peeing in one’s pants to false alarms, to the continued presence of diapers at night, all in a few fold-out pages. The kid even looks a bit like Ronia, especially in the baby flashback scene.
The book did not do the trick on its own, though. We were attempting to simulate the techniques my mother used on me, letting me run free until I wanted to rejoin civilization and its achievements. Of course, my mother raised me in an indigenous Yupik fishing village near the Bering Sea, so there was a lot of free space for me to pee in. Harder to pull off in Philadelphia, or disastrously in a New York City taxi cab or the corner of my sister’s fabulous lower Manhattan apartment, to cite one particularly urologically eventful trip. My dad suggested M & M’s.
Our ability to leave our house was saved when Ronia started preschool. While her excellent summer daycare had required diapers below a certain success rate, the Waldorf school was willing to work with her. Since she was one of the older kids, she apparently started quite a fad for toilet training among her younger admirers. Not a moment to soon, as I was starting to feel her teachers viewed me less of a parent and more of a diaper delivery service. This was the same week she started falling asleep by herself, in one swoop gaining independence over body and psyche.
Just like her literary hero, Ronia was bragging “I don’t NEED diapers anymore! I get to wear underwear, like Auntie!” In spite of my best efforts, she did demand a reward: looking at pictures of herself peeing. She would announce that she had to pee in the night, and I was thrilled since she was sleeping in my bed. Suddenly she did not need to be accompanied by a diaper bag bigger and heavier than her. I did not have to do laundry every day, which I had done almost every day of her life to that point, since she used cloth diapers.
But then, she did some traveling over winter break and the disruption seemed to make her lose interest. “You got so mad at me!” she would recount. “I don’t want to because I am having a hard time peeing in the potty.” I am trying not to panic, afraid of her regressing. She is doing fine at school, even coming home in her original clothes most days. She always knows when she has to poop, mercifully. And she likes her cartoon character toilet lid.
Finally, I resorted to telling her, “It’s later now” when she would say that she wanted to pee “later.” And it actually worked! Like so many things in parenting, this is a process but every one comes through. So we will all keep trying, and wiping up.