Thirteen days ago we got a letter from Yogi’s pre-school. The letter, with references to the American Association of Pediatrics, informed us that the 3’s program is structured around the expectation that most children are potty-trained by the age of three. Wha????? In keeping with this expectation, there are no diaper changing stations in these classrooms and only underwear and Pull-Ups are allowed. Umm….what?! In my admittedly limited investigation into the schools’ potty rules (why continue to ask questions when you get an answer that works?) I had heard that they were happy to work with you and that there were no hard and fast rules about potty training. This letter didn’t make it sound like that.
School starts at the end of August. August! Our pre-letter potty strategy was of the wait and see variety. Around the time Yogi turned two we got little seats for our toilets, checked out Everybody Poops at the library and started talking potty. We cheered on our friends who sit on the potty at school and invited the little dude to flush during our (almost always) communal bathroom visits. He selected his own big boy underwear a few months back and we frequently discuss how cool it will be when he’s ready for them. There is very rare potty sitting when he’s in the mood before tub, but prior to the letter nothing had ever come of any of that. We were waiting for him to be ready. Whatever that even is.
Then we got the letter. My initial response was “Ack!!! We haven’t prepared him and now he’s going to be in a situation that he’s not ready for and he will be damaged!!”. Because that’s a given, right? If a person has traumatic potty training experiences they’re pretty much doomed for serious psychological trauma, no? This is precisely why we were adopting this “give him the information he needs and be ready to step in and support his efforts when he’s ready” strategy. But now, we have a matter of weeks. What if he doesn’t show any more potty interest before school starts? So, we decided to intervene.
There were stickers and tiny Matchbox cars and a frog potty and Pull-Ups and many, many books. We spent a week sitting fruitlessly on the potty every few hours. There was a sticker for each sit and a brand new car!!! (I felt like Oprah) for the handful of times that there was actual peeing and plans for a potty party involving a family trip for ice cream and the selection of whatever truck or car his little heart desired when the big moment arrived. We never got to the party.Why? Well, Yogi declared war on the potty and by extension, the two of us.
He was cool with the whole thing for the first few days. I guess it was something different and the boy loves little more than a good book. So, he tolerated it. That’s the most accurate way to characterize it. He went through the motions right up until the moment when he decided he was D.O.N.E. Trips to the potty became increasingly conflict-addled and the very tone of the day plummeted. By day five, every interaction was a fight. Even our non-potty moments were tense. One morning Yogi ran around the house at top speed shouting, “NO potty! NO cars! NO ice cream! NO stickers! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!”. This shouting went on in a loop until I was finally able to soothe him after I’m pretty sure he just wore himself out.
So, what do you with that? After feeling overwhelmed by frustration and fear and frank anger, we decided to let it go. We told Yogi that we would try the potty again when he was ready and we let it go. This was a battle we were not going to win, at least not without aid of tools like shame and humiliation, so we had only to let it go. The plan for now is to carry on in the way of our pre-letter selves until it seems like the right time to try again. This may mean that he starts school without much potty proficiency. In that case, we’ll send him in a Pull-Up and pick him up at noon instead of 2 o clock. I’m confident that he could make four hours, but any longer would be a real risk. It’s not an attractive option, but it looks like the best one at the moment and thankfully (gross understatement) we can do it.
Perhaps something magical will happen on August 15th when he turns three. Maybe it will happen even before then. Like everything else with this parenting gig I have absolutely no idea. I’m just going to be ready and (patiently – yeah right!) waiting.