Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Prize-Winning Performance


I don’t want him to notice me typing.

I am in the fight of my life.

We’ve declared an extremely uneasy truce. I am treading very cautiously. Pretending to be light, unencumbered, and interested in other things. But my heart is practically racing.

This is after The Meltdown.  At Target.  During the ride home.  And for a good while after I put him down for a nap. Resumed after the nap.

(The issue is potty training.)

But I feel like something bigger is at stake. Like personal character. Or the development of a law-abiding personality. Or national security.

As most of you know, I raised three girls.

Potty training occurred at an early age with all of them. Everyone was pretty much an easy push-over for Big Girl Barbie panties.

One lure, and that was the end of it. (Almost) no accidents from that point forward.

But this is something completely different.

It’s not only a whole different ballgame, but an entirely different sport. Being played on a different planet.


Obviously, we missed our opportunity. There was a time when he was slightly interested, but there was too much inconsistency and commotion around him. Here, there, and everywhere. This grandmama, that grandmama; this or that auntie or cousin in charge. It was just easier to stick with the diapers. Anyway, all my friends who had boys assured me that they do it much later than girls. Don’t rush him, they advised.

Which was just fine… until he started preschool and we learned that potty training was kind of a prerequisite.

New Flash: Oh my gosh. We just had a false attempt. I was actually dancing around the table, doing a spontaneous rap. I’m not sure I can duplicate it, but it went something like this:

You can do it,
You can do it!
Just gotta put your mind to it!
You can peepee in the potty
‘Cause you are such a hotty.
Now put your body
On the potty
And peepee like a man!
Mimi knows that you can!!!

Sadly, it was all a ruse.

Standing up, the Naked James revealed a bone-dry bowl.

Yes, he’s naked now. Sitting at the “dining room” table, watching a movie on Mimi’s Ipad.  Baby potty on the floor beside him.

Waiting to go.

I feel like I’m in a hospital Waiting Room again. Nervously awaiting the outcome.

Because, you see, I’ve put myself on the line. If I cave in, he’ll know that my authority is a sham.

Violating many of my theoretical parenting policies, I am resorting to a bribe. I have purchased a precious prize at Target. He got to hold it in the cart. Then he had to relinquish it back to me… until such time as he wins it.

It is a talking Spencer train.

Even though I thoroughly explained the rules of the contest beforehand, the actual touch of the prize was too much for him. He started to rip it out of the carton the minute he laid hands on it. This delayed gratification thing is hard for all of us.  He wants it NOOOOOWWWW. (That is pronounced with two syllables.)

But I think this lesson is critical. He’s got to learn to stick to a bargain. He needs to understand the concept of earning something so he won’t grow to adulthood hindered by an Entitlement Mentality.

What if it doesn’t work? What if it backfires? What if I’ve made a terrible decision that will scar him for life? What if he’s on Dr. Phil one day talking about how his grandmother screwed his head up?

Dear Lord, please let this end well. Please help James go potty*.

How am I going to get him to sleep tonight if he doesn’t win the prize? Will he just scream all night? What if he

I did it, Mimi.”

Gosh. I was so wrapped up in the worst-case scenarios that I didn’t notice he’s gotten out of his booster seat and sat himself down on the potty.

“I did it, Mimi.”

Okay, I’m going to check. I’m not holding my breath. He claimed to have accomplished the task last time. It’s probably another trick.

Let’s have a look, James. Show me what’s in the potty.”  (I start to yawn. This has been a long day. It’s getting late. It’s…)


Oh, happy, happy day!
Now James can run and play!

You did it,
You did it,
You won the potty prize!
I ain’t telling you no lies
Cause you’re the Potty King
You make Mimi sing!!

High fives!!! High fives!!!

Whoop! Whoop!

Doing our special crazy dance around the house, James’ face was pure joy.

“I did it, Mimi!”

I felt as proud as if he’d just played The Hallelujah Chorus on a Steinway.

Spencer slept in the bed between us.


Postscript: I’m sure you will be delighted to know that James was able to repeat the performance this morning. When I picked him up from school, he was wearing the same clothes he started out in!  This is nothing short of a miracle.  His mommy was so proud when we went to the hospital to pick her and Daddy up. Home after six days!

*(Yes, I pray for parking spaces, too. I believe that God cares about all the details of our lives.)


Allison said... Potty training a boy is so much harder than girls. My boy (now 7 1/2) had poop fear. It was awful. Wheeeewwww.

Anywho. So proud of Captain Awesome(love his shirt by the way;)) Praying for Katherine and her recovery!

Love in Christ,

Anonymous said...

If he doesn't like the baby potty, turn him sitting backwards on the toilet - that way a boy won't miss. I think it also adds stability. Worked for my two boys who were notoriously difficult about everything. Good luck!

Susan said...

Oh, Kim, I know this is not a funny situation, but I laughed out loud. What memories!! My son was so hard to potty train that one day I looked at my husband after yet another battle and said, "I've had it!! He can go to kindergarten in pullups. I am done." And yes, I prayed and bribed, too.

Missy said...

This is hysterical! Love the "spontaneous raps." We make up silly songs at our house, too.

Keep doing what you're doing. It'll all come out fine in the end!


Laurel said...

That is some kickin' Mimi power! Glad you stuck to your guns AND that he stepped up to the plate.

Boys. Potties. NO idea what the hang-up is. Ours would drop his shorts and go in the yard (we lived in the woods during the potty training era) with no prompt or encouragement. With actual plumbing involved he just wasn't interested.

Rebecca said...

Oh, Kim. I laughed at this one. I mean absolutely NO DISRESPECT, but is so like training dogs. Using lures, positive reinforcement, negative punishment (defined as taking away something he values). A friend of mine here says her husband wants to write a book about how training dogs and raising children use parallel skill sets. Since I've worked with dogs, but not children, I can't comment with authority on the children part, but that description you wrote sounds very familiar...

Laurel said...

@ Rebecca: your husband is spot on. In fact, I would say that a lifetime of being around dogs saved my hide when I finally had children.

1. Positive reinforcement/praise works best for developing desirable behavior.
2. Something you love will get chewed up or peed on. More than once.
3. You must be consistent.
4. If you refuse to discipline, your child/pet will not be welcome around others.
5. Most people will not think your child/dog is as wonderful as you do.

I draw the line at using a shock collar for training children. But I might have thought about it once or twice.

Kim said...


I think this sounds like a book proposal!

(I'd buy it.)

I'm looking into shock collars now. (Surely I don't need to state that I'm kidding, do I?)

Thanks for all the advice, commiseration, and laughs!

We need all the help we can get here.

Keep sending good ideas my way. I even bought Dr. Phil's potty doll.

That was a flop.

Joy said...

Laughed so hard, I had to pee!

It IS a whole different ballgame. How I remember those days. A humbling experience.

Don't be discouraged. Peer pressure will win in the end.

Anonymous said...

As the mom of 2 boys ... potty training a boy goes on for several years...Heck, I'm still trying to get my husband to stop weeing in the yard (we also live in the country).
Good luck! If you're ok with it, I always just let them run around in the buff as much as possible at home. That way they actually *realize* that they need to go :)
Kate (Matwiczyk) Hemmerich