Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Friday, July 31, 2009

Training Day

Fronesis has explained his lack of posts of late, so I might as well give my excuse. Potty training has absorbed all my available energy--at least whatever is left over from summer teaching.

We've been doing this for a few weeks now, and it is, I'll confess, something of (forgive the pun--not my last) a strain. Lang has been ready for a couple of months, during which she would often pee on the potty when reminded, but we wanted to get back from our summer travel before going sans diaper, since a home routine helps keep everyone regular, as it were. Not that it isn't obvious, but potty training is a convenient reminder of one's own corporeality. Things you don't normally have to think about too much--like how to make your pee go down as opposed to sideways or up--suddenly become matters of close observation and critical reflection, although the fact that these things are happening to someone else gives one a certain distance on the problem. That's both good and bad. Good in the sense that the difficulties are mostly felt by someone else, someone else who is surely too young to remember these days later in life. Bad in the sense that you're always a bit helpless in the pivotal moments. It is always more stressful to watch a loved one play a sporting match than to play it oneself.

Luckily, Lang has been pretty good about the whole thing. I feel silly complaining when this is something every parent has had to do, often for more than one child, and often with difficult or unwilling pupils. We haven't had too many mishaps. In the first few days I got peed on a few times, drenched only once. Now that phase is over, and Lang is a pretty reliable pee-er. Pooping is somewhat tougher, however. In part, the problem is practice. The body needs to pee and pee often, so kids get lots of workouts in short order for #1. Poops come when they come. Or they don't. It was at least a week after we started before Lang would poop on the potty instead of just waiting until we put on her diaper for overnight. For the last couple of weeks she's been going on the potty, a toddler ring we put over our own toilet. Usually every other day, just before going to bed. The problem is that her body would be happier going every day. How, pray tell, do I know? After day one, every mealtime is a battle to keep her in her plushly padded seat rather than writhing around complaining about her belly. And then there are nights like tonight--night three since she last went. I must have taken her to the bathroom eight times b/w 5:00 and 10:00. The last three after I had first taken her up and put her to bed. No luck. She's psyched herself out, and we're sitting on the sidelines without the faintest clue how to help. Sweet songs. Silly songs. Outsized enthusiasm. Casual nonchalance. Stories about family poopers. Stories about sending the poops home to a poop party. My poop imagination is running out.

One of things I've learned from parenthood is that much of what seems most natural in life--eating, sleeping, pooping--is actually learned behavior. The whats may be biological, but the hows are all socialization. Whenever I think I've turned a corner, gotten to that point where I know what I'm doing in raising my daughters, established a routine that works, I'm confronted by something new that seems like it should be simple and spontaneous and yet requires hours and hours of patient and plodding discipline, a kind of calm and methodical application of parental restraint that I often find myself lacking. Then I remember that I don't remember going through this myself, or how my own parents managed it, as surely they did. And I feel blessed to be muddling through in the oblivion of my own children's pre-memorial youth. Otherwise, I'm staring down a dark and empty drain.


At 11:03 PM, Blogger Frances said...

I can see that we all have a lot to look forward to around the Number Three household.

I suppose one additional reassurance, beyond recognizing that our parents had to deal with such things, is that even terrible parents manage to get through all this, too.

I remember back when I was in kindergarten: all the kids were potty trained. Even those who didn't know what the alphabet was. Even those who were otherwise very poorly behaved. Even those from big crazy families whose parents didn't have any time to give them individual attention.

So I suppose even if one were to do everything wrong in such matters, it will still almost always work out over the medium to long term.

At 1:36 AM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

True--we all know this will turn out well eventually. How long is that?

After several days of squirming, moaning, and bottom-pinching (trying to hold it in), we fed Lang lots of prunes today. The we got in the car for the two hour drive back from Chattanooga. Genius!! She finally fell asleep after 80 minutes or so, and then twenty minutes later she was turning red, sweating profusely, and half-asleep convulsing as the prunes did their work. Mrs. TMcD was so horrified that I think she left the scariest/funniest message of all time on my cousin Scott's answering machine as she yelled for me to pull off the highway with no clear stopping place in sight. That would be the first of four poops this afternoon and tonight, none of which made it to their intended destination. On the plus side, Lang should finally sleep a little easier tonight.

One of the tricky things is to manage the toddler trauma while keeping a three month old infant in reasonably good spirits, i.e., sleeping not shreaking. Thanks to Bay, who has kept her cool more than her folks have.

At 8:30 PM, Blogger Frances said...

You have my condolences . . . and my admiration. I hope you'll be willing to share some advice when the time comes, also . . .

At 9:31 PM, Blogger fronesis said...

Just for the record, this is very interesting stuff, even for the non-parents out here in the blogosphere. Indeed, next time I teach feminst or queer theory I will be very tempted to quote tmcd, 'the hows are all socialization'.

At 12:49 PM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

Fro, on that socialization point I'd say sleeping is even more critical than pooping. Can't say how many long hours I've logged training Lang to sleep (a) at night, and (b) through the night. I consider this one of my little triumphs. Lots of times I'll hear parents talk about how their kids STILL don't sleep well at 8 or 10. May get worse, of course. Yet we have licked the worst of the night time issues. What could seem more instinctual than sleeping? Not so simple.


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