I've potty trained three girls, and none of those were pretty experiences. So when Toby began wanting to use the potty I tried to deter him. In my experience, starting early only means more months of cleaning up messes. But Toby has been so persistent in de-robing himself and putting himself on the toilet that, when a three-week break in appointments appeared in my schedule starting yesterday, I decided to give it a go.
I lined up paper towels and various disinfectants; I gave a pep-talk to the girls about being good helpers and a pep-talk to Toby about being a big boy now; and then I let him run in the buff on our tiled floor. Not long into the adventure he started to pee and, to my amazement, stopped himself mid-stream and looked at me with wide eyes. "You're peeing," I instructed Toby, "You need to do that in the potty. Here, come sit down. Put it in the potty now." And I nearly fainted when he actually followed instructions. That has been nearly the end of teaching Toby how to pee in the potty. He's a peeing pro already, with 95% average accuracy by his second day of training. Oh, if only it were so easy with that second bodily function.
The main problem with Toby's grand success yesterday was that I hadn't been prepared for it. With him performing so well I couldn't put him back in diapers, but I hadn't yet bought any little boys underwear for him. The poor child ended up in pink panties, and with his love of girls shoes, he looked like a full-blown cross-dresser by the time Matt arrived home from work. Fortunately, a quick run to Wal-Mart remedied that with some very manly Thomas the Train underwear. Toby was pleased to wear the same kind of underwear as his four-year-old cousin, and I went to sleep wondering why I hadn't trained this boy sooner. Today I was reminded.
It had been going too well. Toby had even made some decent attempts at putting his poop in the potty yesterday. Some mess is par for the course, so I was encouraged with his efforts. But today an unforeseen evil, far beyond anyone's control, an insidious evil, determined to undo my efforts, has crept into the intestines and underpants of nearly every child in my house: diarrhea.
There had been signs of this menace before I started potty training: some tummy aches, some loose stools; but today this growling bull-dog has suddenly sprouted seven heads, latched them all onto my jugular vein, and begun sucking every ounce of potty training ambition out of my blood. I fear it may not let up until all four of my children are again wearing diapers.
Toby started today with two self-led potty stops and sparkling clean Thomas underpants to prove it. So when he walked wide-eyed and stiff-legged into my office with a brown trail behind him I tried to take it in stride. "Did you have an accident?" I asked, in my most understanding voice. I coached him on the warning signs and the appropriate placement of such materials while I scrubbed him down and wiped up his trail. An hour later, in an attempt to obey my instructions he fled to his potty, brown trail following; swiped down his underpants, smearing all the way; and smashed his already coated behind all over the potty seat. I stood, breathing deeply, trying to remind myself that this was a good sign.
"Oh, did you go poopy again?" I asked sweetly, "Well, thank you for trying to get to the potty..."
"I oop in the potty!" Toby announced proudly, standing up quickly and pointing the the milliliter of brown liquid that had dripped in the proper place.
"Toby, sit down!" I barked, then, regaining composure, "you sure tried, didn't you? But you did get your underwear all messy (and your entire lower half, and the floor, and the potty...)"
"Can I have one Skittle?" Toby bargained, knowing he didn't deserve the usual three. And this was only the beginning. Shortly after I had bathed Toby for the second time and re-scrubbed underwear, potty, and floor, Toby began to pester his sisters. They responded by closing the door to their room in an attempt to keep him out. This, because of a history of finger-pinching along with its generally rude nature, is against house rules, as they well know. Toby, attempting to break into the room, accidentally pushed the sliding lock on the antique door-knob to the side, locking the girls in their room. Once they realized their plight they began frantically screaming, and once I realized that they had received just punishment (or what we often term "a life spanking") for their actions, I dawdled before freeing them from prison.
After listening to their screams for a minute I slowly made my way up the stairs, and finally unlocked their door. I raised my eyebrows to them with a confident "I told you so" look and began my speech, "Did Toby lock you in your room? Maybe that's what you deserve for closing the door on him..."
Hannah interrupted me with a pained look on her tear-stained face, "But Mommy," she cried, "I had to go potty...and I pooped in my underwear." Suddenly, I no longer felt victorious. Round three of diarrhea clean-up ensued.
I was more than anxious to put Toby down for his nap this afternoon, securely wearing a disposable pull-up. (Never mind that it was covered in Disney Princesses.) I calmed my nerves with half a cup of coffee and went downstairs to load my washing machine with infectious material. Before the washing machine was started Hannah called down to me, "Mommy! Emma just pooped in her underwear!" And I began to see the lighter side: hey, at least I hadn't started the load of wash yet.
Soon after Emma was cleaned up, Naomi and Hannah were engaged in a battle over who needed the potty worse, and I actually heard myself yelling, "Naomi if you don't hurry and get off the potty, and if she poops in her underwear, you're washing it! I'm done!"
My washing machine is doing overtime this afternoon, I am nearly out of paper towels, and my nose has started bleeding from the smell of bleach in this house. (I'm sure this isn't the best for the baby, but then again, catching a diarrhea virus wouldn't be all that beneficial for it either.) I am determined not to lose the ground I've gained in this potty-training war. I can handle this. All it takes is a plan.
"OK, anyone who is about to pee or poop in their pants line up here, in line A! Good, now anyone who has recently peed their pants here, in line B! And anyone trailing brown behind them, you're in line C! OK, line A, on the potty now! Line B into the tub, leave your pants at the hamper! Line C, don't move, don't touch anything! I'll be right with you. And line A, watch where you step!"
Nothing too it. I can handle this. How long can this virus last anyway? I just hope I don't pass out before it does.