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The Girl Who Cried Poop

What did you do this weekend? I spent much of my Sunday in the bathroom.

Little Girl, who is 16-months-old, kept telling me, “Poop, Mommy, poop!” My older daughter, who asked me to “sit toilet” at 15 months, was fully day trained by 22 months, so I figured I’d better listen to her. Little Girl has asked me to try the potty before. She’s even succeeded a few times, but I didn’t take her seriously until now because she’s been inconsistent. Wanting the potty sometimes, being afraid of it at others. However, this time (crossing fingers) I think it might be the real thing.

For about a week she’s been telling me when she is going in her diaper. She tells me she wants to be changed, too. “Mommy, di-pa dirt. Poop.” She wants to wear underwear like her sister. And so we went in and out of the bathroom about 15 times on Sunday. She didn’t go, but she was awfully proud of herself, and I’m going to keep trying as long as she keeps asking.

You might think I am insane. If you go by what’s typical, you might be right. American kids, say researchers, toilet train on average at the age of three. Babies in other countries, however, toilet train much, much earlier. More than half of babies in other countries are trained by age one, according to a 2004 Modern Pediatrics story. American kids weren’t always so behind, says the magazine, which is a peer-reviewed journal for pediatricians. Between 1920 and 1940 American kids were right there with the rest of the world. The average age for training was 12 months. That changed between 1940 and 1960 when the average age was 18 months. Babies born between 1960 and 1980 were, on average, trained by 2. Once disposables, which keep babies clean and dry, became commonplace, the age shot up to two-and-a-half and then three.

My mom swears I was trained by 18 months. (A baby of the 1970s, I was ahead of my time.) The tide here in the U.S. might be changing, though, and you can thank the economy, according to an August Associate Press story, which was blogged about by Lisa Belkin of The New York Times. Diapers — training pants, especially — aren’t cheap, so some parents are forgoing using them. Makes sense. One of the main reasons that I was thrilled when Big Girl and now Little Girl (aside from the fact that I really, really hate throwing more garbage in a landfill even if that garbage is environmentally friendlier than other options) is that I am cheap. I also know, based on research, that kids who start training after 30 months may see potty training as a control thing, and may have issues with stool holding.

Even so, I am not doing this to save money. I’m doing it because that’s what the experts suggest. According to the Contemporary Pediatrics story, which was written by an M.D. to advise other doctors looking to advise their patients: “If someone advises a parent not to begin toilet training before 3 years (or some other arbitrary age) or to wait for the child to train herself, help the parent understand readiness training. If a child shows interest in this process, the window of opportunity should not be ignored.” That’s why, looking ahead, I anticipate spending lots of time in the bathroom. Little Girl is asking, and I’m paying attention. We’ve got our Elmo seat out — the one that fits onto the downstairs toilet seat. We’ve also got our super deluxe potty seat out. (The one that fits on the toilet upstairs.) We’ve been talking about the potty. We’ve been encouraging her interest by building up the experience. Big girls get to wear underwear. They get Elmo stickers. They get hip-hip-hurrays. Will Little Girl be another Big Girl? I don’t know. I hope so. In the meantime, unlike the villagers in Aesop’s fable, I’m going to keep running when my little one cries “poop.” I’ll keep you posted…

There are people who swear that their kids are potty trained as infants. Others who refuse to potty train until the kid asks even if that means sending their child to nursery school in diapers. Which camp do you fall into? What’s your favorite potty training trick? I’d love to hear about it.

5 Responses to “The Girl Who Cried Poop”

  1. tracey says:

    I fall into several camps. With my first son, I waited for the “signs.” He had several, was a little over 2, very mature and interested in it, so we began training. About 2 years later, he was FINALLY traned. No exaggeration.

    With my second son I said “No WAY am I doing that again!” I didn’t want to train for 2 straight years so I waited till he was older (closer to 3) and had great determination that this was going to go much easier. About 1 1/2 years later (at age 4, like his brother) he was FINALLY trained.

    Potty training had become a taboo topic for me. Don’t ask, Don’t Tell.

    Along came my daughter. I had no plans on what to do. I was determined to be open-minded and remember that it wasn’t ME who was training, it was them. Her failures would NOT be mine.

    So what did she do? She began refusing to poop in her diaper at 18 months and would get constipated. I would put her on the toilet and “help” her poop (nothing gross. We’d just make the pushing face and noises. It’s kind of embarrassing…). And. She pooped. All the time. A few months later my mom bought her princess underwear. She put them on and never took them off.

    In my experience? There is no magic answer. But I DO believe that the younger they are, the less power they feel they have over their own bodies. Hence the willingness to sit upon that toilet and do what Mom tells them to do. At 2-3 they have WAY too much interest in controlling whatever they can in their lives (which isn’t much). Once they realize that they don’t “have” to use the toilet, it becomes a power play game.

    Good luck. My best advice for potty training is to buy lots of towels and wine.

  2. health freak says:

    OMG, Keira is so smart. I can’t believe she’s speaking in sentences and already half potty-trained at 16 months old! She’s one very smarty girl!

  3. Shari says:

    My 2 children both trained before they turned 2. They trained differently though. My boy (still til this day at age 6) likes to hold it until the last possible minute even though he is doing the”sissy dance”, which when he was 3 sometimes resulted in what we would call a mini accident. My daughter enjoys visiting every bathroom, every where we go, even if she knows she does not have to go. While this is hard work, I have learned her bathroom schedule and as a result there are almost zero accidents. My advice to parents would be to not be afraid of training their children at the first signs of readiness. Even though while you are training it IS harder than diapers, the payoff is great because you will never have to clean a disgusting explosive diaper again!

  4. kb says:

    Health Freak: Two words next to each other doesn’t mean she should be in college. LOL. She’s got an older sister, and I think that helps with the language stuff.

    As for being half-trained–not even close! We’re sitting on the potty all day. I wouldn’t consider her trained until she is in underwear without any accidents. So we have a ways to go…

    Shari: I am right there with you! That’s why I am encouraging it! (While it drives me a little insane!)

  5. MarthaandMe says:

    I agree that it should all be about readiness. Both of my kids showed readiness, but then the readiness went away!

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