Dear Munchkin and Peanut,
We took off Peanut’s last diaper the morning of July 4th: Independence Day. How delightfully apropos. Daddy and I had been changing diapers for 3 years, 11 months and 5 days. Not as long as some families, but it still felt liberating. Peanut made us very proud, tackling potty independence like a champ that day. Not a single miss! Each time he needed to go, he said “potty,” sat and went! Sometimes he sat without going, but he was cheerful and excited all day. And since day one, Peanut has been completely dry during naps and overnight.
Day two brought challenges, which continued through day four. Day one was a novelty, but he was over it the next day and wanted the diapers back. Peanut expressed his displeasure with resistance, refusal, withholding, even screaming fits and tantrums. But we worked through it, and by Monday he had settled down. There was only one miss that day, then none the following two days, including his first day back at school. We still need to continue reinforcing this new habit, but we feel very confident and optimistic about Peanut’s progress and our ability to maintain the new status quo.
To Daddy and me, it felt so easy, effortless and FAST compared to when Munchkin learned to use the potty. But that wasn’t her fault. We failed her by waiting too long and using an ineffective method.
When Munchkin was around 1.5 years old, she began to show interest in the potty. Daddy and I started working with her, but we were afraid to “push” because we thought the normal age for potty training was around 2.5-3 years old. We also knew Peanut was on the way, and I’d read that attempting potty training within 6 months before or after a major change, like a new baby, was a mistake because the change would likely send us back to square one.
So we waited. Munchkin outgrew our cloth diapers, so we turned to disposable pull-ups. Once Peanut was a few months old, we started encouraging Munchkin to use the potty, but she had mostly lost interest. Instead, she used the pull-ups as diapers and told us “I need a change.” We started to worry she wouldn’t be able to go to preschool if we couldn’t get it done.
Months later, we were growing desperate. I borrowed a “boot camp”-style potty training book from a friend. About two months before Munchkin’s third birthday, we realized in the middle of the night that we were out of pull-ups. I decided the next day was IT. The next morning, I told Munchkin we didn’t have any more pull-ups. “Wellll, I’ll have to have a diaper” was her reply. I told her they were too small for her, so she’d have to use the potty.
Things went well at first. Munchkin had had a rough time adjusting to having a brother after being an only child for almost two years. She loved all the one-on-one attention.
In the following weeks, we realized we were being played. Munchkin resisted our prompts and insisted she needed “company” every time she went to the bathroom. Then she’d sit there for ages, producing nothing. We started to back off of accompanying her, or at least getting her settled then leaving the room while she sat. But of course, that led to more problems; in her mind, sitting by herself wasn’t what she’d signed up for.
We had major — sometimes explosive — power struggles when we asked Munchkin to go, probably because we were prompting too frequently and she didn’t want to be alone. In defiance, she’d wait and wait and wait until she couldn’t wait any longer. There were still plenty of accidents months later.
Daddy and I were drained from the fighting and repetitive clean-ups. There was a lot of yelling on our part and crying on her part. But it was our fault. I want you to know that. We handled the whole thing poorly.
Munchkin ultimately achieved potty independence and hasn’t had an accident in quite some time. But the way we went about it was an ordeal for all of us, and I heartily pray it didn’t cause her any long-term emotional damage.
In January of this year, Peanut was experiencing recurring diaper rashes, causing so much pain he screamed during diaper changes and didn’t want to sit down at all. We decided to try elimination communication since it could be done part-time. Peanut showed keen awareness … by withholding until we put diapers on. But while researching EC, I discovered a different approach to potty training by Jamie Glowacki, geared for kids approximately 1.5-2.5 years old. Though Daddy and I didn’t feel ready to tackle complete potty training just then, we determined to use this approach.
Oh Crap. Potty Training made sense, especially after our experience with Munchkin. Typical of kids two-and-a-half and older, she already had a pretty strong sense of individuality and determination to do things her own way. Starting earlier with Peanut made it easier because he’s still pretty compliant. And we paid attention to signs that he was capable rather than worrying about whether or not he was ready. The approach fits well with attachment parenting, too. It’s very gentle and honors the child at every step.
There are many things we learned to do better the second time around; potty training is clearly one of them. We try to do the best we can for both of you; thank you for helping us learn and grow. You are both very dear to Daddy and me, and we are very proud of both of you.
We were content to change your diapers when you needed it, but we’re thrilled that part of our lives is over now. This is also a major step in your independence from us, which, in the end, is the ultimate goal. You both make us very proud, every day.
P.S. — WOOOOOHOOOOOO!!!!!!! We are DONE with diapers!