Ida. Now Available Diaper-Free! Part 1

10 Apr

Disclaimer – this post is long and probably boring to anyone who hasn’t spent a week eating lunch on the bathroom floor and reading the same godforsaken books aloud over and over again (for really any reason I imagine, but I was thinking especially of the particular case of potty-learning with a small child).

Ladies and Gentleman, it is with great pleasure and no small amount of surprise that I announce some strange and excellent news:  Ida is now a diaper-free toilet enthusiast!  Well, she’s really more of a handwashing-sticker-fancy underpants-cookie enthusiast….. but whatever.  The point is, my kid no longer craps her pants.  At least not on purpose.

Since some of you have asked how this all transpired, I have provided a description of this exciting journey in two parts.  Here’s how it all went down:

When Ida was around 4 months old, I got a little potty from the store, thinking that she might like to sit on it sometimes.  I thought it would be kind-of a fun activity (childfree readers might be having some revelatory thoughts after reading that – the “fun activity” part) and I also had in mind that an early introduction might make Ida aware of what the toilet was for, so as to aid her transition from diapers to underpants in some small way.  I read some fascinating stuff about elimination communication, but I quickly opted for a more, how to say….. half-assed approach.  Basically, phase one was just me setting Ida on her little potty whenever I felt like it and reading her a few books.  We had potty time after her naps for a little while, but then I got lazy about that and we took an extended potty hiatus.  I also used to tell her all about the toilet when I was changing her diaper, or when I noticed the telltale half-smile-with-raised-eyebrow that indicated she was in process with a shitastrophie.  I’d say something like “hey you’re pooping!  That’s what it feels like to poop, Ida!  When you’re ready, you can poop on the potty!”  All I can really say in my defense is that when you’re trying to generate a one-sided conversation for days on end with a being whose primary function is, well, primary functions, the topics tend to get a little basic and weird.  Phase one lasted from about 4-14 months.

Phase two!  When Ida was around 15 months, I started to really hype the potty.  Toileting was getting some serious PR at the Joynt Sandberg residence.  Ida had become very curious about the bathroom my own toilet use, so we’d chat about what I was up to and how I was able to wear underpants rather than diapers with the help of the (glorious, fabulous, fun and exciting!) toilet.  Ida would often express an interest in her own little potty, taking it apart, stacking up all of the parts, stuffing it with toilet paper, and dragging it around the apartment to use as a step-stool to reach breakable objects.  She’d also sometimes point to her potty and then make the sign for “diaper” (a sort-of unfortunate tap on the front of the hips, not unlike some of the dance stylings of the late Michael Jackson).  I’d whip her pants and diaper off and help her sit down on her potty and she’d occasionally (and I think often accidentally) make a deposit.  I’d freak out with the joy of a million unicorns.  Rinse (literally) and repeat.

Eventually, Ida started going over and sitting on the potty while she crapped her diaper.  Then she’d take off her pants and diaper on occasion to do her thing in the potty.  I knew she was getting ready for full-on diaper-free living when she’d request to use the toilet when we were out and about.  She’d make the sign for diaper and I’d ask her “would you like a new diaper?”  She’d shake her head “no” and emphatically make the diaper sign.  I’d ask “would you like to use the potty?”  and with a very smug smile (and a glance around to make sure everyone was watching) she’d nod her head yes.  At a restaurant, a friend’s house – wherever.  I suspect that it had become a bit of a parlor trick for her.  She noticed that the joy of a million unicorns was multiplied by a factor of however many people were in her proximity at the time of her toileting.  She’s no dummy, and may (I’m afraid) have a future in the performing arts.  Heaven help us – another hustling artist is just what this family needs.

Toward the end of Phase 2, I hung a piece of paper up on the bathroom wall and stashed a little box of stickers on the shelf above the toilet.  Ida and I had many talks about how pretty soon, she’d get to start wearing underpants, and how with this new great power, came great responsibility.  “You can’t just freestyle in your underpants – you need to use the toilet for pees and poops” I told her.  She solemnly nodded.

Readers who know Ida can attest to her peculiar and adult-like understanding of the things transpiring around her.   It’s not just me – as in, I’m not just saying that because I’m her mom and I think her boogers are tiny amber gemstones.  It’s real – the kid KNOWS what we’re saying and doing.  All the time.  I’ve taken to enlisting her help to find stuff I’ve lost.  I’ll say “Ida.  Can you please find Mama’s black notebook with the rubber band around it?  Can you find mama’s other grey shoe?”  And sure enough, the kid comes toddling over with the object a few minutes later.  She found an earring once when I asked her to.  I still don’t know where she finds half the stuff I ask her to fetch.

Anyway, I had a plan and it was this:  I decided that every time Ida peed or pooped in the potty I’d offer her the box of stickers.  She’d choose one (this was often a lengthy, non-linear process) and stick it on her sheet.  Then I’d give her a little bit of toilet paper because she insisted that she wipe.  God have mercy if you tried to help her with any part of this process.  Then I’d pull out a stool and she’d climb up to the sink and wash her hands with near surgical precision.  She took the handwashing component very seriously.  Then, I’d offer her a frosted animal cracker.  I still think it’s funny that she believes these to be rare and fabulous delicacies.  I’ve given them the unfortunate moniker “potty cookies”, which always makes me think of my father saying “road apples” when we would visit Mackinac Island in our youth (Greer, if you happen to be reading, you’re welcome).

Once we were on a bit of a roll with the practice paper, stickers and other toilet pageantry, I was kind-of just waiting for a sign that it was time to go sans diapers.  Up until this point, Ida was always in a diaper, but would often keep it dry and clean for a considerable stretch, and would semi-frequently request to use the potty.  But like many of you (all of you?  hopefully?), I had no idea how often she was peeing.  Was it a tiny little bit every 10 minutes?  Did she know when she was doing it?  I wasn’t totally sure what I was waiting for, but decided to take Ida on an undies-choosing shopping trip so we’d have underpants on hand when the mystical moment arrived.

After removing all franchised princess’ pneumonic horses, and spunky latina explorers from the mix, I let Ida pick out several packs of undies.  I had a moment of surprise when she chose boys underpants (while exclaiming “pup! pup!” upon seeing a cartoon monster emblazoned on the butt), but almost immediately thought “why in the world would I care about this?”  As someone who used to tell people when they asked if I was having a girl “well, the sex is female, but we’ll probably have to wait until she’s older to find out about her gender” this moment of tiny panic was pretty funny.  Far be it from me to decide that Ida does not require a tiny flap in the front and sturdier waistband.  Maybe she knows something I don’t.  Anyway, we paid for the undies and spent the trip back home discussing underpants and conducting a thorough examination of their properties.  She was very excited about the underpants and suggested (demanded) that they be placed in an accessible spot so that she could inspect them at her leisure.  I put them in a basket by her little potty and she took to sitting on the potty and slinging dozens of pairs of underpants on each leg, examining each one and admiring their beauty.

Two weeks passed.  Ida woke up one monday morning and uncharacteristically lost her mind when I tried to change her diaper.  She was screaming and thrashing around until I took the new diaper away and asked her what was wrong.  “UNDIES!”  She screamed.  I lifted her off the changing table and she took off at a run for her potty.  She peed, pageanted and then chose a pair of underpants out of the basket.  She was so very pleased.  I was kind-of shocked.  I was not planning on a potty-intensive week and had a pretty full work schedule ahead.  I decided we would just work it out together.  We’d just do our best.  I knew the folks who take care of Ida while I’m at work would be supportive and helpful.

There was a little scuffle when I tried to put pants on her that morning.  “UNDIES!”  It became clear that the underpants needed to be visible and that donning pants would seriously impair her ability to admire their beauty.  Socks and a shirt were sometimes permitted.  Welcome to Phase 3, I guess.


One Response to “Ida. Now Available Diaper-Free! Part 1”

  1. Beth Lucas April 10, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    I am terrified of potty training. There is nothing that has daunted me quite like this. Taking care of two newborns for 10 hours at a time with absolutely no help? No problem. Taking both kids to the store/park/music class all by myself? Cake. Potty? I’d rather hide under the bed than even think about it.

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