Boys will be boys. But boys can be so different. It wasn’t until recently that I really realized this.
Unknown to me, my youngest son, Carson potty trained himself while I was busy with the others: field trips, daily lunches, gymnastics, play dates and end-of the-school-year festivities.
I cannot believe the difference a few years, a little humor and a few scores of parental wisdom can do.
It was the day after Christmas 2007, one month shy of Connor’s 3rd birthday in January. Connor was getting too comfortable in diapers. Before that day, he had shown no interest in potty training. All of his friends were beginning to “take care of their bodies” and I was seeing the self-esteem boost that followed the freedom of going potty like a “big” girl or boy.
It was time. He was to begin a summer preschool program in June and had to be potty trained. To me, the task seemed more daunting than anything I had done as a first-time mom.
With zero research and time escaping, I set out to tackle potty training with about as much sophistication as I did everything as a first timer, saddled with unlimited stress, fear and insecurity.
So I filled up an enormous clear plastic jar of Hot Wheels, Silly Putty, Smarties, fruit roll-ups, Tootsie Rolls and any other random toy I could get my mitts on in the Target dollar bin.
It was enticing, even to me. The large jar sat atop the bathroom counter in eye shot of my little man. I let him see the jar of tricks intermittently and verbalized in my child-like verbiage that he could choose any treat from the jar when he went pee-pee in the potty and not in his diaper.
I then took Connor, at that time a very temperamental and willful toddler, to the store to choose his favorite juice box beverages, and of course, the top-of-the-line training toilet.
We decided on a $43 musical potty. I could have settled for a simple Blues Clues seat cover for $12, but with all my first-time mom wisdom, I knew he needed one that exacted the needs of his ripe generation – constant praise and bubbly affirmation. Fun sounds and music with every flush. It had a song (to which I can still sing with perfect pitch and harmony) that was a bit addicting but fun for Connor to press the buttons and roll the pretend paper roll.
Bright and early one day post-Christmas, we began our assignment. I enlisted the help of my very supportive mom, who came to entertain Ashley, then 1 1/2.
Connor and I spent the day hanging out in the bathroom. It was mocktail hour. We sipped Capri Sun, Juicy Juice, Horizon chocolate milk—an array of small-box drinks with adjustable straws. I believe we sipped through 11 in total during a six-hour stretch and, with the help of a View Finder full of spiders and dinosaurs, we spent the majority of that Wednesday in our bathroom clapping, smiling and high-fiving. Inside, I was both proud and extremely nervous.
Diapers are annoying, but easy. Try taking your squeaky-clean first child to go potty at the zoo, or worse yet, in a porta potty! I was nervous of the new. Scared of mapping out the potty at a new location, anxious about mastering the dreaded process of going No. 2. That night, I believe we were both in bed by 7 p.m., following a very stressful day. It was a true learning and bonding experience for both of us.
It was a lot of time, energy and expense. However, Connor felt the sensation and recognized the duty. My hard work paid off and he was set to embark on a lifetime of freedom from needing mommy near the potty.
Flash forward to my third child. It has been six long years of diapers for me. Diaper changing had become instinctual. It was actually easier for me to have one in diapers at this point.
But Carson was ready, and nothing was going to stop him. Not even the confusion brought about by me, who felt the need to throw him in a Pull-Up, even though he was pacing around our home diaper-less since his 2nd birthday. After numerous times watching his siblings go potty, Carson decided he was ready one month after he turned two, in September.
With just two years under his belt, Carson vowed to be a big boy. We got gypped of a baby. I should have known it by watching him stand up on his two stocky legs at 7 months old and surf the carpet that he would then be walking at 10 months, drinking out of a regular cup by 2 and negotiating dessert before dinner by 2 1/2. I should have known that we had a boy much different than our first.
It’s been 12 days since I finally released Carson of the stronghold of the diaper. He has risen to the occasion and even knows when he is ready to take it a bit further with the all-feared No. 2.
It became apparent to me in these last few days how different two individuals can be who grow up with the same parents, same moral foundation, but with a splash of parental wisdom.
I often reflect on the methodical introductions I employed with my first-born and how those lessons changed with each child. Each year you grow a bit more, as a parent and as an individual.
And it was in my most hygienic and humiliating moment last weekend at my mom’s birthday brunch that I realized the transformation that had occurred. Carson’s little hand grabbed mine and together we walked into the guest bathroom. He happened to have an oversized chocolate twist donut in his other hand. Somehow he wrestled his Spiderman underwear down with his right hand, still clutching his donut with his left. I watched as he aimed and successfully made it into the potty. He looked at me with a huge smile, two dimples protruding vastly across the crest of his cheeks. His eyes lit up, met mine and he excitedly whispered, “Mommy, I did it!”
He then took a gargantuan man bite of his twist, pulled up his underwear and skipped back into the party. At that moment, visions of the musical potty, jar of treats and 12 hours of focus might not have been necessary with Connor. Then again, my first-born wouldn't have been clutching a twist donut either. I guess we live and learn.