Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Unstoppable Force and the Immovable Object

Although, to be honest, we both look like immovable objects, don't we?
Over the past five days, I have discovered that the quickest way to feel completely and utterly incompetent is to attempt to once-and-for-all potty train a stubborn cuss toddler who happens to be my son.

Things started out with promise. LO was excited to start wearing his underpants all the time. He recognized that this was an exciting step in his journey to grown-uptitude. He liked that I bought him juice boxes that were all his own. We got started on Saturday with a great deal of hope and a grand plan.

Then, I discovered within myself an as yet quiescent propensity to nag. (I will admit that J might very well disagree with this assessment).

In any case, over the course of one day, LO went from being eager to try his skill to saying "Mo-om! Stop it. Stop IT!" the moment the word potty passed through my lips.

It's amazing how quickly you can go from being the kind of mother who tries at all times to be respectful of her child's autonomy, to a drill sergeant pee-checker who views her kid as some sort of stumbling block in the way of checking off items on a to-do list.


I now completely understand why potty training is so fraught and such a source of dread for parents.

So, I'm trying to back off from LO. I have no idea how successful I've been. Just when I think I'm suppressing the urge to nag, I'll realize I've prompted the poor kid four times in 10 minutes.

The thing is, I remember how very much I hated it when grownups would insist that I use the bathroom before leaving the house. Like they knew me better than I did. And had I not been such a rule-follower and people pleaser, I might very well have simply ignored those suggestions as a child the way LO has been ignoring me.

So, here we are. The unstoppable force, who cannot control her nagging tongue, and the immovable object, who would rather need multiple changes a day than succumb to irritating authority.

Mr. Rogers used to say, "Remember, you were once a child, too." This has been on my mind of late (and is often something I think about before posting on topics such as this one). Normally, this is an easy thing for me to remember.

For instance, earlier this week, J needed to reinstall LO's carseat in his car before school on a morning when they were already running a little behind. I let LO sit in the driver's seat and "drive" while J and I wrestled with the car seat. Once it was set, I needed to get LO into the seat--but he wasn't done driving.

Even though I gave him a one minute head's up prior to when he'd have to finish his game, he screamed and kicked when I picked him up and started buckling him into his seat.

So, I held him for a moment and told him it really was sad and unfair that he couldn't finish playing. Then I asked him what his favorite part of driving was. He calmed down, let me buckle him in, and enjoyed telling me what he liked best about the steering wheel and the gear shifter and the hazard lights.

That was easy because I know exactly how I would feel if some giant came along and picked me up and took me elsewhere just as I was in the middle doing something. I would have a monumental flip-out and rail at the unfairness of might making right. After all, I was a child once, too.

But when it comes to something as potentially embarrassing to both of us as potty training, I have a much harder time remembering what it was like to be the immovable object. I don't know how to stop that irresistible force within myself, and I'm afraid that I'm not doing as right by my kid as I could.

Because if you can't have an existential crisis over excrement, what can you have one over?

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