I was the world's greatest parent before I had kids. I had it all together. I had all the right answers, and I followed every recommendation from every "expert" on child-rearing/development/psychology.
I remember seeing a 3 year old with a soother in his mouth and thinking, "That won't be my kid. My kid will be weaned by 2 at the very latest." I remember seeing some little boy telling off his harrassed-looking mother in the store and thinking, "That won't be my kid. My kid will be taught manners and respect." Mostly, I remember being shocked when a friend of mine changed her 2 year old's diaper, and thinking, "Shouldn't kids be potty-trained by age 2?" It painted her in a kind of "too lazy to bother potty-training" kind of light...
...until I tried potty-training my sucky-wielding, cheeky 2-and-a-half year old...
Then, I realized (as I had countless times before) that all my smug confidence in my ability to be the picture-perfect parent was simply a display of my own ignorance. Having children and parenting is a very humbling experience.
The thing is, that even before I started potty-training Joey, I knew he wasn't ready. There are checklists for these things, and Joey did not score particularly high on them. Plus, there was the fact that he would happily sit in a dirty diaper, feeling poop squish between his little bum cheeks, all day long if it meant he could play uninterrupted by pesky diaper changes.
One might ask why I even bothered to try if he wasn't ready. That, my friend, is an excellent question. One very big reason was that certain members of our extended family were of the opinion that there was no such thing as "readiness" -- you just potty-trained at age 2. Another reason was that we were expecting our second child, and certain members of our extended family (the same ones) felt that it would be "easier" for me not to have two children in diapers. When potty-training was brought up (by said family members) I could feel that "too lazy to bother potty-training" kind of light in a halo around my head, and I bowed to peer pressure... for two days.
After two days, and countless accidents I understood just how not-ready Joey was. He couldn't even tell me when he had to pee. In fact, half the time he was unaware that he'd had an accident. We'd discover the accident, when I'd step in the puddle in my bare feet.
"Joey, did you have an accident?"
Nonchalantly, he'd look down at his pants and give a little shrug and a nod, a kind of "Oh yeah, I guess I did. Huh, how about that?"
In two days of hauling my very pregnant-self down to the floor to clean up accident after accident (in the heat of summer), it became abundantly clear to me that potty-training at this stage was definitely NOT EASIER than having two kids in diapers. Plus, I kind of had a feeling that he would suddenly choose to go on the potty when he felt ready; just like he had done with crawling and walking and sleeping in a toddler bed. When he was ready it happened and it was easy.
So, we waited.
We tried again when the baby was 3 months old, during a week in winter when we were pretty much snowed in. This time some pee ended up in the potty (and a poo!), but only after sitting on it for 40 minutes. After two days, my very active 3 year old started fighting about sitting on the potty. I can't say I blame him. If I had to sit for 40 minutes every time to go pee, I'd consider diapers the better alternative as well. Needless to say, we took another break for a while.
By this time, I was starting to get a little nervous. Preschool was starting in September. I was starting to think that maybe toilet-training was this hard for everyone, and I was really just too lazy to do the work and see it through. Maybe it wasn't about Joey making the choice, maybe people were right and it was about me making it for him.
Then one day in April, I had had enough. Joey had started pooping in his diaper and not telling us. Which is fine if you smell it, but if you can't (and, strange as it may seem, sometimes you can't) we'd go to change his diaper a couple of hours later and find it had given him a raging rash. Then we would have the joy of trying to wipe poop off of a little boy who is screaming and writhing in pain. You would think, after the first couple of times he would have learned to tell us he had a poopy diaper, but... he didn't. This had been going on for a a few months, when, after a particularly nasty episode, I couldn't do it anymore.
"That's it! Starting tomorrow, no more diapers."
The minute I said it I regretted it. What if it didn't work again? Oh well, it was worth another shot.
So, the next day, the potty came out into the living room. The training pants went on. But this time, two things were different:
#1 -- He actually told me when he had an accident! "Mommy, I'm leaking," he'd report.
#2 -- He would come running to the potty and say, "I have to pee."
It became apparent to me that somehow, either by his own choice, or by a stage in development, HE WAS READY!
Sometimes they were false alarms, sometimes he wouldn't get there in time, sometimes he'd get busy and forget. Once, he came to tell me he'd pooped in the garage, and when I went to clean it up we couldn't find it (although the dog looked particularly pleased with herself -- gag!).
However, as the days went on, instead of getting harder (as it had before), it got easier.
Three months later, he is completely potty-trained! Night-time, day-time, all the time! There is still the odd accident, but those are few and far between.
What have I learned from this whole experience? That I might not be the perfect parent, but I know my boys better than anybody else. I need to trust myself more, and worry less about what others think of me. Mostly, I have learned that, as parents, we don't need any more judgement or criticism than we already put on ourselves. I have learned that the best thing I can give any parent, is support and encouragement.
Parents, if you are making home a safe and happy place for your kids then you are doing a fine job! Love your kids, listen to your kids, and don't sweat the small stuff!