Thursday, May 20, 2004

PJ GOES POTTY 5.20.2004

My oldest son has been a little late getting into his toilet game. For our part, as parents, we have always been of a mind that when he is ready, he will want to be potty trained. We have heard horror stories from friends who tried to push their children into this too soon, and ended up with lots of accidents, and not much result for their effort. Plus, with Anna it was easy. One day she decided she was going to be potty trained and Lord help you if you stood in her way.

Whenever we would ask PJ about going peepee and poopie on the pottie (and you just have to talk like this, do not ask me why) he would just say "No, I don't want to." We would have many conversations like this.

"PJ, don't you want to be grow up and be big and strong? Big strong men like your dad all go poopie and peepee on the pottie." Being a big strong man like myself I felt odd saying "poopie" and "peepee" but when you're a parent you get just get over these things.

"No, I don't want to grow up and be big and strong." PJ said this and folded his arms and scowled at me. We were at impasse.

Hmm, maybe I can shame him into it. "PJ, do you want to stay a little baby like Sam for the rest of your life?"

"No, I don't want to be a little baby like Sam. I want to be PJ. I don't want to be bigger or smaller."

Well, as admirable as his sense of self is, We weren't making any progress. You see, somewhere deep inside myself I know that PJ won't be graduating from high school with a diaper on. Although in a recent conversation with Gagi, she asked him if he'd still be wearing a diaper when he turned 50 and he said yes. So I knew he would eventually use the toilet, even as he was convinced that he never would. The question arises as to why anyone would stay in a diaper longer than they had to. Well, he is a three year old, and a stubborn one. From his point of view, all change is bad. Also, I think he knew that this was a control issue, that we couldn't make him do this, and that by saying no he was exasperating us, thus punishing us for all the stuff parents get blamed for. Whatever his reasons, he was being as stubborn as a mule

The problem is that when kids turn 3 they are usually expected to be housebroken, and there are lots of key places like nursery school and summer camps that won't accept children that do not make use the facilities, so to speak. So Kathleen is nervously watching the school-less summer months approach, and picturing PJ around all the time. He's standing there in the kitchen, staring at her with those big eyes, asking for crackers, whining about something, being a nuisance, all day long. Day after day. Kathleen sees all this with dread crossed with abject terror.

So one day Kathleen asks PJ, "PJ do you want to go to summer camp?" she explain to him that Anna is going to summer camp. She tell him about the swimming, the crafts, the games. She gives him the whole sales pitch. He is hooked. She tells him about the sunshine, how clear the water is, how the air is so fresh that you can smell flowers from across he field. This is truly shangra-la for a three year old boy she explains. "PJ, do you want to go to summer camp with Anna?"

"Oh yes, yes, Mom! I do want to go to summer camp!" PJ said, his eyes sparkling with expectation.

Time to close the deal. "PJ, only little boys who go to toilet get to go to summer camp." Kathleen said quietly.

"Oh, well, then I won't go." PJ said without even the slightest hesitation, so strong was his diaper bound conviction. He ran off to play some game. Well, with two stubborn parents, I guess it should be no surprise to see this trait in our children, but it can be discouraging.

It was time to break out the heavy artillery. The *gameboy (cue up the orchestra pit for a big da-da-DAA whenever you see the asterisk). PJ loves video games. Its his crutch,his Achilles heel. A few months back we were looking at a pop-up trailer from a cousin of Gagi who lives with family up in the mountains west of Staunton, VA. We didn't end up buying the trailer, but a little boy there had a *gameboy, and e let PJ play with it. PJ loved it. He literally screamed when we we took it away from him when we had to leave.

So now we were at Wal-Mart and I showed PJ the section of the electronics department where they had the *gameboys. "PJ?" I asked, "Would you like to have one those?" He said yes. "I'll buy it or you, and you can play with it all weekend, but then you have to give it back until you can go to the toilet." He didn't say anything.

Kathleen's dad referred to this as "baiting the hook." Sure enough, PJ played with the *gameboy all weekend, and at the end I put it in its packaging and hung it on a hook in the kitchen where he couldn't help but see it every day.

It didn't work. (!@#$) A few days went by. He ignored it completely. Stubborn little mongrel.

A few days after that Kathleen got frustrated and told PJ that she was done changing his diapers. One of those days when I get a phone call that immediately starts with "Can I just say that I am sick and tired of..." She said to PJ that he can pee on himself if he wanted to but she wasn't hanging his diapers any more. PJ finally turned the corner. The advantage to waiting until you are 3 1/2 to potty train is that the learning curve is very short, and there are few accidents. The first time I saw him pee in the toilet you would have thought he was Michelangelo and had just put the final strokes on the Systene Chapel judging by the glee in my voice as I praised his fine bathroom-manship. It was a beautiful day, and he got his *gameboy back, although that kind of pissed me off. I wanted it.

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