Luke Durban

Luke Durban. Sure, he's cute, but also as stubborn as they come, according to his Mom.

PHOTO BY LAUREN SILVERMAN DURBAN

There’s no substitute for experience. Practice makes perfect. Experience is the best teacher.

Except with potty training, apparently. You would think that by my fourth child, potty training would be a breeze. A snap. Old hat!

You would be wrong.

As so often seems to be the case with parenting, I have surprised myself yet again with my own ineptitude. Somehow, I have managed to get worse at potty training with each successive child. Each one fights harder, is more persistent with their refusal, and takes longer than the last. Luke, my youngest, is my latest test subject.

So far, the process has taken close to a year. Each time, we make a valiant effort for a few days ... which somehow dissolves into a battle of wills, with Luke resolute in his refusal to sit on the potty. So, as advised, we take a break before the whole thing becomes so negative that he refuses even longer. A month or so passes, and we try again. As I write, we are (again) trying again. He is on day two in underwear, with many successes and also many accidents over the last 48 hours. I’m praying that, by the time this is published and you are reading it, the whole thing will be a memory. (By the way, when Luke is potty trained, it will mark the first time in a decade that we don’t have at least one kid in diapers. We’re definitely hosting a diaper-burning party.)

Of course, there’s a lesson in this struggle. My children are not the sum of my experiences – they are each their own unique person, with their own unique needs. There’s a reason that all the things that worked for his siblings don’t work for Luke. He came into the world with his own agenda. Potty training is one of the first times in a child’s life that he can truly assert his will, because you can’t force a kid to use the bathroom. Each has her own currency, his own motivations, and a timeline all their own. He’ll do it when he’s ready, not when I am.

We know this. We tell each other this. And yet, there’s still a sense of shame. It’s embarrassing to admit that my 3 ½-year-old isn’t potty trained. There’s a lot of pressure on these milestones, going well beyond potty training. From as early as rolling over, up through reading, and well beyond into adolescent milestones that I’m not emotionally prepared for yet, heavy emphasis is put on developmental milestones. It follows that when they’re delayed, for whatever reason, it can bring a sense of failure. Am I somehow failing my child? And then we feel guilty because the last thing we want to do, of course, is project those worries on to our children.

As hard as it is, the answer lies in sharing your struggle. Though instinct might tell us to hide the things that feel like failures, it’s only by letting people in that we find support and solutions. Ask your friends. If your kids are young enough that you won’t embarrass them, ask for help on social media. Talk to your child’s teachers. I guarantee that what you’ll find out is that you’re far from unique. I’ve been hearing from lots of people whose kids were older than Luke when they were finally potty trained, and everyone assures me he’ll get there before he leaves for college (they’re kidding … I think). Parenting is hard, but too often we try to make it look easy. We all know it isn’t.

But really … keep your fingers crossed that by the time you read this, my family is finally a diaper-less household.

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