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My sons' preschool has a rule – when you start as a 3-year old, you absolutely MUST be potty trained. (Actually it's a law in CT - no adults in the stall - so all preschools here have "the rule")
Impossible? Cruel? Well, it may sound like it from the outside but I’ll tell you, for 99% of the kids who walk through that door, it works.
And then there’s the 1%. His name is Sam, and he just so happens to be my (almost 3-year-old) son and one of my favorite people on earth.
We are going on our 10th week of potty training. We have missed the deadline of the first day of school and are now in the red zone – the 4 weeks then they allow the kids who haven't yet mastered the skill to wear Pull-ups to school. The catch is, during that time if they go to the bathroom in the Pull-up, the parent gets “the call” and has to head down to the school to either change the child or pick them up and take them home.
If they're still not ready in 4 weeks, it's sayonara kid. No school for you. Come back, 1 year. (ok, maybe not a year but I couldn't resist the Seinfeld reference)
Oh and did I mention the big fat check with the three zeros goes bye-bye too? Seems like the perfect set up for a very positive potty training experience right? A kid who is clearly not ready and a parent (who already has a short fuse) with a financial gun to her head. Awesome.
Anyway, earlier this week on the first day of school, he pooped before he left home and I swear to you I felt like I had won the Super Bowl. Walking on air.
But the second day, right when I got nestled into my desk in NYC – an hour away from home – I got “the call.” Straightforward yet smacking of disappointment. “Sammy had an accident and it’s all over the place. Someone needs to come get him now.“ Thank GOD for Grandma.
The thing that pisses me off is the inference that we, as the parents, aren't trying hard enough. Trust me. That ain't the case. Here is a list of what we have tried.
- Stickers? Ha. He lost interest in stickers after 1 day. Started telling me I could just keep them.
- M&Ms – oh please – 1 or 2 M&Ms is supposed to excite my child? I honestly think he laughed at me when I tried to sell him that one.
- Big kid undies you say? WE went to the store, bought Lightning McQueen undies and he swore he would NEVER pee or poop on his best bud. Within 2 hours – a poop blow out so bad that I had to cut the undies off of him and throw them away. When I said Lightning was sad he said, “Oh well.”
- Next, we tried a kitchen timer set to every 15 minutes. That worked for a while but soon he just started sneaking over and setting it to like 45 minutes and then peed in his undies.
- We even tried the one thing I said I’d NEVER EVER DO – naked potty training. This is where you imprison the whole family for days on end and let the child run around naked hoping that his internal right and wrong meter will go off when he starts peeing or pooping on the floor. Ummmm yeah. Sure. Six solid days of cleaning up poop streaked through the house - with no breakthroughs. Not for me.
As you can imagine, after all of this, rule #1 of potty training - KEEP IT POSITIVE - has gone straight out the window, down the street and into the next town. We try so hard but it always ends up with, "Ok, I guess you just want to be a baby." or "Looks like you won't be able to go to school with Jack, AJ and the other big boys." Ugh.
So the bottom line is - now that we have admittedly botched this effort - now that our precious little sweet Sam has a complex - now that he's been made to feel guilty by the two people who love him most in the world ...
What do we do now? How do we fix this?
Is there a Harvey Karp of potty training out there? Or the preschool version of Harvey Keitel's character "the Wolf" from Pulp Fiction who can just come and clean it all up?
Or should I just bite the bullet and pull him out of school until he's full potty trained? The only problem there is that he aside from potty training, he IS ready for school. Completely and 100% emotionally, physically and academically ready. And by the way, he loves it.
So ... for the love of the sisterhood of motherhood, help me out. Someone out there has to have gone through this. I can't breakdown in tears on my Starbucks barrista after drop off any more. She's going to start making my drink wrong and we can't have that.
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