Suburban Snapshots

Adventures in Potty Training

Monday, June 28, 2010

Since I last posted on the topic, (and here's where I jinx the whole thing) Anna has become a fully potty-trained toddler. We've only had a few accidents, like the time I forgot all about the child safety doorknob cover thing and yelled down the hall "Just open the door and go in!" only to find her crying in wet undies, frantically spinning the knob cover outside the bathroom. You can go ahead and send that Mom of the Year award to my p.o. box.

While I'm delighted and amazed by this development, it does come with its drawbacks. Namely, the kid loves public toilets — you know, those germ-infested echo chambers of filth?

Now, I don't want to give her any sort of complex about the facilities available in places like Wal-Mart, the playground, or the beach, so I make every effort to not contort my face when she tells me, smack in the middle of some hot, overcrowded festival, that she needs to use the potty. I spy the blue porta-johns straight ahead, swearing I can actually see those cartoon stink lines wafting from their roofs. We march bravely onward. Things will not go well.

First I cram myself and, because we're at the beach, my shoeless toddler into the porta-pot which is just smaller than the trunk of a Pinto but with less ventilation. We play a live action game of Operation as I try desperately not to bump the edges of anything, with the added bonus of my now intimate knowledge of the bowel contents of fellow festival-goers.

I perch Anna next to the gaping waste hole, tug her bottoms down and bend her hovering over the crap stew. Business accomplished, a quick wipe, and as I bend to yank her pants back up and escape, looking forward to taking my first breath in 3 full minutes, a terrible sound — it's the plunk! of my favorite, only, PRESCRIPTION sunglasses falling into the moat. No. Fucking. Way. I'd fall to my knees and scream if the floor wasn't awash in overflow.

I am helpless. I really, really can't see. I need the glasses. You know what happened next. But it gets worse.

Now functionally blind and not being all that familiar with porta-johns, I didn't know that the little bowl to the side of the toilet is not, in fact, a sink, and the pink lump therein is not soap, until I found myself grasping this "soap," my glasses, and then realizing there was no faucet.

People, there is not enough bleach in the entire world.

Crayons

Friday, June 25, 2010

I'm going to stumble uncomfortably through this post and hope I can be articulate in explaining what I need your help figuring out, without using language like someone who's running for office.

We live in a very, very pale state. There are just two non-caucasian kids in Anna's class at day care, Ethan is one of them. She and Steve ran into Ethan and his mom at the park last week, and while Anna and I were talking about it, she said, "I saw Ethan at the playground, and Ethan is brown, and I am white."

So maybe that statement was nothing right? Or maybe it was some huge learning moment that I was supposed to pounce on, where I'd eloquently — but in words a two-year-old can understand — explain that the world is full of people with more colors than would ever fit in a crayon box, more than all her paints mixed — as she prefers — with all her other paints, more than all the colors in all the smeared handprints that run up and down our hallway. And instead of a good reply going through my head, there was all of that thinking, and so what I told her was, "Mmm-hmm."

I called Steve, "Did you tell Anna that she's white?" He had not. It's possible she just decided that she's white in the Crayola sense, but she's smart about colors and I imagine she'd say something like tan or even pink. But let me back up, I realize that sounds like a ridiculous question. The kid's white. It's just, if neither of us told her that then who did? And in what context? Because her daycare schedule doesn't mention "Diversity in the Human Population" anywhere between circle time and afternoon snack.

It's just one of those moments, a first for us, really, where it's possible that something I feel we need to be in charge of teaching her may have been introduced by someone else in a context I don't know. Or maybe it's the opposite; maybe I just let her figure it out, answer questions when she has them and try to counteract whatever bad information she might pick up from others.

I'd like to hear your thoughts — what's been your experience not only in teaching your kids your own values, but helping them work through what the world teaches when you're not there?

Present

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I've noticed on Facebook one thing that happens a lot between new moms and moms whose kids are at least pre-teens. It usually goes like this:

Mom 1: Baby crying all day. Calgon? Vodka?
Mom 2: Oh, enjoy her now. Just wait 'til she's a teenager!

Through every stage of your baby's life, there's someone telling you to pay attention, enjoy these moments, either because they're gone so quickly or with the insinuation that if you think this sucks, you're probably going to drop that kid off at the Nebraska state line when she's a teenager (or did I read that they have since changed that particular return policy?).

New moms do nothing but live in the moment. You're constantly attending to the needs of a brand new human. In the early weeks, between sitting on the couch boobs (or bottle) out, holding, swaddling, and wishing someone would invent Magic Eraser: Infant Poop, you don't have a lot of time to stare at your baby and imagine her first love, her first prom — you're lucky if you can imagine her first crap of the day. Your brain spends its time functioning at 150% on 12 minutes of sleep (simultaneous if you're lucky).

And you love that kid, desperately. In the best moments you wonder at how incredible they are, how unreal their sudden presence in your life. I appreciated Anna's long newborn naps and contented gurgling time. She didn't do much else, so all of that sparkly amazingness moms of older kids advise not to take for granted only happened later, and now in hindsight. I look back at Anna's baby photos and remember what a privilege it was getting to know her, and having her so attached to me. I'm amazed that she was ever so uncoordinated, incapable of barking demands at me like the tiny drill sergeant she's become — how did I ever know that she needed juice, like, rightthisgoddamnsecond?

I believe there are big moments — huge, lifetime occurrences that you can absorb while they're happening. You can nudge your brain to store exactly how you feel — whatever pride, confidence, joy is there: Remember this. But I think that telling someone to pay attention when they're doing the minute-by-minute work of motherhood is something like asking them to recount precisely what their labor pains felt like — it's vague, you know it hurt like a motherfucker, but there's some blessed evolutionary mechanism that makes it a hazy impression minutes after it's over.

It's not fair for moms to be told to pay closer attention, appreciate this moment, to love even the shitty, crazymaking afternoons of tantrums and frustration, and it's just not possible. You could spend so much energy trying to record discreet events that you forget to actually be there for them. Besides, isn't that what Facebook is for?

Viral

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I'm going to be honest here for a second — this week has totally freaked me out.

Picture me, normally thrilled to see that the 30 or so people (all of whom I'm either friends with or related to, hi Mom!) continue to get my blog notification emails (or at least feel too guilty to unsubscribe) when suddenly, well, shit got real.

Back on the 9th, after picking up Anna's 10th pair of discarded undies, I posted a little Facebook status to the effect of "This place is starting to look like a frat house." or something, I'm too lazy to keep clicking "Older Posts" on my profile page to find the actual post. I expanded it into a little quickie blog entry, and as I sat on the couch with the laptop and Steve rolling his eyeballs each time I'd chuckle I was pretty pleased with myself and knew my little group of mom friends would appreciate the list.

I was happy when the post was shared 20 times, got excited around 60, was stunned to get into the triple digits. By yesterday I figured the counter up there had to be malfunctioning when the display read 15,000. I had a moment of sheer panic, because no offense, but I don't know you people from Adam. By today I had 21,000 shares and 50,000 visits to the entry. Statistically, some of you have to be batshit crazy.

I read the comments as they came in, some of which were terrific and I'm considering giving their own follow-up post. I meant to shut them down at 300 because the app was causing my page to bog down but see above: lazy. I added lots of your blogs to my reader which is undoubtedly going to tack an hour or so onto my usual bedtime, so if any of you have good tips on teaching a 2-year-old how to make coffee in a French press before waking her mama at 6 a.m., leave them in the comments.

I'm grateful for the one-timers who wandered in off of Facebook and for those who will stick around. I loved getting emails thanking me for writing. My girls who kept posting the link to my entry started this rocking of my sheltered little blogger world and I love them all. I appreciate every eyeball in every head that took the time to read my funny little list and spread it like conjunctivitis in a crowded day care. I hope I can continue to entertain you, and that you'll stay with me — at least until I figure out how to make some money off of you.

Maps

Thursday, June 17, 2010

One of the reasons I knew Steve and I were a good match was that we could spend hours in the car together and not get on each other's nerves. We still take long trips together, he's great at entertaining Anna while I drive, explaining to her patiently 600 times that "Mama can't pick up your shoes, she's busy preventing us from perishing in a spectacular I-95 fireball." And while he hates that I drive the Merritt Turnpike like a stunt double in an Audi commercial, our trips are, for the most part, quiet and enjoyable.

I do the bulk of the driving in our family. This puts Steve in the position of Helpful Navigator, which apparently gives him the authority to commandeer both the heat and the iPod, and to complain that my leather seats make him slide when he falls asleep. He's also prone to leaving wadded up tissues in the door pocket and critiquing the efficiency and radius of my u-turns.

Since our dashboard navigator decided to leave for the big satellite in the sky, we've been using my phone's GPS app. It offers both graphical and text directions, and usually I'll glance at the map for bearings, then read through the list. My husband — my Helpful Navigator — insists on using the graphical map, ignoring the turn-by-turn.

Maybe a man can explain to me why it's preferable to hold a 3x5 inch screen up to the tip of your nose, zooming in and zooming out until you have no context for your location, then backing out, slide left, slide right, following the pulsing blue positioning dot, instead of just reading the conveniently sequential directions spelled out in plain English. Personally, I prefer my driving directions to not begin with "Uuuuummmmmm..."

Steve sits next to me looking at the screen like he's questioning Ouija board, tapping and dragging, and as I sense we're getting close I inevitably hear things like, "Hm." or "That's interesting." Translation: I'm figuring out how to tell Bren that we just missed a turn. Then he'll nonchalantly say that we need to backtrack, but if I attempt to u-turn in someone's driveway, he mutters something about "redneck" and "shotgun" until I find a suitably public area in which to maneuver.

This scenario repeats itself 9 out of 10 times we're traveling together using the phone's map program. His argument is always that by using the visual map, he's learning how to get to these places and committing them to memory, and that by reading the listed directions, I'm not really paying attention to where I am. There's probably some truth to that, but when I'm heading someplace new I don't need a geography lesson, I just need to get there, and all he's committing to memory are the various public parking lots available for reversing direction.

Here's where someone sentimental might draw the parallel between the complicated journey that is married life and our literal travels, which are usually fun, sometimes frustrating and rarely direct. Fine, I'll buy that. But it doesn't make Steve's refusal to read written directions any less Goddamn annoying.

Why Having a Toddler is
Like Being at a Frat Party*

Thursday, June 10, 2010

*That one frat party I've ever been to, having gone to a Very Serious Arts College.

10. There are half-full, brightly-colored plastic cups on the floor in every room. Three are in the bathtub.

9. There's always that one girl, bawling her eyes out in a corner.

8. It's best not to assume that the person closest to you has any control over their digestive function.

7. You sneak off to the bathroom knowing that as soon as you sit down, someone's going to start banging on the door.

6. Probably 80% of the stains on the furniture contain DNA.

5. You've got someone in your face at 3 a.m. looking for a drink.

4. There's definitely going to be a fight.

3. You're not sure whether anything you're doing is right, you just hope it won't get you arrested.

2. There are crumpled-up underpants everywhere.

1. You wake up wondering exactly how and when the person in bed with you got there.

Your additions?

Comments are closed due to technical malarkey, but keep sharing and thanks so much for reading!

(Almost) Everybody Poops

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The nice thing about potty training is that you spend so much of your time thinking about someone else's bowel movements, you really don't have the attention for all those stupid little day-to-day worries, like personal hygiene or leaving the house. And it teaches patience, because after investing an entire day making sure your small person keeps her undies dry, you won't risk unraveling her with a frustrated bark when she forgets the whole lesson and pees down her legs in the middle of the living room, too fixated on Backyardigans to notice.

Anna started showing an interest in the toilet months ago, and we've spent a few weekend mornings letting her wear undies and using the potty when we ask. Every 15 minutes I'd ask, "Do you need to go pee?" or remind her "Don't forget to pee on your potty." Poor kid's just trying to fingerpaint or feed her popsicle to the dogs, and I'm constantly up in her grill with the toilet talk.

We've gotten more consistent about it week after week, getting her into undies right after sitting her on the bowl first thing in the morning. Now we don't have to ask if she needs to go because she started telling us — I hear that's a big potty training milestone, not having a kid obey your request to pee on the half hour, but when she recognizes her own need to go.

For all these weeks she was more than willing to run bare-butted into the bathroom, climb up on the "big girl seat" (she uses a stool to grapple up onto the adult bowl while I hold my breath and inventory all the ceramic items she could potentially bounce her head off of) and pee. Each time I'd cheer her on, do a little chicken dance for her, and hand her one gummy fruit. But I still could not get that kid to poop.

She'd be playing with a doll or climbing the backyard slide, suddenly stop, look at me, grab a handful of her own butt cheek, and worriedly say "I need a diaper on!" Translation: I am going to crap my pants, Mom. Prepare to deploy the wipes.

I learned the signs, and waited. I spent most of my day being tuned into Anna's digestive system, expressions and posture. I saw her panic with each stomach gurgle, "I need a diaper!" I sweetly suggested we try the potty, told her I knew she could do it, even used "Lilly loves to poop on her potty!" I'm pretty sure Anna had to go at 10 this morning, but clamped her tiny cheeks together until well after after we'd eaten dinner.

While Steve was out chatting up our new neighbors (whose perpetual yard work is making our house look like Grey Gardens), Anna requested a diaper. I obliged, but I was prepared. She grimaced and was straining to talk. I seized the moment. She protested into the bathroom and as I yanked at her Pull-Up. I hoped this was one of those getting-over-the-hump moments and not a traumatizing-your-kid-forever moments. I sat her down, turned on the shower radio, enticed her with an entire unopened bag of gummy fruit, and started dancing. Success. I yelled out the window for Steve.

I let her survey her accomplishment before flushing it into the ether. I double checked to be sure it was all gone, because I seriously considered having that thing bronzed.