It’s that time again. I knew it would come and I dreaded it since his birth, but potty training is upon us. However, just like everything else about our youngest, it hasn’t been as bad as I feared. He gave up his bottle without a fight, he gave up his pacifier with no tantrums or sleepless nights, and he gave up his thumb completely on his own. So…it looks like potty training is following in that same direction.
One could say it is because I’m more relaxed this time around. Or, it could be said that because he has two older siblings, the road has been paved and I realize that he will not drink from a bottle, suck on a pacifier, or wear diapers his entire life – history has confirmed that. Or, it could just possibly be his personality and how he approaches life.
With our first two children, I started with Pull-Ups, bribing, all kinds of techniques before getting out the “big boy/girl pants” for them to wear. I waited until they had progressed far enough in the process that accidents probably would not happen. With our youngest, I started out the same way and it failed…miserably.
So, I finally decided some preparation and the final reward might be all that is needed. Taking advice from a friend (thanks, Lori), I informed our littlest that this was the last box of diapers we would be buying. I was afraid I might have to renege on that threat if he chose not to comply, but thankfully, it worked. I must have said it with some form of authority or wisdom or confidence because he started singing the same mantra: “Diapers almost gone. No more diapers for me.” We then went to the store and picked his favorite “big boy pants,” but came home and did nothing with them except look at them, talk about them, and get excited that someday he would get to wear them. During this time, I would also offer chances to sit on the potty without enforcing obedience. If he did, great…if he didn’t, also great. Completely his choice.
Finally, one day, with all the excitement I could muster, I offered him a chance to pick out and wear his own “big boy pants.” He carefully debated which one would be perfect for the first time and then wore them with pride. No pants overtop – nope, everyone had to see that he had graduated from diapers to “big boy pants.” That day we made multiple trips to the toilet, each with no results. After a few hours and back into diapers since we were leaving the house, I realized that despite all the preparation I had made, I had forgotten one important element. He hadn’t really had anything to drink. How can you expect success when you are dehydrated? Next time he would be offered lots to drink along with wearing his new wardrobe.
We tried again a few days later, when I knew we would be home all day. More drinks and a few accidents later, after plenty of reassurance that accidents happen and it’s not a big deal, we gave it a rest. However, each day he wore them longer and longer and started asking to go to the bathroom when he felt the need. Huge accomplishments in a short amount of time with very few meltdowns. Now…I’m not expecting perfection any time soon. We are at the beginning of the journey, but so far it’s been fun, relatively painless, and he is getting a chance to learn from his opportunities of being wet instead of feeling like a failure for “mistakes.” As a result, it is a much more pleasant experience for the whole family.
Now, I didn’t tell you about his potty training just to talk about developmental milestones in children. When I reflect on his “journey” into big boy pants, it reminds me a little bit about us as adults working on a new area in our life that we want to master. It could be achieving a healthy weight, getting into shape, or learning how to be more patient or less angry.
At first it seems like an abstract idea in the future that we cannot even grasp or define. If gone about haphazardly to try to learn this new characteristic trait, the results would probably be disastrous. However, if careful planning and prayer go into it instead, the results might be smooth, relatively tantrum free, and “opportunities for growth” instead of mistakes to feel bad about.
If I feel led to make a change in a certain area of my life and first pray about it, asking God for direction, the journey is usually easier than if I plow ahead, unsure of my direction, my path, or the final destination I’m shooting for. If I observe others who have the characteristic that I want to obtain (whether it be a healthy weight, getting into shape, or learning a trait like patience), I can usually avoid some pitfalls that I would otherwise have to learn the hard way. If I prepare ahead of time, not just observing others but also researching by reading books about the topic, praying some more, talking to friends, etc., then when I finally step up and start practicing the new concept, I will probably have a better outcome and feel more confident in my abilities. There will inevitably be “opportunities for growth” as nothing worth obtaining comes without a cost, but the growth opportunities should be more manageable and less destructive overall. And, even though it will take a while for whatever area of growth I’m striving for to become a permanent habit, by preparing ahead of time, the journey should be enjoyable and possibly even fun.
That is my prayer for you all, my friends. That as you continue to grow and change and try new things, that your journey will be one not for the faint at heart, but for the prepared heart, ready to face the challenge with a good attitude, a positive spirit, lots of prayer, and the confidence that you will eventually reach your goal.