One of the great, and unavoidable, experiences you get to have as a parent is the joy of teaching your kid(s), or coaching them through, how to use the toilet. When our first two kids were girls, I assumed this was a task I could leave to my wife. What did I know about the female urinary tract that could provide beneficial in helping our girls master the process of toilet training? I figured I'd just be doing more harm than good. Well, I guess it's a team effort, and with our addition of a boy, and boys supposedly being harder to potty train than girls, I am not very interested in tackling Gus' toilet training solo.
Potty training is one of those parenting enigmas, like getting your kids to sleep, getting them to eat (something, anything), and being an overall enjoyable human being to be around - minimum tantrums and crying and general respectable behavior. You can spend a shitload (pun intended) of time working on trying to get your kid to use the big girl/boy potty. You can read thousands of books on it. Amazon devotes and entire section to toilet training literature, with my personal favorite being Everyone Poops. You can watch videos and get informational materials from your pediatric clinic. If you happen to send your kids to the Inland Vineyard Preschool, which kind of sounds like a winery, you can actually have your kid be in a "potty training class". The website notes that once your child is potty-trained, your tuition decreases. Now there's an incentive!
I love hearing about the unique cultural and generational approaches to potty training. One of my college roommates spent some time in China after college, and he would love to tell us about the ancient Chinese approach to potty training still used today. It includes crotchless pants and whistling into the baby's ear in effort to get them to go on command. I've also seen (black and white) pictures of my dad as a young child wearing a dress outside - alleviated the need for a diaper, my Grandma informed me. Pure genius. We contemplated cloth diapers for our kids for about 5 seconds. But I've heard that a changing of a cloth diaper typically requires an entire outfit change, so with the additional laundry you end up doing (including the diapers), it's almost a push from a environmentally-conscious standpoint. We opted for sanity over saving any green, the earth or our money.
We've taken the more laissez-faire approach to potty-training our two girls. We figured we'd encourage them to go, but not stress about it, and when they were ready, they'd be ready. Luckily, Havi, our 2.33 (repeating) year-old, decided she was ready about a month ago. They often say that potty training a second child is easier than the first, especially if they are the same gender. I think we lucked out in that regard as she was a few months earlier than her older sister, who figured out how to use the big girl potty when she was 2.66 (repeating) years old. We also managed to make things additionally interesting when we optimally decided we wanted to throw our full energy at potty-training. The weekend Havi was trained, she was battling a cold. The weekend we trained Isla, we also decided it was time to take away her beloved pacifier. Go big or go home I guess.
When you think about potty training, it's really an amazing and baffling prospect. Imagine if you could not control your excremental bodily functions or had the cognitive ability to recognize your urges to go. It seems like it should be such an innate skill that you develop, and after almost 30 years of doing it on a daily basis, it's hard to imagine developing another other type of routine. Unless of course if you happen to be that "urban myth" of a person who wore adult diapers at WE Fest so you could relieve yourself at will without missing any Brooks & Dunn. People often make the comment about coming full circle with the need to wear diapers from infants to the elderly. Personally, I'm undecided if I want to live long enough to experience it first hand.
I like to paradox potty training with another physiological phenomenon that also starts with the letter "P" and essentially every young child learns how to do at some point - picking your nose. Based on my unscientific observations, picking your nose must be one of the most instinctive behaviors for a child to pick up; along with the ability to throw massive tantrums and whine incessantly. Think about it; child feels the the urge to pick his/her nose, and recognizes that he/she has the utility to go about acting on that urge. Their finger is identified as an instrument that can be used to retrieve the small mass of nasal mucus (medical terminology for booger), and they usually find a spot for disposal, i.e, their mouth. I'm in awe of how kids learn how to do this. Is it unreasonable to expect that they should naturally figure out how to go to the bathroom in a socially acceptable manner?
In some ways, having potty trained kids is obviously a plus. You don't have to worry about dipping into your 401k to purchase diapers (or spend hours trying to rinse out the reusable ones). The instances are greatly decreased of experiencing a diaper change in which your child requires immediate attention from a pressure washer.