If you want to hear about how the Amazing Gwen is now the Amazing Potty-Trained Gwen, please read on. If you don't (and I don't blame you), please to enjoy something else today.
So, yeah. Christmas vacation. On the one hand, it was a brilliant idea to ensure that I could focus solely on Gwen and her bladder for 3-4 straight days, with no distractions or outings; on the other hand, THAT IS NOT A VACATION. I am exhausted.
The method we used was the Three Day Potty Training method. I had reasons for this: first, I am impatient. Second, I am impatient. Third, every potty training method you look at emphasizes that Consistency is Key. In Gwen's average week, she is cared for by us at our house, by her caregiver at daycare, and by her Gramma at Gramma's house. That meant I either had to dictate Consistency to the other caregivers, at the other locations, or I had to do it myself in a shorter period of time. Oh, and fourth, I am a control freak.
When I first heard about the three-day method, I worried that it might be a bit of a rougher method. How else could you guarantee a child being trained in only three days, if you weren't going to use punishments or unpleasant consequences? When I actually read the book, though, I was very pleasantly surprised. This method is very child-oriented and focusses on the positives almost exclusively. There is no punishment or negative reinforcement. Love, patience, dedication, and praise are key principles; punishment, even verbal disapproval such as "Bad girl!", are not part of the method.
On Day One, we got up, got dressed (Gwen in a t-shirt and a Pull-Up), and ate breakfast. We got ready for our day. Then, when those details were taken care of, we threw out her diapers - with her participation - and told her that since she was a big girl, she was now going to wear big girl panties. Then we began plying her with liquids, and reminding her constantly that she should keep her panties clean and dry. "Let me know when you need to use the potty!" My job, of course, was to focus on Gwen constantly; to recognize her "I need to go" signs before she even recognized them herself. And to catch her in the act and rush her to the potty.
That first day, there were a lot of accidents. In fact, I think there was only one success, and it was a pretty coincidental one.
Day Two was not very different from Day One. A lot of accidents. I wasn't able to see any signs on Gwen's part: mostly, if we managed to avoid an accident it was because I knew it had been about 20 minutes since she'd downed a cup of juice, and took pre-emptive action. By the end of Day Two, I was really tired.
Day Three things started to click a little more. Gwen would suddenly say, "I'm peeing on the floor!" and rush to the bathroom. We still had to change her; she would wet just enough to realize what was happening, then go to the potty to finish the job. It was definitely a step in the right direction. Also, on this day, I finally started to realize what Gwen's "sign" was. When Gwen needs to go, she gets really agitated, switching often from one activity to another. Which ... is pretty much how she is all the time. Only slightly more so. I don't blame myself one bit for taking three full days to figure this out. In fact, it's kind of a miracle that I got there at all.
Day Four. The author of the method said that some kids may need four days, and we chose to take this extra day with Gwen, feeling that she was just not quite ready to head back to daycare. On Day Four, we had only one accident the entire day. Furthermore, the day started with Gwen rushing off to the potty of her own accord, rather than doing so because I suggested it. This was a pretty big leap and I was thrilled.
On Day Five, we sent Gwen to daycare with a backpack full of extra pants and panties. I spent the day worrying that for some reason, her caregiver would call and tell me Gwen wasn't adequately trained and that I had to come pick her up. I don't even know where my brain comes up with these things. That phone call never came, and Gwen came home in the same panties she left in. She'd stayed dry ALL DAY. Naturally, we made a really big deal out of this.
The next day just happened to be New Year's Day. In the afternoon, Gwen made a request of the sort she makes pretty damn consistently: "Mama, can we make cupcakes?" (Actually, she calls them pupcakes.) And I said something I don't often get to say: "Yes, Gwen, we can." She was over the moon. We went into the kitchen and make pup - er, cupcakes, and took them to my in-laws' for dinner that evening. We made a big fuss over Gwen, put a candle in her cupcake and sang "Happy Potty Day to You", exclaiming loudly and often how impressed we were at her newfound potty abilities. She was accident-free all day, and all the next day as well.
The one challenge we have not really had to deal with yet is the Out and About part of things. We now make sure that when we're heading to daycare, Gwen goes potty before we leave the house. When she's at Gramma's or at daycare, she's comfortable and confident there and knows where the bathroom is. But there's more to the Out and About thing. Like being at the library, or the grocery store, or a friend's house, or church. I think any time we are in a new place for more than a couple of minutes, we're going to let her know that there is a potty there if she needs it, and that she should let us know. We're going to keep a bag with a folding seat insert, wipes, and change of clothes on us at all times.
Now, just in case I haven't bored you to tears with all of this, I want to talk about night-time training. The method we used urged us to get rid of all diapers and Pull-Ups, not confuse the child by putting him/her back into them at nighttime. There were a few tips and tricks for helping kids wake up dry, for example, limiting liquids for ~2 hours before bedtime; offering multiple opportunities to empty the bladder before bedtime; and getting the child up 1-2 times a night to potty again. We did all of these for the first five nights, and we determined that it wasn't working for us. Gwen was experiencing a lot of anxiety before bed, asking to use the potty over and over and over (with no activity while there) and staying on for 10-20 minutes at a time because she was so nervous about wetting the bed. She's not a deep enough sleeper to stay asleep when we took her to the potty at 10pm and 3am: she would wake and whimper piteously and just generally be miserable throughout the procedure. (Who could blame her?!) Some nights, we didn't get her up to pee (or she just didn't do it when we put her on the potty). This seemed to have no correlation to whether or not she woke up dry.
I decided that the most important thing was to keep her out of Pull-Ups long enough to break the association that she could/should just pee in them whenever she wanted. On the sixth night, we put her back in a Pull-Up. She is now much less anxious at bedtime; she gets to sleep straight through the night; and it's about 50-50 whether she wakes up dry or not. Pretty much the same as it was without Pull-Ups. I feel okay about her continuing to wear a Pull-Up at this stage, as I know nighttime training can take a great deal longer. Truth be told, I felt a little uncomfortable with the recommendation that we teach her to get up in the night and go use the potty alone. I just don't feel good about Gwen being up at night by herself at this age. In another year, sure, but she's not even three yet. Then again, maybe a part of me wants to hang on to a little bit of her babyhood.
I found the whole process of potty training to be like the newborn phase again. Your every ounce of focus and concentration is situated on this uncommunicative, illogical being who seems hellbent on thwarting you at every turn. Plus, toddlers -unlike newborns - are mobile. It's mentally draining. I expected it to be like sleep training, but it really wasn't: sleep training is about giving the child the tools, then leaving him or her to figure it out. All the hard parts in sleep training relate to separating yourself from an unhappy child, trying to "ignore" her tears. Potty training is the opposite: you have to erase that separation and put your entire consciousness onto the child's body to read its signs. Instead of walking away, you follow. Instead of offering tools, you interpret the child's behaviours, over and over, and respond on his behalf, encouraging him to start doing the same.
There is one thing that's similar about potty training and sleep training, though, and that's the immense pride I feel in watching my child "get it". On Day One, I watched her mindlessly pee on the floor without any awareness of what she was doing. On Day Six, I watched her jump up from her activities, announce, "I have to go potty!" and run off to take care of that all by herself. In just one week, she has been transformed into the Amazing Potty-Trained Gwen.
And that is DEFINITELY worth a pupcake.