Potty Party? Not So Much

Posted by: , September 19, 2010 in 10:02 am

pottyseat Potty Party?  Not So MuchThis one’s for those of you who are knee-deep in the nightmare known as Potty Training.  And for those who have done it and survived.  It is not for those of you haven’t gotten there yet, because I swear to God you just don’t even want to know.

As hard as this is to say, I’m saying it, because I wish more parents would talk about it and then maybe everyone could stop freaking out about potty-training age a little bit.  My son is four and a half years old, and he is not potty trained.  This is so hard to say, there should be a damn 12-step program for it.  My name is Mommy, and my kid is not potty trained.  (“Hi, Mommy.”)

My three daughters were considered “late to train” at the ripe old age of three and a half.  Three and a half is like the Old Maid of potty training.  Other moms cluck their tongues and whisper to each other that it’s such a shame, that little girl still isn’t potty-trained, and now she’ll never get into a good university or marry well.

I thought kids potty-trained at age two.  For Cookie and the Pork Lo Maniac’s second birthday, we got them little potties.  They put them on their heads as helmets, they made pretend soup in them with their plastic vegetables, and they put their dollies to sleep in them.  They did not pee in them.  Those potties sat and gathered dust for a year and a half.  By the time the girls were actually ready to potty-train, the original potties were too small for them.

Even then, it took a long time before they were fully potty-trained, and even longer before they were independent in the bathroom.  My experience potty-training the Peanut Butter Kid was nearly identical.  When Little Dude came along, I was done banging my head against the potty-training wall.  I figured I would get a potty, leave it in the corner, and wait until he asked to use it.  I also offered the girls each $25 if they would just potty-train their little brother for me.  They thought that sounded great, and did their darnedest to get him excited about using the potty, but to no avail.

stormtrooperpotty Potty Party?  Not So Much

Every spring, I would think, this is the spring he’ll learn to use the potty!  It’s so much easier in the spring!  He can just wear the underwear around the house!  I would try to get him excited about it.  We picked out underwear at Target: size 2 with Thomas the Train on them.  The next spring, it was size 4 underwear with Disney Cars on them.  Now we have size 6 underwear with Star Wars characters on them, but he’s still in diapers.

Three sizes of underwear that he has never worn for more than an hour at a time.

Preschool was not an option last year, because preschools require children to be potty-trained.  Before Little Dude was diagnosed with Asperger and the public school’s special education program became available, I was looking at preschools all over our county, trying to find one that would work with us.  None would take him.  I started to shift my mindset from I’ve got to get him potty-trained so he can go to preschool to Oh my God, I’ve got to get him potty-trained before Kindergarten.  That has slowly slid into there is a distinct possibility he will not be independent with the toilet in Kindergarten.
He has peed on the potty a grand total of five times, ever.  All of them were pretty much coincidental.  We’ve made huge progress, however.  He will now sit on the toilet without panicking and crying, so that seems like a big fat WIN.  I give credit for that to his special ed. teacher, who helps makes the potty an unavoidable part of the daily routine.

On Saturday night I asked him if he would sit on the potty, and he agreed to.  He said he felt like he had to pee, but that he couldn’t figure out how to get the pee to come out.  Like many children with Asperger Syndrome, he has a motor planning deficit (a form of apraxia).  The best way to explain motor planning deficit is this: it’s not that he’s not coordinated enough to button his shirt, it’s that he cannot figure out the steps involved in buttoning a shirt.  He needs explicit instruction in many things that other kids just know intuitively.

everyonepoops Potty Party?  Not So MuchApparently, peeing is one of those things.  Fortunately, my other kids and my husband are tremendously helpful in trying to help Little Dude figure out the motor planning involved in peeing.  Here are just some of the suggestions he was given:

  • Peeing is the opposite of holding it in.
  • How about a juice box?
  • Step one: relax.  Step two: stop holding it in.  Step three: let the pee come out.
  • Here, have another juice box.
  • Let’s make Little Dude laugh so hard that he pees.
  • Maybe if we read him a story he’ll relax.
  • Would you like a glass of water?  Some milk?  Pink milk?  Yes!  You can have some pink milk!
  • Little Dude, stop wiggling your legs.  It’s like you’re doing the potty dance, but you’re on the potty.
  • Also?  Please, um, stop doing that.  Especially when your sisters are in the room.

One of the things that’s hard about potty training this kid is that bribery doesn’t really work, because it’s not that he doesn’t want to pee, it’s that he genuinely can’t figure out how to.  Bribery was so effective in training Cookie and the Pork Lo Maniac, that we added a twist when training the Peanut Butter Kid.  Every time she used the potty she got a small treat or prize, and so did her older sisters.  This worked out beautifully because they were constantly reminding her to use the potty.  (“Do you need to go potty?  I really want a Skittle, so could you at least try?”)

Little Dude does get a reward if he pees.  Tonight’s planned reward was a Popsicle.  Also, he wanted me to take pictures of him on the potty.  I draped a towel over him and complied.  Then he said he wanted me to take a picture of his butt.  I said no.  He persisted, and then I said that if he peed on the potty, I would take a picture of his butt.  Let’s face it: if it helps him, I am willing to put aside any shred of decorum I may have once clung to.
LegoStarWarsbook Potty Party?  Not So MuchHe sat on that toilet for over an hour.  I sat with him the whole time, and various other family members rotated in and out to give support and fabulous advice like just stop holding it in.  We read the super mega Lego Star Wars Dictionary.  We took (very modest) pictures.  Little Dude had a whole bunch of juice.  It sounds a lot slightly like child abuse to make him sit there that long, but he really wanted to be there and try.  I figured the best thing was to just let him sit there and hope that eventually some pee would dribble out so that he could feel proud of himself.
And wouldn’t you know: eventually some pee dribbled out.  And the whole house went completely bananas.  My parents are even visiting so the celebration was pretty much the equivalent of the Emmy Awards.   Seriously, he drank almost 20 ounces of liquid on the potty, and maybe a teaspoon came out, but whatever.  He peed.  On the potty.  And it was spectacular.

Fortunately, he was so excited about peeing in the potty, that he forgot to ask me to take a picture of his butt. He did, however, get his Popsicle, and it appeared to be the most delicious Popsicle in the whole history of artificially-flavored frozen goodness.

It’s progress.  But I’m not going to go insane and hope that things will magically click for him in the next couple of days.  This is going to take time.  I do think that eventually he’ll get the hang of it.  But even if he never does, we’ll deal with it.

So there it is.  It’s not something I’m proud of, and it’s not something I’m ashamed of.  Like so many things with Little Dude, it is what it is.


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