Warning: This post talks about potty training. The word “potty” is used quite a bit. Sorry non-parents, this is just the type of thing you can’t help but talk about once you have kids.
You can read all the parenting books or listen to advice from all the experts, but every child truly is different. No one knows how to care for your child and meet his or her needs quite like you. That gut, that instinct surpasses any expert.
I have tried to hold on to this and remember it whenever I doubt myself. I had a few baby books in the beginning but gave up on those early in favor of where my own instincts guided me. Still, sometimes it’s hard to drown out the exterior noise, and my belief in myself as a parent has really been challenged over the past few months.
It all started with a pacifier. As L neared 2, I knew it was time to break her of her beloved paci. She was one of the kids who has used it 24/7 pretty much from the day she was born, and even mastered the art of talking with it in her mouth. I originally told myself I would let her use it till she was done with teething, but then the move happened and I couldn’t imagine taking one of her comfort items away from her as her world got turned upside down. But after the move, we had several trips planned and I couldn’t imagine all that time on the road without the one thing that was sure to keep her calm. So 2 turned into 2 ½ and though she wouldn’t put up a fight when her teachers asked her to put it away at school, as soon as I picked her up at the end of the day, the first thing she asked for was “paci?” (or, as she likes to pronounce it, “haci”).
Here is where the experts would lecture me. I am the parent, I should have/could have just taken it away, but I couldn’t decide where the line was between allowing her to be ready for the next stage and me forcing her to move on because it was in her best interest. My indecisiveness meant she got her way, and I eventually got a reprimand from her teacher.
“She doesn’t need it anymore. It’s bad for her teeth,” she told me one afternoon as I picked her up. “I know,” I sighed, but handed her the paci anyway as we walked out, still contemplating what my strategy would be for making this happen.
The next day, she pressed me on the issue again, a little more harshly. “It’s bad for her teeth,” she said in a scolding manner. “None of the other kids in the classroom use one.”
This is where she got me. When she compared L to the other kids in the class, it was hard not to take it as a personal attack on my parenting. I popped the paci out of L’s mouth and carried her out of the school, literally kicking and screaming. I felt angry and judged, and thought it was extremely unfair that she had compared L to the other kids. I was shaking as I dialed JD’s number, then immediately started to cry. He was pissed, and had some choice words for the teacher, stating it was “none of her business.” He wanted to call the school, but I wouldn’t let him. I actually really like this teacher (this incident aside), and I didn’t want to create any tension.
Maybe she did step over the line. Maybe I took it personally when I shouldn’t have. Maybe she could have presented it in a different way. Still, the thing I kept coming back to was this… Right or wrong, I think her intentions were in the right place. Though she was the one to push me in that direction, it was still my instinct telling me she was right (as much as my pride wanted her to be wrong). So, this was a little bit of noise that I chose not to block out, and JD and I finally made a step forward. L still uses the paci at night and in the car (I just couldn’t imagine going cold turkey), but we’ve broken her of it during the day.
Just as we moved past this little bump, we were faced with a new beast- potty training. (Spoiler alert: It hasn’t been going well.) L has shown no interest, and similar to the paci, I didn’t even want to attempt this till we were back from our summer trips. I entered into this phase much more decisively than the paci-weaning, and when she didn’t respond to pull-ups, I stuck her in “big girl underwear” one weekend in an attempt to force the issue. I figured after a few accidents, she might be more motivated to pay attention to when she needed to go. Except that she wasn’t, and unlike a pacifier that you can take away, there’s no way to force a kid to use the potty.
Of course, she is the model of forward progress at school, and has no problem using the potty there, so it shouldn’t have surprised me when I went in for pickup one day and her teacher (yes, the same one) emphatically told me that they were reading “Diapers Aren’t Forever” when I came in. She also made a point to compare her (again) to the kids who were out of pull-ups and fully potty trained.
That was the moment I finally wanted to punch her.
So I took a deep breath and defended myself. My parental gut was telling me we were doing the best we could in this situation, and I wasn’t going to let her tell me how to raise my child. “I know she does great here,” I said, “and we’ve been trying at home. I even took her out of pull-ups one weekend but she kept having accidents.”
“It’s okay if she has accidents,” she interjected.
Another deep breath.
“I know that. We weren’t mad about the accidents, but she won’t tell us when she has to go like she does at school. And even when we proactively put her on the potty, she won’t go.”
She didn’t really have much to say after that, so I think I made my point. L is L. She’s very smart, but stubborn (a personality trait that snuck in from her father). I know she knows when and how to use the potty, but she likes being able to control it and the fact that there’s not much we can do to make her use the potty at home (though bribing her with marshmallows has helped, this is a personality trait that snuck in from me).
I know these things because I’m her parent. I observe her every day. I know because my gut tells me. No expert advice needed.