Undeniably, a person changes with the arrival of a baby. Typically, we become less willing to engage in risk-taking behaviour; our daily concerns alter to focus on bowel movements (colour and frequency); we become fixated on eating habits and sleep routines. As we struggle to maintain a sense of self, especially in those early days, our interests change and so too, do our conversations (conducted with the few adults we may interact with in our day, or simply to our self, or to baby). From the very first greenish-black baby poo, toileting habits are discussed freely, and almost with interest. Change necessary to care for this new little wonder that has already altered our world so drastically. Most especially, in our capacity for love.
Arguably, we experience such change again (or at least a heightened enthusiasm for bowel movements) with the advent of toilet-training. For me, this is hands-down my least favourite part of parenting – Much like ironing in my long list of domestic chores (and unlike ironing because I cannot avoid the activity altogether by purchasing crinkle-free shirts). There are several reasons why I loathe toilet-training. Here are just a few.
Mess aside. Irrespective of a toddler’s strong-will. At times, the whole experience makes me feel like a woman possessed. Not only is the potential to obsess great, but, so too, is the temptation to carry the potty as a security blanket (even to the most inappropriate of locations).
Essentially, I loathe the experience because of the person I threaten to become. Recently, my neighbour even commented on my new accessory – ‘Some people carry a handbag, you carry a potty.’ As I followed our bare-bottomed two-year-old around the backyard, much like a circus act repositioning a soft landing for a performer diving from great heights, I had to admit; it wouldn’t hurt to relax.
And as soon as I did? Oh the joy!
All of a sudden, I didn’t mind going to the bathroom some six times while out at lunch (though the other patrons may not have been thrilled); I was ok with the deferral of bedtime due to our toddler demanding to ‘wee on potty’ (which turned out to be so, so much more! – rewarded with well-deserved dinosaur stickers, of course); and I relished the extra time spent with Little Miss, toiling in the garden (the potty close at hand).
I have learnt to listen and not pester. To give time and space. To casually ask the question and accept the often decisive response. Turns out, I simply needed to tune in to my daughter and her needs. Now, we work as a team. We make little fuss over accidents and celebrate ‘potty success’ as if it were some great athletic feat.
As I navigate this aspect of parenting (with our third and final child), I realise that just like parenting itself, in which there is a frequent need to reflect; we are all in a constant state of learning. Even as parents – perhaps, most especially as parents – we are all simply ‘in training.’