Baby Talk: Let freedom ring

The diapers are coming off this holiday.

baby talk new 88 (photo credit: )
baby talk new 88
(photo credit: )
I am walking on air and nothing can get me down. Not Pessah cleaning until the wee hours of the night (even though I spent over NIS 500 to have an inept team do it for me). Who cares! Not an increased work load here at The Jerusalem Post and half the time to do it. Ach! No problem. I'm as happy as a lark. No one can rain on my parade. For after 38 months and a few days (but who's counting?), the almost unimaginable happened: Ya'ir has begun releasing his bodily fluids in the toilet. It has been a quiet source of embarrassment this past year that Ya'ir has staunchly refused to participate in our half-hearted efforts towards potty training. One by one, members of his cohort have packed away their diapers and put on "big boy" underwear. Friends who had children even slightly after Ya'ir was born have weaned their kids off nappies a year ago. And well-meaning aunts have regaled me with stories of their precocious poopers who were dry by eight months, always ending the anecdote by, "But that was, of course, during the era of cloth diapers. Nowadays kids don't even know if they're wet with all the new technology." Possibly, or at least they can get away with lying about it more convincingly. That is, of course, until a suspicious noxious odor starts wafting from the sweetie's direction. Then the options boil down to a) a wild animal crawled into his diaper, died and is rotting or b) he has made kaki. Until recently, according to a solemnly straight-faced Ya'ir, the correct answer was a firm "A." Because Ya'ir must be dry by the time he starts the municipal pre-school in September, more than social pressure was mounting. With only half a year to get my little boy from total body waste denial to taking charge of his personal hygiene, I was beginning to panic. My husband and I decided that this Pessah break was the obvious time to give Ya'ir a big push. We planned it so when we got back from the family wedding of the century last Friday afternoon we'd take off Ya'ir's diaper for good. Using Israeli-based child psychiatrist Dr. Alan Flashman's advice, I began the process much earlier by simply speaking with Ya'ir. The Beersheba-area practitioner warned me that the later potty training begins, the more sophisticated it has to be. Since at three Ya'ir can easily differentiate between behaviors that make him feel "big" and "small," the idea was to emphasize how urinating and defecating on the toilet or potty is a big boy behavior, and therefore desirable. Flashman suggests having a conversation, then waiting a few days to see how it has sunk in. He says to speak to "the guy who feels big," saying for example, "You know, right now you're making in the diaper and it doesn't make you feel big, it makes you feel small. Did you know, Ya'ir, that making on the potty will make you feel big?" Flashman cautions that I need to help Ya'ir find his own way and give him time to create developmental ownership. Ya'ir and I had these motivational discussions on and off over the past month. And before we set off to the wedding on Thursday afternoon, I told Ya'ir that when we get back to Jerusalem on Friday, we'd say bye-bye to the diaper. (Besides which, I armed myself with marshmallows, a huge bag of balloons and a big tool set to be parceled out with every successful attempt.) He seemed receptive and even initiated urinating in the toilet after the wedding before getting into the shower. The Good Ship Potty had left its dock. And then, Friday morning, there was an unexpected wrinkle in our plans: apparently Ya'ir consumed something that didn't agree with him at the wedding and he came down with a stomach ailment that caused him to uncontrollably vomit and make diarrhea. But since the INS Potty was already sailing the great sewage sea, and since we'd already waited these long 38 months and - more importantly - since Ya'ir was expecting it, we stayed the course and took off the diaper as soon as we got home. (Poor Ya'ir got good practice emptying his bowels on the side of the road in that two-hour-long ride home after we all realized that the diaper was ineffective in capturing his load and he agreed that it was best to make without it.) The rest of Friday was messy and exhilarating in turns, with Ya'ir succeeding at times and missing others. On Saturday, however, things turned for the better and Ya'ir was able to produce almost all his needs on the potty or toilet. What pure joy! What pride! My big boy! We danced and sang and kissed and hugged. And Ya'ir lived off the attention and marshmallows. We phoned the entire family and let Ya'ir spread the good tidings. He is visibly proud of himself after every success and saddened by every failure. Like most first-timers, Ya'ir is not yet able to tell us ever time he needs to use the facilities. (And when he sleeps, we use fancy pull-up diapers that even have a wetness meter that shows how much urine he has produced.) After he has an accident, I try to stay nonchalant and say things along the lines of, "That's okay. Next time you need to tell me before you make pee-pee or kaki." Flashman suggests staying on the "big boy" theme and saying, "Well, we're going to have to think again how to be big." I've created a variation on that theme and am pointing out to him that when he gets back to daycare, he will join the select group of bigger cool kids who don't use diapers. That thought seems to be very motivating. This past week has been a proverbial drop in the ocean, but though it may seem trivial, I cannot help but be thankful during this Pessah's festival of freedom that one of my three is on his way of being clear of diapers. "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" The writer is the mother of twin toddlers and a three-year-old in potty training. Any advice is appreciated.