How We Failed Toilet Training
I don’t know what it’s like in your families, but where I come from it seems as if our value as parents is measured exclusively by how advanced our kids are. It’s all ‘Push them! Push them!’ attitude: ‘Get them to sit up by 3 months!’ ‘Get them to walk by 9 months!’ ‘What?! They are already 2 and can’t read yet? You must be doing something wrong!’ ‘29 years old and not yet a full partner at Techner, Rubin, Shapiro, Slass, and Lazaroff?!’
People won’t say it to my face, but you can feel it, this passive-aggressive communication of ‘Oh, your kids are not toilet trained yet? Well, how old are they? You should do this and this and this. Stay with them at the house for a whole week and train them.’
Here’s the story: my kids are three and a half, and not completely toilet trained. Those who follow us on Instagram see Ben & Adam’s massive obsession with the word poop, but –y’know- we want deeds not words. They refuse to poop in the potty, no matter what we do or say.
I’m tempted to draw out a table for you guys with all of the “potty training tips” I’ve read in all these lovely (straight) parent blogs and magazines and how it turned out for us. But just to make it less dramatic, I’ll point out that we’ve tried the small potty and the extension to the grown-ups potty; we tried the ‘daddy does it!’ method, the bribes, the going without a diaper and encouraging them to go when they need to; We tried to talk, to laugh, to sing about it. We tried books (‘Super Pooper!’), we tried TV shows (‘Look, kids! Elmo poops too!”). All is very cute, but at the ‘moment of truth,’ they announce that they have a poop and that they need a diaper (if they aren’t wearing one) or just hide behind the bathroom door while making it. It feels so close… and yet so far.
When I change their diapers, all I think is ‘how many more diapers will I change for you? Will I change you at your Bar Mitzvah?’
Poop anxiety. It’s a thing, apparently in toddlers. From what I noticed I think there was a moment somewhere a little after they turned two, when we could just follow them around, learn the pre-poop signs and put them on the potty the next time we read those signs. Adam even did it once in the potty, long before they started to be much more aware of what is ‘theirs’ and ‘this is my body’ and everything. But we didn’t follow through with it, probably because we were too busy trying to juggle the mad life that it is raising twins without family around. Or we’re just the imperfect parents who struggle to have a life beyond babies.
But as for ‘poop anxiety’ — I read somewhere that it can rarely be a medical condition; it’s mostly resistance, as if ‘the poop is a part of my body.’ My kids now literally tell me that they are afraid to make poop in the potty and there’s nothing that I can do now besides talk them through the fears, and mostly let them be.
And I blame myself. I should’ve been more consistent a year ago. And it’s so hard to face my extended family’s passive-aggressive criticism (‘when is it going to happen?’ ‘Elle’s daughter is already potty trained and she’s still in-utero,’ etc.) or my mom’s record-winning guilt, “I know that if you dedicate 4 days to this and do it by yourself you’ll make it.”
I often ask myself, am I really lazy? Am I doing enough to make this happen? And the truth is, maybe I am lazy about this – after all, there’re two of them, they’re boys, and I’m a tired man who’s in the first year of his new business, and who loves working out at the gym and wants to have friends. I’m at capacity of projects right now, so in a way I want to leave this responsibility to my kids and their bodies.
And you probably ask where’s my husband in all of this. So… ask Alex, go ahead, ASK him. You want to hear his lunatic answer to my parents’ and friends’ pressures – and to the pressure I apply to myself? “Yan, relax. This is not such a big deal. It’ll happen. We don’t have to rush everything. It’ll come when they’re ready.”
Bar Mitzvah, I tell you!
I keep thinking about my anxieties. My biggest anxiety is a social one (Yes! For some it might sound weird but I’ve been working on it in therapy for years). I remember that shortly after I came to America and worked at MySpace (‘myWHAT?’), Alex once urged me to buy cupcakes for my colleagues and go from cubical to cubical introducing myself and offering a cupcake. The thought of it froze me solid with fear.
It takes me time to get over my own anxiety, and when someone tries to push me into facing them not only doesn’t it help me, it also makes me feel that I’m alone with my fear. Why, then, would I want to push my kids so hard in the face of their own anxieties?
Literally 3 hours after I finished typing this exhausted, depressed post Adam marched up to me and said, “I have a poop.” and then proceeded to hop up on the potty and… make ‘full partner.’ So… there’s that.