From the front lines of potty training: The Potty Chart

About a month ago, June and I visited the pediatrician who asked where we were with potty training.

“Oh, we boarded that train a long time ago,” I said. “It just hasn’t left the station.”

I told her I began putting June on the potty at around 1 1/2 more to introduce the concept, to show her just how deliriously joyful sitting on a toilet can be. These fun times gathered ’round the commode were accompanied by moving renditions of “Wheels on a Bus,” lots of books and deep mom/daughter chats along the lines of “Mom, my hair hurts,” says June.  ”Mmm-mmm,” I say, looking at my iPhone.

But June is 2 1/2 and I sensed that the pediatrician was trying tell me it’s time to make that train go already. And I’ve wanted to! I really have. After all, June is at the point where she tells me when it’s time to change her diaper. But I couldn’t quite square up how to make it work when June spends a good portion of her days at preschool. Plus, if I’m honest with myself, there was a small part of me that wasn’t quite ready for her leave babyhood behind. Changing diapers, as gross and tedious as it is, is an intimate moment between a parent and a child and once those days are gone, they’re gone forever.

Still, it was time. So when we got home from the pediatrician’s that afternoon, I took the bold, somewhat scary step of removing June’s diaper and letting her run around the house in her Dora underpants. If she had an accident, she had an accident.  It goes without saying that she had an accident. A few of them.

But as the days wore on, she seemed to be getting the hang of it. She enjoyed sitting on the potty by herself, requesting “pwivacy, mom!” when needed. (“Pwivacy” meant shutting the bathroom door half way.)

The pediatrician asked how we’re positively reinforcing the behavior and I told her we give her a bit of chocolate after each successful go.

“You could also try stickers,” the doctor suggested.

I thought that was a better idea since there is something deeply curious about correlating chocolate with poo.

“Why don’t you use a sticker chart?” the doctor asked. “That’s what I did with my kids.”

“Great idea! I love stickers!” I said. “I’ll go buy one right after this session!” No sooner had the words left my mouth did I remember the Consumption Diet. (Foiled again…!)

“Buy one?” The doctor asked. “Why not make one? You can gussy it up with glitter, stars, stickers. Kids love that.”

“Oh yeah,” I said. “Right. Arts and crafts. My favorite.”

Since spending money on a sticker chart wasn’t an option, I had no choice but to take the doctor up on her suggestion. June and I — okay, it was me, it was all me, I admit it — came up with this masterpiece:

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The June Potty Chart.

Please note how it’s delineated into neat hand drawn rows and columns. For every four successful potties, June receives a “special surprise” in the more expansive fifth column, denoted by another sticker. Problem is, I didn’t realize 2 1/2 is still too young to grasp the concept of rows and columns so June’s stickers pretty much landed anywhere, rendering my carefully crafted Potty Chart moot. And the “special surprise” somehow transmogrified to mean 1 peanut, 1 chocolate chip and 1 raisin and has grown to include 1 crayon, 1 nickel and 1 conch after each successful session. There is no logic to these things.

We’ve been using the Potty Chart for over 2 weeks now and as you can see, it’s filling up. Go June!

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Meanwhile, her preschool teacher — independently of me saying anything about it — said she thought June was ready for underpants at Montessori and asked for me to send in a stack of regular underwear and bottoms. Which I was too happy to do as it meant June’s two worlds were finally melding into one and I didn’t have to be responsible for that end of the cleanup.

All in all, the potty training has taken about two weeks. I know she’s got it because she’s “held it” twice so far in the car until we got home; just like her mom! There will probably still be a few accidents here and there, but I’m really proud of her and her staggering nickel, crayon, conch collection.

But I’m a wistful too because it means she’s no longer a baby.

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