One reason my regular posts are sometimes delayed is because I tend to laugh at the total ridiculousness that is my life from time to time. Today’s post is one of those times.
When F was nearing her 2nd birthday, I thought it was time she was potty trained. For a 2-year-old, she had an advanced vocabulary, and she insisted on having her diaper changed the instant she wet it. Naturally, I didn’t think it would be much of a challenge. Silly me. I must have forgotten with whom I was dealing!
Feeling that Pull-ups were just glorified diapers and I wasn’t sure how F would distinguish between the training pants and regular diapers, I bought flowery, cloth training pants and introduced them as “big girl panties.” My plan, like that of many mothers, was to put her in training pants and set her on the toilet every 20-30 minutes, praising her and giving her a reward after going potty in the toilet. Also, if she accidentally wet in cloth panties, unlike the Pull-ups, she would have instantaneous consequences – she and her clothes would be wet. So I bought a truckload of fruity Tootsie Rolls for incentives and rewards and set out to potty train F.
It was nothing short of civil war in our house from the moment we started the potty training plan. F refused to be diaperless. She wanted to wear the pretty panties over her diapers. She wanted the Tootsie Rolls every moment of the day except as an incentive or as a reward for using the potty. She wouldn’t potty while on the toilet: she waited two seconds after getting off the toilet and her panties pulled up to pee all over herself. That girl peed all over every article of clothing she wore for two straight weeks, no matter where we were. The plan was a miserable failure.
Not to be defeated by a two-year-old, I started planning again. While debating whether to give in and use Pull-ups, I came across Pull-ups Cool Alert. The package read that kids would feel a “cooling sensation within seconds of becoming wet to help them learn to stay dry” and the “wetness liner lets kids feel the difference between wet and dry.” After the last week’s lessons, F knows perfectly well the difference between wet and dry, so that was no concern of mine. But the cool alert system had me intrigued. The cooling sensation causing discomfort to move a child from diapers to underware was just aversive conditioning in action – behavior modification (potty training) using an adverse stimulus (cooling sensation) in response to the inappropriate or undesirable behavior (peeing in pants). She would eventually realize to avoid the cooling sensation she would have to use the toilet when she felt the urge. How could I lose?
I bought them. I brought them home. I put them on her. I told her we would try again, but I didn’t tell her about the “cooling sensation.” I wanted that to be a surprise.
Once I had F situated in the living room with her toys and Dora, I set the microwave’s timer for 20 minutes and started doing the dishes. I heard F singing “Dowa, Dowa, Dowa the Esplowaaah! Sumpun, sumpun, adah-oraahhhh,” and right in the middle of her playful toddler banter with Dora, F let out an extended high-pitched, ear-splitting scream and comes running into the kitchen. It wasn’t just any normal pigeon-toed toddler run. With feet placed wide and knees bent, she was pulling on the crotch of her pants as she ran-waddled toward me screaming, “I’m on fi-urrrrr! IIIIIIII’mmm on FIIIIIIIIIII-UUUURRRRRRR! Get it off me! I’m buuurrrrrrning!”
I tried to calm her (while trying not to laugh) as she pranced in place, whimpering and pulling on the crotch of her pants. I explained that she wasn’t burning (“Yes, I am. Yes, I am.” She insisted.) and that what she was feeling was a “cooling sensation” that wasn’t going to hurt her (“Yes, it is. Yes, it is.” She insisted). There wasn’t any talking to her until I took those training pants off of her.
Once I cleaned her up and calmed her down and I explained how the training pants worked, which hindsight being what it is, would have been a good idea at the start, she agreed to try them once more. Because of her vicerally adverse reaction, I had high hopes that the plan would work.
I reset the timer for 20 minutes and went about my day. When the timer went off, I took her to the bathroom where, true to form, she insisted that she didn’t have to go. Five seconds after pulling up her training pants, she asked for a Tootsie Roll because she at least tried to pee. While I was explaining that she’d actually have to pee to get a one, F’s eyes popped open in shock and then, much the same as getting into a bathtub of steaming water, her face slowly melted into resignation and then into acceptance.
She had peed in those training pants. And she liked it!
I was defeated.