As parents we live with expectations. There is expectation while waiting for children to arrive. There is the expectation placed on parents through family, friends and acquaintances in every aspect of parenting from birth to . . . well, I guess everything. Expectation comes from our hope to either replicate our childhood or to never do anything like our parents. Expectation can also be imposed through the myriad of parenting books, magazines and on-line posts. Within the context of some of those expectations – real and imagined– I have tried to find my way.
The most recent expectation that vexed me was potty training. I will lay out all the actors in what I will call my own personal docudrama. First is my son, the subject of our story. He recently turned four and for at least six to eight months prior to his birthday we were actively potty training. He, well aware of our intent, had a different agenda.
His favorite way to confound us was to disappear to some hidden place in our house or wherever we happened to be when the need arose. He would be playing, having fun and then suddenly he was gone. When we found him he would look up at us and say – in the same voice as the girl in Poltergeist said “there here” – “I poooooooped!” My response to this was usually something along the lines of “Ugh!” clasping my hands to my head in frustration.
I am the next character. I am the person waiting for an elevator to come who pushes the button a hundred times thinking it makes it come faster. I want this done now. I know I need to be patient. We had gone through this with our daughter, but she seemed to be much easier. This was reinforced by many people who told me, “girls are much easier with potty training”. Thank you for the help!
We tried Cheerios in the potty; he had no interest. We tried rewards; they had limited success. Stickers were another attempt: that lasted for a while and then he forgot. I tried the lure of peeing with dad at the same time: not much of a motivator. Add to this mix two other characters: my parents. These two people have the best of intents when they ask: “Is Noah potty trained, yet?” or “what is taking so long?” but it sure doesn’t help. And how am I supposed to challenge them? I don’t think they really remember potty training; in fact I am certain most parents don’t.
Like most things that are difficult, that memory is forgotten once the task is accomplished.
I have considered some of the methods used in training our puppy. She learned after a short time to wait at the door to go outside. It can’t be much different, right?
Our final character is our heroine, my wife. She told me that “these things take time” and “he will get it when he wants to”. Not the best advice for a guy whose parents are abusing him about his failed parenting and who thinks this should come much faster. But because she is dealing with this on a day-to-day basis she knows best.
Ultimately her patience has paid off and he is – for the most part – now trained. I have learned, once again, that the greatest expectation in parenting is patience and a willingness to work with your child’s own timetable.