One assumes that they came to their current pooping and peeing proficiencies by way of a quick, blip on the map, sort of turnabout. One day you wear diapers, the next day, you are competently dropping a deuce and are innately familiar with how to then clean your opposite-end. This, my friends, is not how it played out at the Chapman house.
Approximately 6 months ago, my Marge pooped on the potty for the first time. Allison and I were ecstatic. We told everyone within shouting distance. High five for being awesome parents.
But, almost immediately, interest waned, and she regressed. I had been told that you should let the kid dictate when they are ready. We did, and then she changed her mind. What gives?
The breaking point, when we decided it had to be time, came a few weeks before Christmas. School was out for a hot minute, so we took the opportunity to stock up on towels and settle into the trenches.
Step 1: Bribes
While frowned upon in the political sector, bribes are inherently the backbone of (initial) good child behavior. No offense, offspring, but in the nature vs. nurture debate, I'm convinced every kid is abiding by a "survival of the fittest" mentality for the first few years at least. Up until the point where a child adopts a God-fearing, empathetic worldview, you had better keep the bribes handy.
So we bought a boatload of M&M's. Factoring in inflation, one poop was now worth 3 M&M's and a pee-pee gets you one candy-coated delight. We also don't say sh*t, crap, or p*ss anymore. It's pee-pee and poo-poo now, which may draw heckles when you are an adult describing why you are ducking out of a long meeting for a restroom visit. The upside to our newfound exchange is that Daddy and Mommy were presented with chocolate for their efforts as well.
Step 2: Assume they are lying
If you wait for a new-to-potty-training 2 year old to tell you that they have to use the bathroom, then it is probably too late. I don't remember wearing diapers, but for someone who loves convenience and keeping the party going, they sure are great - just ask that crazy astronaut lady who drove clear across the country without a bathroom break.
By now, you've had a kid for a while and are used to not having nice things or a pristine house. Your shame died a while back, so go ahead and put the child-sized toilet in the middle of your living space. Then throw them on the thing every thirty minutes. Maggie has a tendency to engross herself into lengthy imaginative scenarios and...well...poop happens. A few lapses in judgement ultimately cost us a rug.
Step 3: Increase the bribes
We had successes and we had failures, but one can only consume so many M&Ms without encouraging the early onset of diabetes. With a less-than-perfect track record after a few days, we decided the reward system needed a reshuffle. In doing so, we established an ongoing balance that tabulated wins and losses. The gold at the end of the rainbow, however, was far superior to a snack. This started to work.
Peer pressure, while not something I welcome for my eventual teenagers, was also useful in getting us closer to the finish line. Maggie's friends were starting to use the potty at school as well and the older kids - well they were just the coolest. Even Mom and Dad had newfound street cred for their complete mastery over their collective bowels.
Step 4: Head out into the world
When you start out on the rocky road to bowel control, one tends to forget that the world is not your house. There isn't a mini plastic toilet 20 feet away in one's actual day to day experience...especially if you are a dude and have girls. So, a victory within the walls of Chapman estate was a small one. It was time to leave our cave. After all, we had productive Saturdays and family gatherings to attend to.
If we were loading up to go anywhere more than a few miles, an awkward pep-talk and some mandatory sitting ensued. After all, you never know what type of facilities you could end up getting stuck with. If there was any doubt, we weren't afraid to cheat and throw on a diaper.
I do remember our early road trips as lovers, when Allison would need to visit the facilities. Suddenly, the quality of the gas station bathroom was a legit consideration. A lady of class does not embrace the "hover" method. Now, with your two year old girl, the analysis was magnified - made even worse if you don't have your female counterpart. There was a legit moment of panic the first time I thought about taking my firstborn into any gas station men's restroom between here and Atlanta.
Step 5: The finish line
My Marge is now officially a big girl. It's fun to think back on some of the more chaotic moments where Allison and I were literally sprinting across the house trying to stop an emergency, or trying to restrain our gag reflex (mostly me). Every now and then, I start to forget about the whole process...then I find an unflushed present from my daughter hanging out in the bathroom.