I’ve been quiet, but life hasn’t. Returning from some back-to-back conferences, I dive into our latest round of potty training my 10-year-old son, who confounds us by being successfully able to stay dry at school but not at home. You can imagine that by now, we’ve tried nearly everything. Quitting diapers cold turkey, sitting on the toilet every five/10/30/60 minutes, sitting on the toilet until he goes, sitting only when he asks, rewarding him when he sits on the toilet, rewarding him when he goes, rewarding him when he stays dry—stickers, M&Ms, iPad time—as if we’re one ingenious bribe away from getting this to work, potty books, social stories, pretending to ignore it completely.
We’ve received advice from countless experts: behaviorists, toileting clinicians, gastro-intestinal specialists, neurologists, developmental specialists, pediatricians, other parents, teachers, day care providers, nurses, grandmothers. It’s not like we’re trying to solve world hunger, but it’s a complex problem to us. Our school says that he’s the most complicated toileting case they’ve ever worked with.
Every few months we pump ourselves up for a renewed effort, one that requires patience, detachment and strong legs to make the trips up and down the stairs to the washing machine. This latest effort started yesterday. We’re trying something new this time, getting help from the behaviorists at school who have agreed to come to our house after school through bedtime to help us do what is working successfully for them. Less than 24 hours later, we’ve had major success—bringing him to the bathroom an hour after he fell asleep actually worked—and a morning filled with tantrums, flopping, crying, refusals to sit on the toilet, and refusals to walk to the bathroom. After my husband lifted our son from the breakfast table to take him to the bathroom, my daughter welled up in tears and said, “That doesn’t seem like a very nice way to treat a child.” Ouch. And with that, I remember every other time we’ve stopped trying.
Sitting down to write today, I wondered the point of today’s post would be. I like to have an insight, a solution, a resolution. But today there is none. There’s lots of ambiguity—can he really do this? Can we?
I’m getting used to this ambiguity. Often special needs parenting (and living in general, as you all insightfully point out) is about learning to thrive in that in-between feeling—being clear about what you want, having faith that you’ll get there, but not being attached to getting there. It’s like floating. I let go of the shore, on my back looking up at the sky, not getting too caught up going in any particular direction, occasionally paddling my feet to steer me in the generally right way, but not so much that I get a cramp. Just being. Just floating. Just appreciating being wet.
Do you float? How? When?