A Letter to Penny: Potty Training

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Dear Penny,

Of all the things that parenting requires it was sleep and potty training that I was most scarred by when it came to raising your older sister through babyhood.  So, naturally, when we found out we were welcoming a second baby, you, into our family I experienced some pretty serious stress in relation to those two issues.  My sleep stress was healed upon our first night together, you slept all night, 8pm – 9 am!  I was so overjoyed, relieved, and immediately grateful. What’s even better, you’ve always enjoyed excellent sleep habits even if you did go through patches that weren’t as ideal, particularly when teething.  Praise Jesus and thank you Penny!

My next stressor, potty training, nagged at the edges of my brain increasingly as you grew.  I pondered “potty day” all of your babyhood but really started seriously considering starting to teach you some time around 15 months.  It was at that age you also started showing some interest.  You’re so smart and teachable so I figured you’d be likely to pick it up fast but I couldn’t make myself take the plunge for fear of frustrating our otherwise very peaceful and pleasant relationship and risk getting angry or frustrated with you in the process.  So, I opted to teach you the particulars while still allowing you to wear a diaper.  Whenever you wanted to go I would do my best to embrace your request and sit you on the potty, even if nothing happened half the time.

Every now and then I would get tired of in-between potty business and would set aside a day to really focus on teaching you.  My first day of this lasted a day and a half before I felt myself getting too frustrated to keep trudging ahead. Even though I knew you were really making some great connections… this mom can only handle so much pee on the floor.

I gave it a rest for several weeks and when I grew motivated enough to give it another try I blocked out the day for another potty training experience but miffed it completely in putting a diaper on you to go to the farmers market.  When we got home again I took the diaper off and you proceeded to pee all over for the next 30 minutes.  I got upset and you got upset.  I looked at you standing there with this look of sad bewilderment on your face and knew it would be best to call it.

This last time around we looked really great!  Again I took a break for several weeks, waiting for my next burst of inspiration.  I kept putting you on the potty at your request which was also becoming more successful, especially for poops.

For this round of “potty bootcamp” as I like to call it, I blocked out two days and really told myself to commit to lots of patience, to embrace the accidents as the learning experience they can be with the right attitude, and to really focus on learning your signals and teaching you how to recognize them.

Day 1 you held your pee pretty much all day.  You did not make it on the potty once, peed in your diaper during your nap, and only had a couple accidents in all.  You were really agreeable to sitting on the potty and spent plenty of time there, you just didn’t get anything out at the right time.

Day 2 you were a walking accident.  You didn’t make it on the potty all morning or afternoon and had accidents everywhere.  Part way into the afternoon you had a sloppy poop in the living room, at which point I brought two kid potties into the living room to give you another option and make it more obvious and accessible.  Right after setting those potties out you sat three times in a row, stood, then peed nearly right next to it.  That flipped the switch for me and I thought we were done; however, I did give it one more stubborn shot. The next time I new you had to have some pee in you I sat you on the potty, gave you some books, and firmly told you to sit down and wait until some pee came out.  Well your next move floored me because I really didn’t think you’d actually do it, I thought I’d end up throwing in the towel again by the end of the day due to sheer frustration.  But no, you took my frustration, lessons, and my ultimatum to heart and took only seconds on the potty before you got some pee out.  I freaked with excitement and in a burst of inspiration gave you an M&M for a reward.

Now, I have to take a break in my story to have a moment with this M&M reward business.  The Kaia a couple of years ago was fiercely against any kind of “reward system” and, really, I still on the whole don’t think it’s the wisest choice for most teachable moments.  I choose to operate on a Love and Logic mode of parenting – where natural consequences and problem-solving reign supreme.  However, at his juncture of potty training I had this moment of clarity.  What I saw in you Penny is that you were getting frustrated and saddened by this potty experience just as much as I was.  I really didn’t want that for you.  In putting you on the potty that “last” time I felt hopeless you’d actually go but knew that if you did I had an M&M waiting for you in hopes that it not only would make you feel good about your accomplishment, but that it would rekindle your excitement to want to potty train.  I’m so thankful I took a moment to go with my gut even though the concept of a reward wasn’t my favorite thing in the world because you took flight after that.  In that moment you saw the potty as the means to bigger and better things, both the experience of getting to wipe and flush (your favorite things) but to enjoy the sheer excitement I exhibit at each successful potty moment and the treat that comes after.

I know the treats won’t last forever and I’m ok with being flexible with that.  What I know right now is that those two changes, giving you a little potty in the living room and a treat after successful sit downs turned the corner for you.

Day three I photographed a wedding all day so your daddy was on potty duty and said you got it on the potty a couple times.

Day four, you went twice on the potty before church.  I took the risk taking you to church in your underwear and you refused to go on the big public potty so eventually you had an accident in Kidzworks and I felt helpless and ashamed at being the mom who’s kid peed in public.  I started shaming myself into thinking how foolish I was for attempting this potty thing.  I easily owned the title of “inept potty trainer” even before that moment.  Truthfully, I felt like a complete failure and potty idiot, like I had no idea what I was doing.  Then we got home and you proceeded to pee only on the potty all day long!  Each time you proudly watched me dump the contents into the big potty, wiped yourself thoroughly, and excitedly flushed the toilet.  I always had to remind you to come back and wash your hands because after the flush you were just too excited to retrieve your treat reward.  And, of course, the treat came just after I got you to wash your hands.  The smile on your face every time you go through all the motions of potty training now make my heart smile.  You smile so proud from the moment you pee in the potty all the way through the wiping and cleaning routine.

We are now nearly two weeks out of day time diapers.  The trend of potty awesomeness has continued.  I’ve learned that potty training is best viewed as a journey, not a script to follow verbatim.  These days you still run around half naked because I’m still working on teaching you how to pull underwear on and off and budget enough time to get to the potty to do so and you wear a diaper for naps and bed time for now, but you don’t ask for a treat after every visit on the potty and I’ve found that I can get you to go pee on the big public potty by offering you an M&M (which I simply keep in a small jar in my purse at all times for such times) as a part of the deal.   I know that we still have a ways to go before you’re completely independent with this potty thing but I also know I’m really ok with with that. The heavy lifting is done!  Now it’s just a matter of teaching particulars like night time dryness and manipulating pants.

Today I feel capable and like we are doing this thing well and with joy.  Today I feel like I know what I’m doing.  Today I feel like I can do this.  Today I feel like this potty training experience will leave me feeling capable and smart.  Today I feel proud of both you and me, but mostly you.

Got get ’em girl!  You rock!

Love,
Mommy

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A Letter to Penny: The End of Breastfeeding

-written April 6, 2018

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Dear Penny,

Weaning you has been bittersweet. I truly wanted to take you past two like I did your sister. And though I’ve only nursed you three times total in the last two weeks, the past couple days you’ve asked persistently after your nap, growing increasingly desperate with each ask. Alternative milk is not pacifying you either like it has other times you’ve asked. It breaks my heart because a small part of me wants to give in, the part that loves you so and wants to give you that comfort and nourishment, but the much more dominating pregnant part of me is so fiercely averse to nursing that I stand my ground firmly and just hold you tight whispering sweet things in your ear intead. I not only want a break from breastfeeding for the first time in almost four years, but the sensation of nursing while pregnant is so uncomfortable it makes me cringe inwardly and sometimes outwardly. I wish I would will myself to be that much more selfless to give you what you request as long as you want, but I’m too tired and tapped out. I’m so sorry. I pray we get through this last weaning hurdle smoothly and quickly. I’ve been working you down in feedings for months, but cutting you off completely has proven to be a hill you’re willing to cry on perpetually. Please Penny, for both of us, let my loves and hugs and snuggles and alternate options be enough from now on. I hate hurting you by saying no to your request every day.

I love you so much,

Kaia

A Letter to Penny: This Behavior has to Stop

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Dear Penny,

Seriously, you have got to stop all the whining and stubbornness.  I sadly have to say that I am rarely enjoying my time spent with you lately.  It’s all hitting, biting, pulling hair, whining, screaming, and otherwise refusing to do as you’re asked all day.  It’s exhausting, frustrating, and defeating.  I keep waiting for the rainbow at the end of this storm you’re unleashing but it’s been months now and you’re only getting worse by the day.  So what do I do?  I do my best to discipline you with time outs and talking to you about your behavior (as much as I can with a 1.5 year old) and pray that the end of this phase is near.

In these troublesome days I latch so firmly onto the golden memories of your babyhood.  How much I loved resting you on my chest every evening as a newborn and feeling you peacefully pass into sleep.  I was always so amazed at your ability to fall asleep on your own too.  I remember thinking doctors were trying to trick me into revealing I was a mom that let her baby cry herself to sleep when they asked “do you lay your baby down asleep or awake?”  And then I had you and realized some babies really do fall asleep completely on their own!  And then there was just your sunny and peaceful disposition.  You’ve understood me since the moment I caught you and I’ve so wholly understood you.  Perhaps that’s even more why this terror of a stage you’re in is so troubling for me, because I can’t, for the life of me, tap into your brain and engrain these important rules in there in a way that you don’t desire to push mine or Maisy’s buttons anymore and instead desire to be kind and obedient.

Penny, I love you so very much, but please stop this behavior.

With a troubled heart,

Mommy

A Letter to Maisy: The Best Big Sister Ever!

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Dear Maisy,

Ever since I got pregnant with Penny I knew you were going to make a great big sister.  Turns out, you’re the best big sister I’ve ever seen!  Only makes sense coming from a girl so caring and helpful as you.

When you first met Penny all you wanted was to be with us all day and to hold her.  You’ve never thought ill of your little sister and have only ever completely loved her with all the unconditional love a child has to offer (which is more than an adult I often think).

You have so much patience and kindness for your little sister, even when she so doesn’t deserve it.  She’s been on a biting and hitting and hair pulling streak for something like six months now and half the time now you don’t even flinch, you just keep doing what you’re doing.  And even when she does hurt you enough to make you come crying you’re never mad at her, you’re just sad that she was mean to you.  I’m so sorry she treats you this way and I promise it won’t be forever!  I am working on this abusive behavior of hers, it just takes time.

Whenever Penny is upset you’re always the first to try and cheer her up, hug her, or otherwise distract her from whatever is frustrating her.  Today, on our walk, you made up a word game to play with Penny to keep you both occupied.  You’d say a word and then Penny would try and mimic you.  When we got to the big hill you love to run down Penny got so upset, as usual, that she wasn’t allowed to get out of the stroller and run down the hill too, but you didn’t skip a beat, you said “Penny, it’s ok, let’s keep playing our game!”  And you did.

You never hesitate to share with your sister.  For long and longish car rides I always pack snacks to ensure happy bellies and provide a busy activity for the drive.  Often times I give you one granola bar or banana and ask you to share with Penny in order to minimize mess and snack waste.  You never hesitate.  In fact, you often give her some before I even ask you to share.  Sharing is such a hard thing for people, big and small alike, except for you and your dad.  I’m so thankful you inherited this trait from him, it’s truly beautiful.

Penny is fairly independently minded.  She loves to play by herself and generally marches to the beat of her own drum.  That never stops you from winning her over whenever you want to play.  You are so gifted at engaging other kids and have no problem doing what they want to do if it means you get to play with them.  That is so beautiful and giving of you!  And, in knowing that about you, I’m often looking for ways to give you things you hope for whether it’s painting nails time with me, helping me in the kitchen, running down your favorite hill during our daily walk, and giving you a say in our days as much as a I can.  Truthfully, I actually really like giving you deciding power too because it takes some of the decisions off of me!  We’re a perfect team.

Speaking of doing what other kids want to do, one of Penny’s favorite things in our backyard is the baby swing.  She’s always asking to swing and you never hesitate to help her into the swing and push her.

As a big sister myself, I can wholeheartedly say how proud all of this makes me of you because I’ve never seen a big sister so giving and sweet as you.  You care about your sister so much!  You two are so good for each other and I can’t wait to see how your relationship grows.

I love you my sweet girl.  I’m so proud of who you are!  You truly have a heart of gold.

With all my heart,

Mommy

Whoes of Motherhood

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-written August 9, 2017 in the middle of the night so the featured picture is from about a year ago as well 🙂

Motherhood is not glamorous.  These early years are just downright hard in very primal ways.  Like tonight for example.  I’m awake at 11:11pm not by choice.  In fact I’m almost never awake this late by choice any more.  My chosen bed time is around 9:30pm.  No, tonight, Penny is struggling.  My best guess is that she needs to poop (seeing as she’s as regular as it gets and hasn’t passed her daily poop yet today).  I’ve nursed her, checked her diaper, nursed her again, rocked her, put her in the swing, rubbed tummy oils on her belly and sleep oils on her chest and back of the neck.  I’ve rocked her again, I’ve checked her diaper again, I’ve shoved gripe water down her throat (apparently taking medicine is not her thing right now… confusing since typically she downs the stuff like it’s candy), put her in the swing.  And now I’m here, with her crawling all over me trying to at least be productive until whatever is going on with her passes.

And the truth is, that is nothing compared to the every night with Maisy.  She was up every night until she was over two years old.  Sometimes it was to nurse but most of the time it was just to hang out, sometimes for hours, in the middle of the night.

Honestly, I hate this part of the job – the night time wakings and needs.  It makes me very grumpy and tired.  I know there are moms out there who embrace this time better, relishing in extra snuggles and kisses, but this mama just wants to stay in bed!  Who’s with me?

I could put more of a positive spin or ending to this story because the truth is the positive is always right there too.  Motherhood is more inherently beautiful and wonderful than it is challenging and exhausting but sometimes it’s nice to just commiserate in the rough and tough and not always feel like us moms have to say something like “but man, I wouldn’t trade this job for anything in the world” or “but it’s so worth it” at the end of every hard story.