Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Once Upon a Potty Training (My Nanny Diary)

Potty Seats
Having children sit on the potty either directly or on a seat that’s a little smaller, perhaps padded, and maybe with some fun fictitious friends on it in primary colors, seems to make the most sense to me.  A potty chair that has to be emptied and cleaned every time which sits next to a real toilet doesn’t seem like a good solution in my book, because the kid’s going to know that the toilet can be flushed and the lid opened, so toys and books, jewelry, pets, etc. would likely end up in there, especially if that’s not where their pee and poop went directly.  Who knows?  I may very well change my mind when it comes to spending several blocks of time each day potty training two or more children at the same time. 


I must emphasize the importance of showing any visitors, nannies, childcare providers, babysitters from up the street how to use any and all toilet cover locks.  I was really in a state of panic one day when both toilets had been fitted with new locks I was having trouble figuring out how to operate, while eyeing the bathtub with dismay.  I did manage eventually to determine how the swing/lever contraption thing worked before I had to resort to desperate measures.


At daycare centers and schools, they often have tiny potties which are low to the ground, have smaller seats, and well, smaller everything.  I can’t tell you how much worse it is to clean up an overflowing toddler toilet(s).  There are often two little toilets in one bathroom.  When they both are overflowing, it traditionally means one staff person will have the privilege of spending the next 20+ minutes cleaning up the bathroom (while going through one or more pairs of gloves) after the ridiculously small pipes have been plunged and the ridiculously large poop (for such a little person) is dislodged.    


My mom tells me that the first time she brought out a potty chair and tried to explain to me how to use it, that I was a bit young.  She gave me a brief tutorial, then she went into the kitchen.  I came out before long with the bowl from the potty chair (which was still empty and dry) and asked her for “Green beans?” my favorite vegetable at that time.  She wisely discerned I wasn’t quite ready to use the toilet. 

Princess Panties 

The two funniest communications I’ve received recently from a parent regarding misplaced items have come to me via text message.  One was to ask if I knew the whereabouts of a pile of princess underwear and the other one was to inquire where I had last seen the pink kitty.  Don't get me wrong, these were both totally legit questions, I just found it amusing to get texts messages asking me about princess panties and pink kitty whereabouts.  I knew the answer to both questions, but the pile of princess panties took longer to find because someone else had moved it from where I had set it.  The pink kitty was found without my further involvement.  (I knew it had made it up into her bedroom at naptime and hadn’t come back down.) 
Across the 20+ years since I first began babysitting, I’ve gotten all sorts of strange urgent calls from parents seeking something essential for their child’s peace of mind (or their own).  Sometimes, a parent might call me later that evening or perhaps over the weekend to inquire about the location of a certain item.  Frantic calls around bedtime to see if I know where they can locate the one and only soft, cuddly thing a child will deign to fall asleep clutching aren’t uncommon.  Missing blankets, books, toys, bottle tops, shoes, socks, hats, Gladware containers…some or all of which have been sources of anxiety for certain mothers (and therefore causes of stress for me) who itemize everything and/or inventory a few things every single day— once in the morning and once at night.  I’m talking about some mothers doing this—not me!    

Can you spare a square?

Since things are generally pretty hectic keeping up with the twins, the times are few and far between when I can spend an extended period of time with their older sister in the bathroom without one of them getting into trouble.  They make a beeline for the bathroom whenever the door is open.  They want to crawl on the stool their sister uses, hang on her, etc.    
I have only had a limited number of toilet paper tutorials with her thus far, and at this point, my main goal is to get her to pee in the potty instead of on the carpet in the living room, the bathroom floor…so I’m not quite as concerned about her toilet paper consumption provided the toilet flushes without a problem.
When I’ve been present for when she’s ready to wipe off, she’s often taken a single square of toilet paper.  I’m not sure what has led her to believe that this will be sufficient; it could be that when she has used flushable wipes, we have her use one, but I’m not sure.  Naturally, I’m led to think of the Seinfeld episode where a woman is asked if she can “spare a square?
I don’t want her to use half a roll or just one square.  I figure four squares are about how many would be reasonable for a little person still learning proper top-to-bottom wiping technique.  Lately, when I’ve come in to turn the water on so she can wash her hands (she’s not quite tall enough yet with her present plastic stool to reach the handles herself), I’ve noticed a trail of toilet paper on the floor.  It’s unused, which is good, I suppose, but I’m not sure if she uses the one square then pulls out some more to dump on the floor or what.  Maybe when the girls are both napping, and I’m not cleaning up from one of our three to four meals during the day, I’ll witness the whole process and provide helpful insight into the number of squares of TP to use. 

Tricks of the Trade That Have Worked for a Time:

Telling the toddler: “It’s your turn!” to use the potty right after I’ve gone can sometimes make it a smoother transition.
For a while during the earlier stages of potty training, she could be persuaded and encouraged that I would put a smiley face sticker on her chart for each time she sat on the potty without having a knock-down/drag-out fit.  Sitting on potty post knock-down/drag-out made me frown, and depending on the level and decibel of the drama might also cause her sisters to fuss, so there would be no sticker.
I once would resort to singing what can very easily become an annoying song to the tune of the of the Peanut Butter Jelly Time song, but we’ve veered out of that level of desperation at least in terms of songs to sing incessantly while on the toilet or in the bathroom. 
I flip on the light on in the bathroom and let her know it’s her turn and close the door so her sisters aren’t in there taking a header into the toilet, playing with the trash, etc. 
Tune in again to read more about potty training and other adventures in the wonderful world of nannying. 
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