Thursday, November 19, 2009

An Unexpected Change

This past weekend Ada and Lila were playing upstairs. Chris and I heard a crashing noise. Chris went up to investigate. As he climbed the stairs he heard Ada say, "Get the grownups!" He found Ada barely holding up her dresser, which was close to completely crashing down on her. (The girls had opened all the drawers at once, so it toppled.) Chris helped Ada to right the dresser, and out of nowhere she told him that she'd peed and pooped in the potty. Chris gave her a high five and then asked about the dresser situation.

Chris related the story to me, and said that SOMEONE had clearly pooped in the potty, he could smell it. (It would be consistent with Ada not to flush. Then again, Lila doesn't always remember either. And I know Lila uses the potty, as it happens routinely at our house. What is it about preschoolers that they like to poop with other people around? I pretty much never go to my friends' houses in order to poop.)

When I went upstairs to put Mira to bed, and Ada told me she'd peed and pooped in the potty. I said "that's great!" and then moved on, figuring from past experience that where Ada is concerned it is not a good idea to over-do on the potty praise. A bit later Ada, Lila and I were drawing at the dining room table. Ada said "I peed and pooped in the potty." I said, "I know!" "how did you know?" "Well, Papa told me, and you told me." We talked about who told whom, tra la la, all very calmly.

Even later, Ada asked to see Chris' ipod, which he'd recently told her she could not play with anymore, until she was a big girl (as evidenced by her peeing and pooping in the potty). He let her play with it.

So what is going on here? How did my non-toilet user turn overnight into a no-problem-I'm-using-it kid? And who STARTS using the potty by pooping in it? Has Ada really turned the corner? I am not proud to admit it, but my first thought was that she is not telling the truth. However, it is not really Ada's M.O. to lie about this (or more specifically, to plot with Lila to pretend that Lila's poop is her own). It goes against the grain of Ada's potty obstinacy, which usually leads her to flatly declare that she is not going to use the potty ("ever", sometimes). And Lila has been talking to her about the potty more of late. (A couple of days before this first toileting, within Ada's earshot, Lila told me that Ada was going to pee and poop in the potty.) So there you go. As shocked as I was, I was forced to admit that we may have had a breakthrough, which may or may not be motivated by Ada's desire to play games on the ipod.

Since this all went down on Sunday, Ada has started to consistently and nonchalantly use the toilet for both urine and bowel movements. On Wednesday morning she declared that she wanted to pee before we left for school, and as I was in the bathroom at the time, she kept up her chatter while doing her business. I had to restrain myself from staring in shock at how nonchalant, how normal Ada was acting about this. She was so comfortable using the toilet that she was talking to me about something completely unrelated, as if she'd been using the toilet like this for years. No biggie, apparently.

Chris and I have been speculating about what caused this change. Besides the ipod, we have a couple of ideas. One is best summed up by a line from a book we recently borrowed from the library: "the princess will use the potty when it pleases the princess." I don't necessarily think that reading this book with Ada caused a change (though she did enjoy the book). But the sentiment, that a kid will use the toilet when (and only when) she wants to, really resonates with our situation. We have endured years of attempts to motivate her potty use, only to find that she'd rather give up all manner of things than get them as rewards for something she was not ready to do.

Then there's the impact of increasing peer pressure. In the past Ada has not really cared that other people know she uses a pull-up. More recently, she has interacted with a new kid who asked about her diaper, and some of her potty-using friends have encouraged her to do so. She seems to care a bit more what other kids think.

And speaking of other kids, we are now on the hook for a big girl party. A couple of months ago Ada went through a several week phase of asking about when she'd be 5. At the time we took the opportunity to offer a half-birthday party. We billed it as something she could do when she was a big girl who peed and pooped in the potty; we would have a party with her friends at which they could watch a movie and eat popcorn and cupcakes. This week Ada asked us about the party. (Another reminder that this kid forgets NOTHING.) So we'll be having a movie, popcorn and cupcake party with Ada and a few of her friends very soon. She's certainly earned it. (speaking of which, for putting up with all this, don't you think I've earned a big girl party with drinks and sushi and my friends?)

So where are we now? Well, at home Ada is peeing and pooping in the potty, with no tricks or bribes, when she feels the need to go. She is comfortable enough with it that if I am around she is happy to have me there, but when I am busy she'll go on her own. She has so far slept without a pull up and stayed dry. (No real shock there, we knew this wasn't a physical issue.) We are working with the teachers at her school to achieve toilet use there as well. (The head teacher is incredibly kind and patient, and I think this made a big impact on Ada's willingness to make a change.) The trick is getting her to feel the same comfort away from home that she feels here. I think that will come, and for now we will continue to use the same hands-off support that we have been using with her. We are not there yet, and I am sure there will be setbacks, but I for one feel a weight has been lifted from my shoulders with such progress on this issue. I also feel really proud of Ada for figuring this one out in her own way. It might not have been my way or on my time line, but she figured it out for herself. 


  1. Hey! That's great news. Go, Ada!

  2. Yay! That book totally did not work for us, but I still always liked it.

    Hope this potty bizness continues.

  3. Yay! That's really great for all of you. I am available for drinks and sushi anytime. I would definitely say you deserve it! : )

  4. Cool. Books are the key or at least I have to think so ; > Party down every one.

  5. My little one would NOT use the toilet at all until we stopped trying. Even now, if I ask her if she needs to go she always says no, but if i leave her alone she's peeing and pooping in there no problem.

  6. Hooray for Ada!

    Admit it: you just opened a Costco-sized box of pull-ups, didn't you? And now you have 87 pull-ups that are completely useless.

    Because I contend that is the one, singular event that causes that potty training switch to activate in children.

    You just never know which box is going to be the magic one.

  7. YAY!!!!

    That's how it was with Nate and pooping. He was a stool holder, would hold it for pullups or swim diapers. I'm talking he would hold it for an entire week. Then one day he said he needed to poop, sat on the potty and was ready to go. Has pooped in the potty every time since then.

    That's the only thing not making me lose my mind with Alex. We've completely backed off and let him constantly wear a pullup at home in case he needs to poop. I'm hoping one day he will just get it.

  8. That's such a great breakthrough! I wonder whether little elf's current constipation issues come from insisting on holding it in?

    2. I volunteer to make Ada's cupcakes. Any kind she wants (unless you want to do it, with your many extra arms). Let me know if/when you need them and I will drop some off.
    3. Yes, you deserve a party. And there should be white elephant gifts. And chocolate.
    4. My mom still celebrates half-birthdays. Always has. She loves a good party. I celebrate days that end in y.

  10. Oh, lumpyheadsmom. You said it.

    Anyone need 87 pull-ups?

    (And WAY TO GO ADA!!)

  11. Peer pressure works? Let's hope that doesn't set a precedent for high school! :)

  12. Michael - this is an example of appropriate peer pressure. At 3, who cares? At 4.5, it is time to care what people think about exclusive pull up use.

  13. congrats to Ada! and to you and Chris for being so wonderfully patient. hope it continues.

    and yes. for MANY reasons you deserve a sushi party.

  14. I am so happy for you. What a great milestone! Congratulations to your big girl, and my love to you and Chris.