When little A was born there was a distance in her eyes, as if she were too wise for this mortal world. At the time I literally thought she was judging me and my commonplace stupidity in my humble and boring day to day life.
When A was 9 months old I found her to be the most advanced baby I had ever met. She couldn’t walk and talk like her fellow baby comrades, but her focus was incredible. “She has been building blocks for 45 minutes straight! That’s incredible,” my mommy bestie would say. A would help herself through the cardboard pages of her baby books inspired by great works of literature, and when each page of each book would be analyzed thoroughly she would open them up again, and start over.
It was no surprise to me that at eighteen months old, my incredibly intelligent daughter could easily take herself to the toilet when she needed to poop. Potty Training was perhaps the one task I had feared the most as a mother with a close second of teaching her to read, but this was going to be a breeze.
The excitement of this lasted a few weeks, and then she decided she was no longer interested in going to the restroom. It was more work to have to get up from our activities to go potty and much easier to just have mom change our diaper when there was a break in activity. I cried to my grandmother who said, “Well she won’t go to school in Diapers.”
We moved houses just before she turned two and any trace of the positive habit she had possessed a couple of months before was forgotten, to be revisited when she was a bit older. I was pregnant and the pediatrician suggested strongly that I wait until after I had baby to try again, reminding me of course, “she won’t go to school in diapers.”
A month or two later a putrid smell took over the house as I worked on my writing downstairs during L’il A’s nap time. I sniffed, my second trimester nausea growing more intense the closer I came to A’s room. There she stood covered from head to toe in her own poop. Her bed was covered, her walls were covered, her toys were covered, it was like something out of a nightmare. For A this became a daily nap time ritual for months, while I tried to fight it through tears, through screams, “shit is not paint”, through negotiations and bribes, or just simply repeating myself, “why, why, why?!”
But she never spoke. And I cried to my mother who could only really offer, “she won’t go to school in diapers.”
Once Baby K was part of the daily routine my nanny and I decided to tag team to potty train A. We tried charts and stickers. We tried “naked weekends”, or forcing her to live in panties. I even tried to explaining to her that in order to do fun things with her friends like art or dance class, that she had to use the potty. “They won’t let you in school wearing a diaper.”
The problem though was A did not care. She had no interest in the stickers, or the charts. Her Legos were better company than her friends at the best of times. It didn’t bother her when she peed on the carpets or her pants. In fact, she would sit and play with blocks unfazed as you’d walk in to find her sitting in her own puddle of pee. She didn’t care, just flat out did not care.
Younger moms would typically shake their heads, you need to talk to your doctor, there’s something wrong with her. While older ones like to remind me that she just simply wasn’t ready, don’t worry they’d say, “she won’t go to school in diapers.”
My self-hatred grew and I gave up on potty training altogether. Short of the occasional, “if you can go one week without an accident I’ll buy you Elena panties” conversation in Target, there was nothing more I could do.
For the sake of my sanity, our relationship, and her survival the power struggle needed to end and it was time that I raise my white flag in defeat. I had taught her how to use the potty. I knew she understood the signals, and that she knew the location of and how to use a toilet. We moved again to Orlando where we lived in a rental before finding a home. I had other things to worry about, other kids to care for, and I was assured she wouldn’t go to school in diapers.
Months went by; I don’t really know how many because I had truly stopped counting.
Then suddenly I noticed a day or two had gone by without an accident, but I dare not say a thing for jinxing it. And then three, then five. I never spoke to her, never rewarded her, for fear the pressure would return. About a month of no accidents she requested not to wear a diaper to bed, which I agreed to.
The next morning her bed was wet, but I said nothing. I washed her sheets and made it again. And again that night she requested no diaper, and again that morning her bed was wet. This went on for five days.
Finally, on the sixth day, she asked not to wear a diaper and I decided to finally speak, “okay, but only if you don’t wet the bed. If you wet the bed that just might mean you need a bit more practice and we will just have to wear diapers at night for a little while longer.”
She was almost five and for the first time in her life she said, “But I don’t want to wear a diaper.” I wanted to cry, I wanted to laugh, I was so incredibly elated. This weight that I didn’t even realize had still been holding me down was lifted. It has been nearly six months since that conversation and she hasn’t had one single accident.
It took years, and I look back at “early mom” me and wish I could tell myself with great earnest, “don’t stress, she will come to her own terms, she will not go to school in diapers.”