Parenting Lessons in the Potty and Pool

Content notice: Potty training, poop. This post will confirm every stereotype you’ve ever heard about people becoming parents and talking about their child’s elimination to anyone who will listen. 

Last January we potty trained our son, who was almost 3.5 years old at the time. He was one of those stubborn kids you hear about who did NOT want to poop in the toilet. He knew how to pee in the toilet for many many months before we trained him, having figured that part out for himself. But for some reason pooping in the toilet was terrifying for him.

When he was 18 months old, he pooped on the potty for the first time. Naturally we lavished him with praise, but he looked so horrified at what he had done that he refused to go near the potty again for almost another year and a half.

I could tell that he looked frightened, but I didn’t know why. Then I learned (I forget who told me) that at his age, kids didn’t understand that poop isn’t really a part of themselves. The idea of letting go of and flushing a part of themselves can be very scary for them.

Intellectually I understood this, but I couldn’t really relate. I just kinda went with it, but I didn’t personally remember how it felt to have that fear.

So there we were, waiting for a stubborn (frightened?) kid to decide he was ready to try pooping on the toilet again. So we waited….and waited…and waited….and then one day when he was almost 3.5 years old, I received a text message while I was at work from his babysitter: “he just told me ‘I’m gonna use my diaper forever!’ LMAO!” And I said “that’s it; we’re potty training him this weekend.

We told him that as soon as the current box of diapers ran out, we weren’t going to buy any more diapers. That weekend we stayed home and did lots of time with pants off.  I knew he had no problems peeing in the toilet, but since he was scared to poop, we rewarded poops with lollipops.

It turned out to be remarkably easy to train him. He only had two accidents the entire weekend, and both of them were on his way to the bathroom. But he started holding his poop and becoming constipated.

He still had the fear of letting his poop go. We made sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables and oats and lentils in his diet. But it took several weeks before he was comfortable pooping in the toilet regularly. And then it took several more months before he was comfortable pooping in the toilet anywhere other than our home. He would hold his poop all day long. His babysitter would try to get him to poop in her bathroom or in public bathrooms. He obstinately told her “No; I poop at MY house.”

I laughed and shook my head at all these stories and his reticence to poop.

And now, in my swim practice, I think I actually understand it. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna talk about pooping in the pool. I’m gonna talk about flip turns.

I know how to do flip turns. I know it is the fastest way to turn when doing freestyle laps, allowing you to cover more distance in less time.

But I still don’t like doing them. I feel nervous as I approach the wall. I’m still not confident in how to adjust my breathing pattern in anticipation of the turn. I don’t like the sensation of not being able to breathe for a few seconds longer than normal.  So even though I know how to do flip turns and I know they are faster, I usually only do a few in any given swim. Maybe as I get more used to them, I will do more and more flip turns.

And I thought to myself “this must be how my kid felt about pooping on the toilet. He knew what to do, but it still felt weird and he didn’t like it.”

Yes, swimming does give me a lot of time to ruminate on things like this. I feel like I understand my kid a bit better.

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