What I’ve learned about parenting in my short two-plus-year tenure, is that everything is a phase, and some last longer than others. When my son was still an infant, laying still was a nice phase — he stayed where we put him. But that was replaced by rolling, and we had to be much more careful on the changing table. Then came crawling, which led us to need to put soft cushiony stick-ons on the corners of our furniture. Very quickly he started to climb up on things, and suddenly we needed to move what seemed like the majority of the things we kept in the living room over to the closed spare room. Then came walking and the ability to open doors, which extended the retreat.
As these phases have progressed, it has become clear that usually it would be so much easier from the parents’ perspective to maintain the status quo (with some obvious exceptions — goodbye forever teething, and good riddance to pre-sleep training days). I began to understand the claims I used to get of “I miss my kid at that age” I’d get in the supermarket while desperately trying to support a blobby baby’s neck and head. But at the same time, you can’t go backwards. You want your child to do well, and to support him as he learns. So on you go.
The diaper phase is not one I imagined I’d be sorry to see end. While I’ve gotten more adept at it, changing diapers is gross. And I won’t soon forget the various ill-timed poop-splosions that have interrupted otherwise peaceful mornings, afternoons, and nights. But usually, the diaper does its work and does it well. I’m realizing as I go on walks with my son that I have no idea where the public bathrooms are. It hasn’t been necessary. Meandering along the bike path, gallivanting around Look Park, even walking around in downtown Northampton, if there was a split-second need for a bathroom, I’d be at a loss. And as for the occasional trips we take, we’re happy to have diapers both in the car and when we visit friends’ houses.
But the signs of the phase’s end are there. We do have a potty, and for months now it has sat next to the toilet with a stack of children’s books. We have him sit there occasionally, but we haven’t pressured him to do it too much. But he’s asking to sit there more. A few days ago, he surprised me by actually peeing into it.
Then, just last night as I’m writing this, came the moment that has all but convinced me it’s over and potty training is upon us. Following a challenging evening, I was looking forward to bath time, which he usually likes. But as I lifted him into the tub, he was screaming and flailing, and I had no idea why he didn’t want to get in. A moment later, he began to pee, and my heart sank. The screaming and flailing suddenly made sense. “Did you want to sit on the potty?” I asked. He said yes. I hadn’t understood, and had robbed him of what would have been the first time he had asked to go to the bathroom himself and successfully peed. We moved to the potty and he sat a while trying to pee again unsuccessfully before heading back to do the bath.
But moving on from this early failure, I expect there will rapidly be more and more opportunities to get this right. I told him I’d be better about asking if he wanted to use the potty, and encouraged him to tell me in words that’s what he wanted. Soon that diaper safety net will disappear and we’ll be risking pee in far worse places than a bathtub.
But we’re moving into a new phase, whether I’m ready or not.
Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at email@example.com.