Thursday, March 17, 2011

Should I be freaking out right now?

Like many moms, I've been through my share of "freak-out moments" when I am absolutely, positively convinced that something is horribly terribly wrong with my child, or even worse, wrong with ME for not teaching my kid to do or not do whatever milestone we're supposed to be on right now. I was set up for this obsession by giving birth to a premature child, and I was warned early on that she would experience delays in direct proportion to the time in the womb that she missed out on.

I used to be right there with the milestone charts... I tracked my daughter's progress from her first weeks until her 3rd birthday with meticulous detail, as I'd been reassured that by three years old she would be all caught up with "typical" children. By typical they mean the babies that got to bake in the oven the full 40 weeks, instead of busting out at 34.5 weeks and messing everything up. In the grand scheme of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, however, this was easy-- sure, there were some tears on the day I was released from the hospital to go home WITHOUT A BABY, and several weeks of driving back and forth from Lawrence to KCMO to be with her as much as possible. But there were parents at St. Luke's whose babies were in the NICU for MONTHS. Months!! When the time came, I gratefully took my daughter and her 5 weeks of "delay" and tiptoed away from that place, brandishing hand sanitizer at anyone who approached us and clutching my tiny bundle of joy tightly to my chest.

She followed a predictable course of development in all areas except for walking which she did at 22 months. I admit, my cool confidence that everything was fine wavered slightly during this time. (For those of you who remember me having the community child development center on speed-dial and harassing them daily about my daughter's refusal/failure to walk, shaddup.)

I've continued to monitor her progress, but with less and less worry about when things are happening, and I've sort of reached an understanding with the childhood milestone gods. I will assume that everything is fine unless I am shown otherwise, instead of assuming that nothing is right unless I'm proven wrong. I must say it makes for a much more relaxed parenting experience. So keeping in mind that I'm all relaxed and cool, right? See? I still feel the need to stage-whisper "Wait... shouldn't she be potty-trained yet?"

I've been told to give M & M's. Don't give rewards. Use non-edible reinforcers. Use charts and stickers. Give one non-edible reinforcer paired with behavior-specific praise and allow her to redeem her non-edible reinforcers for one larger highly-preferred reinforcer, and then slap her a high-five and say "Way to go, buddy." Or "princess". Or whatever.

Well, it's not working out so well. She doesn't care. She likes some things some of the time, and other things at other times, and will only work for things that she likes at that moment, which may change at any moment. Get it? She wants to wear panties, she doesn't want to wear panties. The potty seat should be left up or possibly down but certainly never without a stool to climb up on. If asked, she does not ever have to go to the bathroom. "No,thank you. I don't need to go." She doesn't want to walk to the bathroom but gets upset if she's physically guided there.

She doesn’t like to be reminded, and the timer startles her when it is set to remind her, so it must be set in another room. She knows to wipe front-to-back, but demonstrates this skill without actually touching herself and then missing the toilet. She wants someone to sit in the bathroom and keep her company, until “Will you please leave the room? I’d like some privacy.” She wants the door open except for when she wants it closed, the toilet flushed immediately or sometimes not at all, and wet panties/pull-ups may be tossed on the floor to the side of the toilet or daintily carried, bare-naked, to the kitchen trash can. She knows that her friends wear panties. That’s nice for them.

She wants her pullup because she might pee on her panties. She will romp around freestyle for hours and then stand quietly in the corner and pee on the floor.

She is no longer on the research program at school that studies successful potty training methods, so there is no progress being made at school, or if there is I’m not getting it…I need to see the data. Give me the graphs. I need some concrete evidence that something is happening that is working so that I can replicate it at home. I’ve been told “It will just happen when she’s ready”, and “You have to TRAIN her”, and “Get her on a schedule”, and “Don’t put her in pull-ups”, “Let her pee on the floor/car/sidewalk” and “Buy her some panties with Dora on them”. Really? Like I didn’t do that when she turned 2 and I thought “Aha!! Maybe THIS will be the thing she’ll really excel at.”

So I’m not sure if I should be freaking out now. She’s three and a HALF!! Are we there yet? I don’t know if I am supposed to take the relaxed approach or the proactive approach. Should I force feed her liquids and camp in the bathroom with her for a weekend? How many kids start Kindergarten wearing pull-ups? Do they make sassy little “Miley Cyrus” style pull-ups for the ‘tween who swears she does NOT have to pee, GAWD, Mom.”

Don’t tell me about how you gave your kid an M&M and that was that. I will cut you. My kid has gotten M&M’s, skittles, gummy worms, tootsie rolls, McDonald’s gift certificates, toys, cars, a pony, and yet, when you ask her if she has to pee, she says: “No, thank you.” And then she pees on the couch.

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"I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time . Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult." --E.B. White