Thursday, September 16, 2010

And suddenly, progress... potty training!!

Possibly TMI if you're not a parent who's gone through potty training a boy and envisioned cement overshoes for the next person who says "Oh don't worry, boys just take a long time," or the infamous "No one goes to kindergarten in diapers." To say nothing of "This too shall pass." Even my mother, God bless her, has finally learned not to say that to me. I tend to become, shall we say, unhinged.
Some children do go to kindergarten in pull-ups. Not to mention, you want your kid potty-trained long BEFORE the first day of kindergarten. That's what, age five? Long before.
I refuse to believe that all boys always have taken well beyond the age of three to train, since I seem to recall the norm being 2-3 years old, girls being more towards the 2 end and boys towards the 3.
So here's the saga. At not yet two - I believe it was two years ago this month or the next - Kittyboy, who was not talking especially, learned the sign for Toilet. I used it every time I changed his diaper, and he put together that sign with the bodily functions which require a diaper change. One morning, he began signing it every time he did anything. Every half hour to hour throughout the day. The next day - and half a package of diapers later - I thought, "This is it, he's ready, he needs to be trained! Holy cow, he's ready!" We got a potty chair and everything. The next day after THAT, he had most likely gotten tired of being interrupted every single time he signed Toilet, and quit. Not interested anymore. Nope, too much work, it distracted him from his primary life goals of eating books and breaking things. And he never signed Toilet again.
But identifying the function that requires a diaper change is one of the signs of readiness. So, in our minds at least, if not his, we've been potty-training two years now.
This spring - well, late winter sort of - he started preschool. He was at that point mostly trained for urine, had never in his life gone stool on the toilet and refused to try, but during the day, we were doing pretty well for urine. About three weeks into preschool, he became every bit as clingy as he had been back when I couldn't leave the room. He started screaming as if genuinely scared of something every time I put him down at night, until Daddy came home from work (which was roughly 2.5 hours after bedtime). A couple days later, started having diarrhea. Something was wrong, and the requests to go to the HOSPITAL made me think it was the fact that preschool was in the morning, and every day when I picked him up, we had the same conversation about Daddy being at work already and not being able to pick him up. When Kittyboy does something dramatic, Husband comes home from work to take us to the ER. And so Kittyboy was asking to go to the hospital, because then Husband would have to come home. We went to the doctor to find out if he was sick, and ask if stress can really do this to a child, and the doctor said absolutely, yes it can, and that Kittyboy actually didn't look or act sick - but maybe tired, stressed, and depressed. We kept him out of school for a week, and after a couple days of being home with Husband/Daddy in the morning like before school started, Kittyboy was sleeping at night again and back to his usual self. The diarrhea was over with by the weekend, and the following Monday, he started in the older class in the afternoon. And it never happened again.
However, during that unpleasant and stressful week, we had given up potty-training. We thought it was the sensible thing to do, one less thing for the over-stressed boy to worry about. But as a result, we lost EVERYTHING. All progress. He was no longer interested. He continued going on the toilet at school, of all places, because of the routine, but at home, no luck. I would ask him if he needed to go, he would say no, five minutes later I would be changing him. Or I would put him on the toilet against his will, he would sit and go, and five minutes later would go again. I'm not a patient person. And this has been the state of affairs until, oh, a week ago.
(I've read several articles about potty-training since, all of them saying that once you have started, you DO NOT STOP. EVER. It's the biggest, and probably most common, mistake that parents make, because they're moving from one town to another, or a family member dies, or the child is sick, something happens that makes potty-training just seem like the last thing anyone wants to worry about - and when the dust settles, more often than not, they are back to square one. It doesn't matter if a parent died AND you're moving across the country AND the child has stomach flu. Do. Not. Stop. Completely. Understanding that you probably won't have much success, you have to at least keep going through the motions, or you may lose everything. This would have been useful for us to know back in early March, and we didn't, which is why I now tell all first-time moms I know.)
We tried stickers. We tried M&Ms. We tried putting him in underwear and saying "What happens, happens, and he'll get it eventually." We required that he participate in cleanup, which didn't bother him in the slightest. Note, you can only do that for so long at a stretch. And he had to be in pull-ups to go anywhere, obviously. He couldn't just stay sequestered at home for the weeks that would have taken to work.
Meanwhile (did I mention I'm not a patient person?), our household saw frequent (sometimes daily) mommy-meltdowns, and I'm told again and again that patience and not making a big deal of it are critical to success, but just knowing that didn't magically increase my patience. It just made the whole process more upsetting. I can be patient and understanding if there's a physical or mental problem, but there didn't seem to BE an excuse - he is very bright, and had shown all signs of readiness for almost two years, it seemed that the problem was that he was perfectly happy with the status quo. He had the ability - for urine at least. We just hadn't found a motivation to keep him motivated. And there was the nagging fact that never, not once, had he gone stool on the toilet. He simply refused to.
Oh, and I attempted the scientific route - showing him diagrams of the kidney/bladder system, the intestines/colon system, and explaining how everything works when he "has to go". That only had the interesting and disturbing effect of greatly enlarging his vocabulary - "Oh yook (look)! Stool came out of me! Stool came out of my cowon! My cowon is empty now!" (as we cleaned up his bedroom floor). Conversations I never wish to have again. I do not recommend that approach.
I think it was about three weeks ago that I started wondering about the fact that Kittyboy's intestines were not what you would call "regular". All advice on training for bowel movements said to put the child on the toilet when he or she would normally go anyway. Kittyboy would not "go" for days, then for a day or two he would go 3-5 times a day. Then not for a few days again. There was nothing "regular" about it. And he seemed to always be on the edge of constipated. I remembered when he first started drinking milk, that constipation was a frequent problem at first, and if he got anything beyond three glasses a day, the next day he would be crying and constipated. I googled lactose intolerance - the symptoms are the opposite of constipation, along with reflux, digestive problems, gas, problems Kittyboy didn't have. I googled milk and constipation, and found one site that mentioned a rare form of lactose intolerance where the children affected were always constipated. But it was way more extreme than just "Gee, he's not anything like regular and is constipated at least twice a month." I threw up my hands and decided that we would just cut milk and cheese completely for a week and see what happened. It couldn't hurt. Then we would schedule a checkup to ask "Alright, just how normal do YOU think it is that he's coming up on four years old and still in pull-ups?" and we would also bring up the constipation, lack of anything like regularity (since stool was the big problem), and also "We pulled dairy for a week and here's what happened -" and see whether we should be testing for some sort of veeerrry mild food intolerance. I also asked Kittyboy one day, "Can you not FEEL when you have to go stool?" to which he answered no. Okay, so THAT'S a problem. Another thing to bring up to the doctor.
The week without milk happened to begin one random day when we ran out of milk and didn't buy any more. "Sorry, we don't have any milk - would you like water or juice?" He drinks water happily anyway. No macaroni, no grilled cheese, no cheese of any sort. The second or third day, I think I changed at least six or seven pull-ups. Same the next day. He just kept GOING. The next day after that, he went once in the morning and once in the afternoon. And the next day, and the next. First time he's been regular since starting on milk. Now he gets maybe two glasses a day and maybe one thing with cheese - two servings a day, maybe three, and some days none. No more four glasses of milk and grilled cheese for dinner, I can tell you that. (I was asked at a WIC appointment, when he was just turning three, how much milk he drank, and I said that I held him to three glasses a day, although he would gladly drink more, and the nurse said, "Oh, he can have four glasses, that's fine," and so that's what he had been getting, in addition to whatever cheese he got throughout the day). And we're going to ask the doctor what the best way is to supplement his calcium and vitamin D. Once he's so potty-trained that we don't even think about it, we can see how much milk he CAN have and still be regular.
So now he's been regular and predictable for about a week. Didn't mean he was willing to go on the toilet, but at least he was healthy and comfortable, and now we know.
Then yesterday, out of the blue, Kittyboy sat on the toilet and went stool. Of his own accord, with no one saying a thing. We FLIPPED OUT. We screamed, we hugged, we danced. He got a Sonic meal for lunch and Toy Story underwear to wear for the rest of the day (which we'd bought back in July for exactly this occasion, in the next size up from his regular underwear, thinking he might be into that size before he wore them). And then yesterday evening, he did it again, and again it was without being asked or told, of his own accord, just because he had to go. That just blew me away! Never before, then twice in a day!
So now, just shy if 3.75 years old, he is wearing underwear. Yesterday, and today. During the day at least, we're not even thinking about naps and overnights. We're just ecstatic to have some sort of handle on days. Clean and dry so far today too!!
There is light at the end of the tunnel!


Tena said...

Yay!! That's very interesting about Kittyboy's bowel habits...J seems to have a very similar pattern. He had only been on goat milk til he was 2, because he didn't tolerate cow's milk. Maybe he still has some residual issues. I'm happy for you guys though! FWIW your boy potty trained about 6 months before my niece and two of my nephews, who didn't even start til they were 4. You give me great hope for J! The wisdom about not stopping is very sound, and I wish we hadn't had to when J broke his leg and couldn't sit on the potty.

Caeseria said...

And I have no idea if giving him acidophilus daily would remove that issue, or what, I just know for now that he's regular as all get out if he gets very little milk. He didn't need special formula or anything, though we did have constipation problems while he was on formula - they were attributed to the thickener he needed. I have no idea what a doctor will say, and we're between doctors anyhow. And of course we're not feeling adventuresome, haha!

Lady Helene Reed said...

Hallalujah! Just another step in Kittyboy's independence! Well done for looking for the cause and not giving up till you found an answer. I have to grandsons who were toilet trained closer to five than to four! I was shocked, but kept my mouth shut! I am sure it was more of the parent's fault than the boys'! He must be proud of himself as well.