POTTY TRAINING

So life with a toddler and a baby is, as expected, insane.  But the previous level of insanity reached a new level of crazy this weekend when we decided to potty train G.

Backtrack a second.  We actually decided to potty train her like, three months ago, but we went about it in the way that I go about everything: half-assed.  And you cannot half-ass potty training.  You must whole-ass potty training.  Ass-and-a-half, even.  Prior to Friday, G had peed on the potty ONCE successfully and it was after my mom sat with her on the potty for an hour and a half with stickers.  I had gone to Toys R Us around her second birthday and bought a potty for on the toilet, and a portable seat for when we went out.  I switched her to pull-ups, and occasionally I’d ask if she needed to go to the potty, but that was it.  I was doing basically nothing, but at the same time I was frustrated because it wasn’t working.  So I went and bought an elmo stand-alone potty.  I had sticker books, special search-and-find books and a renewed determination to… do exactly the same amount of nothing.

Four months pass.  I get no sleep.  Daycare will only support what I already have in place, but wont potty train her for me (the nerve of them, refusing to parent my child and making me do it), and the after-daycare hours are so crazy that seriously I blinked and those four months were gone.  MY plans to have her potty trained before the snow was wiped out by both my own inaction and Edmonton’s early snowfall (which has trapped me in the house like some sort of domestic version of The Revenant).

But wait!  Here comes a three day weekend!  Didn’t my mother-in-law tell me that it only takes three days to potty train a toddler if you dont let them wear pants?!  PERFECT!  So when Friday rolls around, we get G from her room and… take her pants away.  At first, she was really upset because she loves her pants (they have cats on them.  Cats.  I’m such a dog person and my kid freaking love cats.  I think it’s evidence that she’s already going to be a rebellious teenager) and then, when we slowly tried to take her pull-ups away, things got a bit hairy.  See, her pull-ups have “Mickey” (it’s totally Minnie) on them, and it was like we were torturing her by not allowing her to wear them.  After a few attempts at distraction, we put a towel on the floor and took out her favourite puzzle, and she thought making “bum marks” on the towel with her penaten-coated rear was hilarious, so we were out of the woods.

Then we hunkered down to wait it out.  Everyone has told us that potty-training is the hardest and worst part of parenting, so we were prepared for the worst.  We had coffee.  We had snacks.  We weren’t leaving until she was potty-trained.  We set a “tinkle timer” on my phone for 20 minutes.  We gave her as much water-diluted apple juice as she could drink (and holy shit can she drink a lot) When the tinkle timer went off, we went to the potty.  At first she thought this was a hilarious game, and would hang out on the potty and read her new Richard Scarry word book.

The novelty wore off quickly.

Soon the tinkle timer was a source of mini tantrums, so we turned it off.  And it happened!  She stood up, looked at me and said “the pee is coming” and we ran to the toilet and it happened!  And there was no going back: she didnt have a single accident that first day.  We patted ourselves on the back for being such exceptional parents.

Saturday.

I spent the entire day in the bathroom on Saturday.  I Swear.  She had tasted success (it tasted like watered down apple juice, I assume) and wanted more.  Now she got her big girl underwear (it has Paw Patrol characters on it so we sing the theme song constantly – or at least the one line from the theme song that I know) and she wasn’t going to risk getting Skye or Marshall “wet.”  We did have our first accident, but it was because she was so excited about her puzzle that she didn’t want to go to the bathroom, so she peed a little while working on it.  But she told me right away and we went to the potty and it was all golden.

Sunday was the real test.

On Sunday, we left the house.  We went to dance class in the morning – no accidents.  We had our first legitimate accident at a restaurant that night when she told me she had to go and I let her leave the bathroom before she had gone to the bathroom (my fault, but seriously Tony’s Pizza was calling me back to the table!)

So where are we at now?

Well, this sounds like we had an incredibly successful weekend and, honestly, I would say that’s true.  We bonded a lot, she learned to tell me when she has to go to the bathroom, and it seems like she’s really got this when we are at home.

BUT

BUT

She does not want to use the potty at daycare.  It means that she has to stop playing to go, and they are spread too thin to set a 20 minute tinkle timer, or sit with her on the potty for 40 minutes waiting for her to pee, and I get it.  But it’s undermining the process for sure.

And she does NOT have it together for naps/bedtime.  That will be a big issue going forward, and I have no idea how to approach it.  She can’t get out of her room on her own, and we don’t have the kind of monitor in her room where we can hear her all the time – we use a Nest cam, so we can open it on our phones to see her, but it’s not like we would hear her saying she needs to use the potty unless we HAPPENED to be watching when she did.  So if anyone has any ideas here, I’d love to hear them (and then probably ignore them for like 4 months before I give in and half-ass them…as I do).

And here is the biggest one: we have noticed that during this process, her attachment has gone through the roof.  It’s heartbreaking.  Beditme and daycare time have gone through a HUGE regression since Friday.  I know we just have to ride it out, but it’s awful in the meantime, and it’s going to get worse because I’m a masochist and I’m going to start sleep-training L right away here… ugh why.

AND (whiney rant coming)

GOD I ALREADY MISS DIAPERS.

I know.  I know.  Who MISSES diapers??  ME!  I DO!  Do you know what I  hate more than cleaning my toddler’s poopy butt?  Sitting on the ground in a public toilet for fourty minutes waiting for her to poop and then STILL HAVING TO WIPE HER POOPY BUTT!  She’s GONE MAD WITH POWER!  She knows that I have to run with her to the potty if she says she has to go, AND SHE’S ABUSING THE TINY MODICUM OF POWER SHE HAS BEEN GIVEN!  This kid should NEVER be allowed to hold a position of authority – it WILL corrupt her!

 

Next up: sleep training.  I know there are a lot of opinions about it out there, but I’m going to talk about my experiences and opinions in my next post.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear your experiences with potty-training and what has worked for you!

 

xo

Mediocre Mom

A Hundred Excuses

I haven’t posted in a month.  I have a hundred excuses why.  Some are more valid than others, but none of them are the full truth.

Excuse 1: I had family come in for a visit.  They drove from Ontario to visit with us and, as the designated stay-at-home-for-right-now mom, I was more than happy to escort them about the city, showing off the place I love.

Excuse 2: Holidays.  Between thanksgiving and Halloween, a lot has been going on.  G had her first movie experience, we have carved multiple pumpkins.  We have baked and eaten that baking.  I have gained back all of the weight that I had lost… you know what they say: Thanksgiving is the beginning of the end for every weak-willed dieter.

Excuse 3: I am a bridesmaid in a wedding and the bachelorette party was in Canmore last weekend.  A LOT of my focus had to go into that.

Excuse 4: L is in a BAD sleep regression.  G had them when she was a baby, but not like this.  I am getting absolutely no more than 90 minutes of sleep at night and only a few small breaks during the day.  I love him to little bits but I may leave him in a box on the side of the road with a “Free Baby” sign pretty soon.

 

Ok so not 100 excuses, but four.  Again, all of them real reasons why I have been lax in my blog posting duties, but none of them cover all of it.  The real reason was one that I hadn’t been able to recognize until I was at my book club last Thursday.  My book club, which has only had two meetings so far, is made up of women that I’ve never met, all of whom are small business owners or entrepreneurs.  They are incredible.  Beautiful inside and out, these women work their tails off to live their dream and to make their visions reality.  I was overwhelmed, surrounded by them, by how strong and utterly RELENTLESS they are.  Our book for October was “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington and while we all agreed that it was sort of “meh” overall, it had a few interesting points that became deep conversations for us.  One of the key points was hit on the head by one of the other women: we are constantly told to question our own abilities and value.  We have these deep desires and wants in our lives… oftentimes involving dreams we want to pursue.  But we stop ourselves.  We stop because we think of finances.  We think of responsibilities.  We think, most of all, “who am I to do this?”

And that line is what struck me.  “Who am I to do this?”  She was speaking of her own experiences, and yet it was like she was giving voice to the fear that hides in the back of my head: Who am I to think that I am worth hearing?  Who am I to think I can speak to this or that?  Who am I to think anyone wants to hear what I have to say?

For all of the many concrete reasons I had given myself for putting off posting, this was the one that they hid: my deep insecurity that no one should care what I have to say; that it is arrogant for me to think that what I have to say is worth being heard at all.

I recently read a piece by Joan Didion that talks about self-respect and the struggle to find it.  She likened it to a “well-lit back alley” where all of our self-knowledge waits to essentially mug us with the truths behind our masks and self-image and reputation:  here lurk the truths you can hide from everyone but yourself.  I think I LIVE in that back alley.  I am never unaware of my failings, big and small.  I still think about the time I called a kid a bad name in grade 4 and that one time I didn’t stand up for my mom when I should have.  I’m aware of the frustration I feel when I’m with my daughter – the short-tempered cruelties that shame me deeply.  I can’t pretend with myself to be any kind of parenting sage because I know too well the truth of myself, and to write any kind of piece that says otherwise is to be inauthentic.

It’s a funny duality that I have found in motherhood: I jealously remember the times in my life when I was truly seen, now that I am permanently relegated to the background of my children’s lives.  I once was the sun, with everything orbiting around my life, but now I am just one of those planets, orbiting G and L while they shine.  I guard the precious memories of my life BEFORE when I was Danielle and not just mom.  When I had interests and independence.  But the irony is that I think my greatest fear is to be truly seen now.  To be seen in my inglorious moments, my frustrated ones, my shameful ones. It’s one thing to embrace the messiness of parenthood – there is a deeply funny side to the trivial failings of our day-to-day lives: the spilled milk, the spit up accidents, the blow-outs.  There is a black humour to the first time your kid repeats the word “fuck” or accidentally does something inappropriate with total, pure innocence.  But it’s a different beast to look at our real failings as parents and as people.  Those are moments we do not want to be seen… and they are moments that I feel I have had more of since I became a mom.

And yet, I believe there is value in it.  I think that there are those moments where seeing someone else be vulnerable allows us a greater connection to both ourselves and one another.  I believe that we are closer when we see each other as human.  Especially in a time where social media makes it difficult to separate someone’s PROFILE from her LIFE.

So I’m back.  I have to believe that there is a value to what I want to say.  Perhaps it will be uncomfortable – for me, for people who read it – but perhaps there is value in that.  If I want to raise a daughter who sees value in her own thoughts and voice, I have to find that value in my own.

Fingers crossed.

 

xo

Mediocre Mom

Remembering What’s Important

I had started on a post about good/bad baby products for today, but honestly I can’t get through it.  I am having a “down” day, which is code for a day where my depression and anxiety is causing me to struggle with personing.  I have had struggles with depression and anxiety since I was pretty young, and some periods have been worse than others.  Being a mom has, unfortunately, triggered a lot of my mental health issues because of the constant feeling of not-enoughness that pervades a mom’s day to day living.

Yesterday was a bad day.  I looked around my kitchen and couldn’t make myself do dishes.  Which, of course, triggered feelings of failure because I was being “lazy” and couldn’t do what I feel is an expected bare minimum for me when I’m home all day.  I was a miserable ball of grump when I went to a pilates class and found out that it wasn’t pilates but *GASP* *HORROR* a barre class instead (“I didn’t come here expecting to do SQUATS for heaven’s sake” she says to the clearly offended instructor) making me feel like a huge bitch.  I went to school to help with auditions where I knew I would be letting everyone down because I wouldn’t be able to help with the show the way I would have before I had kids.  I was late getting home and didn’t have dinner ready.  I was short tempered with my daughter.  I was irritated with my son (Good Lord don’t you eventually reach a point of exhaustion where you just pass out?  When the hell does that happen for a newborn??  He could seriously keep national secrets safe in the face of sleep-deprivation torture).  I ate poorly because I had no energy and then hated myself for undermining my hard work to eat well for my health and milk supply.  I grumped at my poor mother on the phone.  I felt like a failure across the board.  The voice in my head repeated it to me: all the ways that I had failed all of the people around me.  I wasn’t giving enough to my kids, to my husband, to my family, to my job… and yet I felt like I had nothing else I could give… so clearly, I’m just not ENOUGH.

Yeah.  It was a bad day.  Depression, added in to the relentless erosion of parenthood, can be a beast.

In particular, it was my daughter I felt that I was failing.  I looked at her and someone else had put her hair in a ponytail (some well-meaning daycare working) and she had on dirty clothes with her runny nose and her perpetual daycare cold and I was crushed by the feeling that I was letting her down as a parent.  And even with that knowledge, I couldn’t stay patient with her when we were eating dinner (I spent seven damn minutes grilling this steak and you “no want meat”?!).

I was in tears by bedtime.  Not because of her – she is amazing – but because of me.  She’s TWO, dammit.  She wants to play hide n seek instead of putting on her pajamas; she doesn’t understand that I can’t help open the blue playdough when both of my hands are full, and she can’t help it that she can repeat the same sentence – “mommy help with boo paydough? mommy help with boo paydough? – a thousand times without realizing that she’s going to break me.  I came in to her room for the bedtime routine secure in my knowledge that I am a BAD MOM.

And then

We are lying in her bed, reading her story (“David’s Father” by Robert Munsch right now) and I’m lying next to her, with my head propped up on my hand while daddy reads and she yells out the parts that she knows.  All of a sudden, in one of those purely spontaneous moments that only kids seem capable of, she reaches a chubby little arm out and puts it around my neck.  She pulls my head down onto her tiny chest – I can hear her heartbeat like a butterfly through her fleece puppy pajamas – and she puts her sweet little lips on top of my head and says, entirely unprovoked, “I happy mommy.”

She’s happy.

She’s HAPPY.

 

I am not enough. I never will be.  I will never be enough to deserve the love that my daughter has for me… I will never deserve the way she looks to me when she needs reassurance… the trust she feels looking at me.  That’s a form of grace, you guys.  Undeserved, needed, precious beyond belief.  It makes my not-enoughness enough.

xo

Mediocre Mom

Why I Kept Her in Daycare

When I was off with my first baby, I had to make a major decision (as so many of us do) between going back to work and staying at home with my daughter).  Despite the seeming ease of this question, for me it was an identity crisis.

I wanted so badly to be the kind of parent who LOVED being at home with her kid(s).  Seriously.  I looked at my some of my SAHM friends and saw what amazing moms they were – they somehow always had it together, even with way more kids than me.  They were always out and about; the kids were stylishly dressed and in all sorts of beautifully-photographed activities.  They seem (and perhaps it’s not the case, but I can only report it from the outside!) very content with her kids.  On social media, they post funny mom-memes and beautiful photos of their sleeping kids with captions about how even when it’s hard, they are so blessed to be at home with their kids and see them growing.

But the part of me that is far more honest with myself than I sometimes would like, I knew I was not one of those moms.  I love my daughter intensely, but I found my mat leave to be one of the hardest years of my life.  I struggled with bad post-partum depression and anxiety for several months after her birth, and sadly did not find motherhood to be something that came naturally to me.  I don’t know – maybe none of us do, but it certainly felt at the time like I was the only person who struggled with it.  I missed adult companionship.  I missed the intellectual engagement I found in my job.  Additionally, I found myself in an internal war between how much I freaking loved this little human and how very deeply frustrating I found being at home with her.  I realized during my mat leave that I was not the kind of person who fell easily into chatter with small children, and I felt a deep sense of personal shame and failure over the fact that I had to work so hard to be patient and engaged with my own child, who I knew was one of the EASIER ones out there.

This struggle was compounded by the fact that the majority of my social interactions were work-based, so being away from work not only deprived me of my sense of personal fulfillment (I have long considered my profession to be more a calling than a job), I also felt that I had lost my entire social circle  as some of my best friends, and certainly the ones I spent the most time with, were my coworkers.  When I started talking about going back to work, I had to confront the challenges I would be facing: not only regarding trying to balance my work life (which typically involves a lot of work on evenings and weekends in addition to the regular work hours), but also in regards to finding a place for G.

I would first of all have to actually deal with and be okay with the sense of failure I felt in the fact that I knew I couldn’t stay at home with my daughter without ending up resenting her.  This has nothing to do with external pressures – although let’s be real, you can’t win either way (pick work and you’re a bad mom, pick staying at home and you’re wasting your potential) – and everything to do with my frighteningly consistent desire to put my child in a box on the side of the road with a “Free To a Good Home” sign on it.  I HAD to go back to work (for both our sakes).  But what to do with her while I was there?

We were a bit gunshy about daycare, so G spent several months with her nonna before we made the move to daycare in the early spring.  I was so nervous about it.  Neither my husband nor I had been in daycare as kids: his mom had stayed at home until the kids were all in school, and my parents worked alternating shifts and had me at my oma and opa’s house whenever they couldn’t be there.  Our in-laws had made similar decisions, with our sister-in-law staying home with her kids.  We didn’t have any friends with kids, really, and most of the friends that we knew had their kids with a grandparent or were staying at home.  Many of the daycares I looked at before finding the one we went with were too depressing for me to consider.  Like they were just orange jumpsuits and homemade shivs away from being tiny kid-prisons.  One place we went had a “yard” for their “outdoor hour” that was black tarmac with a chain link fence around it.  The kids were separated by age into little quadrants of the black chain-link fenced yard.  Tarps were slung across the tops of the fence to provide the pretense of shade.  To access the yards, the kids had to line up in between two secure doors to be counted.  They literally had inmate numbers, you guys.  And this place was EXPENSIVE!  I want champagne daycare at a beer budget and I won’t settle!

not her first day at daycare (I’m not on it enough to have gotten a picture of that haha) but look how cute her backpack is!


But once she started, everything changed.  While dropoff was awful (so. sad.) because she has some serious attachment stuff goin on, I quickly saw the benefits.  G has her mom’s social skills: when she wants to make a friend, she runs over and stands an awkward distance from them and just… stares at them.  If they look at her, or acknowledge her, she runs back and hides behind my legs.  But at daycare?  She made FRIENDS.  She learned to play with other kids, and to (sort of) share (she has a little boy who pulls her around in the wagon, and I think that counts as friends).  She gets to go outside everyday.  They garden.  They swim.  They go on field trips.  They colour their faces with super-indelible-never-come-off-till-youre-dead-and-maybe-even-later colouring markers.  Wanna guess how many of those things I did with her over my mat leave?  Ok, we did one of those things.  I’m not telling you which, but let’s just don’t ever get my kid wet (if you get this joke, you both read good books and also should be my friend).

So when L was born and we had to make a decision about whether to keep her in or pull her out of daycare, we decided to keep her in.  When I don’t feel like explaining my parenting deficiencies to people, I say that we kept her in so that we didn’t lose her spot for when I go back to work next year (this is actually true – the waitlist is huge and there are no promises), but the real reason is that I am not a good mom to her when I’m with her 24/7.  I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past two years: mostly how much stronger and weaker I am than I had thought.

Daycare not only gives her more than I can, they also let me give her more than I could.  With them, she gets a close, safe group of friends.  She has formed bonds with other people and it has helped her be more independent.  She has tended a garden, released butterflies.  She gets swimming and singing lessons.  She gets EXPERIENCES.  At home, I’m too overwhelmed with L to give her those things, and even when I’m not, I find planning and executing activities like that to be too big a task for just me (kudos times a million to all of the SAHMs out there hustling to give their kids experiences and activities on the regular).  Additionally, because I feel like I have had a chance to nourish my SELF, rest and bond with my new baby, I feel like I give her the better parts of myself when she’s home: evenings are full of playdough, tickles and songs (and tantrums, potty training and dinner and bath battles… I mean seriously.  You keep your cool after your kid poops in your hand or throws dinner on the floor and I will name you a Saint), weekends I feel like I had enough energy for adventures (also, I have access to the help of my parents and husband on the weekends, which makes adventures much easier to plan and execute).

Despite my wishes to be a super mom, I’m not.  I’m Mediocre (I once said that I was a bad mom and I was harangued for it because I was “not on crack,” so  I realized that the bar is perhaps a little lower than I’d previously thought).  I get tired, frustrated, over-touched, and bored.  I lack the energy or ambition to organize the kinds of entertainment that a busy 2 year old requires occasionally as a break from smashing pans together and reading the same book four million times.  This isn’t about comparing myself to other moms, this is about what is best for my kid, and for me.  And for us, it’s daycare.

xo

Mediocre Mom
Ps: still my favourite log entry from daycare

this kid is going places.  not college; but places.