I wasn't the one who started the potty training experiment. It was Terza. She's a real self-starter like that. Mainly, it's because she's in day care part of the week so she sees her school friends using the potty and she thinks, "Hey, that looks fun. I wanna give it a whirl." And she comes home and says, reasonably enough, " wanna use the potty Mommy."
What Mommy would stand in her way?
But here's the problem with Terza's potty training. It's spotty. Really spotty. Her success rate at present is near to nil. Now, obviously, I understand this isn't a pass/ fail thing, I understand there's no "failing" that whatever she does is great and it's all a learning process and a journey and the journey is beautiful.
I get that.
Here's what else the journey is: messy.
You could nickname our apartment Urinetown. I'd be insulted but I wouldn't dispute you. Th skid pisses EVERYWHERE. Her favorite place to pee, though, is my bed. And her favorite time to pee in my bed is riiiiiiiiight after I change the sheets from the last pee accident. Those sweet-smelling, crisp linens must be a siren song to her, whispering, "Coooooome. Do you have to go pee-pee? This is the puuuuuurfect place. Just sit on down and let it all gooooooooo."
The best part is she will run to me, all proud, and announce, "I went POTTY Mommy!" My heart sinks and I ask, "Where, honey?" and she proclaims, 'On your BED! Like a BIG GIRL!"
Occasionally she will even clap her hands, gleefully, as if she's a prompter and I forgot my line.
Then I will sigh, suppressing the urge to reprimand her, because hey, she's a baby after all, and yes, it's all a learning process. And I'll strip the sheets and the mattress paid, AGAIN, and wonder how do you wash a quilt and calculate whether I have enough time to launder all the bedclothes before I have to go to sleep, and I will consider canceling potty training.
Because the Urinetown aspect of this experience isn't even the shittiest part, no pun intended.
One day last week, she was wearing her diaper and she said, "I have to go potty" and a minute later, she had - the stink was unmistakable -- and she rushed over and announced, "I DID IT!" and to prove it, she pulled down her underwear and showed me. I was confused, because I'd thought she was in diapers, just a minute ago, but she explained that she had changed into her underwear so she could poop in there, "Like a big girl."
That's when I said to David, "I feel like she's not getting this."
So, I've removed the underwear from the drawers and reverted to Pull Ups. I've run out of detergent, to say nothing of patience. I figure once I replenish both, in a few days, we'll resume.
There's a lot of milestones you expect: seeing your child off, at her first day of pre-school, taking pictures at Kindergarten graduation, and many other Hallmark moments I haven't encountered yet. But there are so many other little milestones that amaze and humble me, like the day your son has bigger feet than you.
We passed this milestone a few weeks ago, when I slipped my feet inside the work-a-day black faux leather shoes by the front door. Except that they felt really loose. So I took a closer look at realized they were Primo's shoes and they were too big on me.
Holy shit, I thought with wonder. Then followed a bittersweet combination of feelings. How could time be passing so fast? Will I blink and he'll be leaving for college? Was I doing a good enough job of being a mother? Was it too late to do better? How wonderful that we've made it this far together! How happy I am, and grateful, to have a kid who's turning into a person i really like and want to spend time with. How soon, I'll be gray and wrinkled and in a nursing home. Remembering the day my son was born, the first time I saw him. Sort of wishing he was a baby again. Sort of wishing he was graduating college, Wanting immediately to go kiss his big tousled head and admire his gargantuan man-sized feet.
Crying, in the foyer, near my front door, wondering what I came her to do in the first place.
These are the little moments that creep up on you.
Terza is a wunderkind as relates to verbal expression; she's quite a talker and it's no surprise why, coming from this family of borderline pathological chatterboxes.
But she hasn't grasped one shockingly simple word and it's making life rather aggravating for me. Her lexicon doesn't appear to include the word "don't."
Let me be clear. She expresses the sentiment of "don't" - very, very frequently. She is all about NOT wanting something, NOT being on board. That's kind of her thing now. It's a shitty thing to be your thing but not altogether uncommon for a child of two years old.
She just doesn't know how to express this sentiment verbally. She's nailed down "No!" as well as "No way, Jose!" and, even "It's not fair!"
But, often, she says "I want it!" when she actually means, "I don't want it!" or even "I absolutely don't want it" or even, "There is nothing on God's green earth I want less than that abhorrent abomination of a thing you are offering me."
Yet, what she says is, "I want it!" This leads to some very confusing, and equally frustrating, interactions.
Case in point: she wakes from a nap, cranky as all hell, and I ask "Do you want some milk?" and she replies, in a snarl: "I want it!" and I go get it and when I give it to her, she slaps it out of my hand, hard, like I've just mortally insulted her, handed her a steaming pile of cow dung to ingest.
"I WANT IT!!" she shrieks.
"So, I"m giving it to you!" I reply.
"I WANT IT!" she reiterates, swatting at it again.
"You want it?" I confirm.
"NOOOOO!" she bellows.
"So you DON'T want it?" I try again.
"I," she starts, and I'm paying attention, really rapt here, "WANT. IT."
"Mommy doesn't understand," I say, "You want it or you don't want it?"
"I want it!" she screams, shaking her head.
This is the point at which I want to scream: "I AM LIVING IN CRAZY LAND!" Usually, I suppress this instinct though not always.
Nicole is a parenting writer who contributes essays and articles for magazines like Parenting, Parents, American Baby and Babble. She lives in Brooklyn with three children, one husband and a morbidly obese goldfish.