Saturday, July 28, 2012

The saga of Button's Big Job!

Warning: Not for squeamish stomachs - its the story of how Button finally learnt to use the loo by himself. Its a longish chronicle, for I had a TOUGH struggle. And the need to exult now :) Especially moms, read on.

Sometimes moms have it all wrong... as I did. Ever since Button turned 1, I have been under pressure to begin potty training him. In perfect hindsight I realize the pressure was foisted on my shoulders by my own head. In the apartment complex I lived in at Bombay, 6 kids were born within 8 months of each other. 3 potty trained by 1,  and 2 more by the time they hit 18 months. Guess who was still happy in diapers? I did everything the others did -  I repeatedly held him over the loo for several minutes each time, several times a day, singing, making 'shhh shh' noises, until my neighbors downstairs started grinning at me in the elevator one day saying 'shhh shhh' 

Fast forward to holiday in Mashobra. A wee lad, 2 years old, just a few months senior to Button, asks his mom politely... "Mamma, potty karna hai, Kahin ruko." And inwardly cringing I make eyes at Button, happy in diapers. On that 'successful' mom's advice, tried reading potty training books to him. Button enjoyed the stories, but never got the message :( 

After the move to Chennai, things got from bad to worse (the pressure I mean). For one, Button was a grand old 2 1/2 years old. An age where in Chennai kids do not speak a word of English or a rhyme or recite numbers, but have been using the loo by themselves for over 1 year, can eat by themselves, quote Rajnikanth fluently, sing the latest Surya songs and express their displeasure at the 'low' spice levels of a Pizza Hut Mexican Wave pizza. Ulp, I really hid myself in my burrow. I hit upon random ideas from trying to frighten him about bug bears (named 'Pikachu') to trying to cousel him via his playschool teacher. All in vain :( 

2 months before he turned 4, I had nightmares of him being chased out of his 'prestigious' school in Chennai for not announcing his intentions of using the toilet. Button was super calm though - he never uses the loo at school (not for anything!). Why you ask me? Oh, the floors are wet. And he doesn't like crowds in the loo. (Okay, Penn station loo - you are probably never going to meet Button). The nightmares continued with visions of a newborn announcing her intentions of using the loo and her older brother 'still' asking for diapers.  Bribery followed - a trip to Singapore in exchange for one, just ONE loo usage. Did it work? Absolutely not. Button knew we would take him to Singapore anyway!

Now I have to mentioned that interestingly books and websites talk about potty training in a certain order - peeing first (by 1), potty training next (by 2) and finally night training (by 3). Now Button's order was quite mixed up (he didn't read the books right)... he night trained himself before he turned 1 and learnt to do the 'small job' before he turned 18 months old. By the time he was '2', we consoled ourselves that he WAS potty trained... in the sense, he would 'ask' for the diapers at the right time, but never agree to use the loo. We tried letting him squat, sit, stand, basically do anything in the bathroom... he did everything but what we wanted. Sigh. 

Cutting back to the present, the Singapore trip resulted in several positive changes in Button (including announcing to his dad that he should "somehow" move to Singapore in 20 days!) but not what we wanted. All our threats to stop diapers resulted in his stubborn refusal to use the loo for 5-6 days at a time, after which we always capitulated. He never ever had an accident. He would just, umm, 'bottle-up' until we let him use a diaper.  These 5-6 days of deadlock were periods of high stress and constant potty talk, which also bored and angered us (and Button) in turns. Usually, these high stress periods were followed up with terrible attempts at bribing - "Button, mamma will buy out Hamleys for you if you do your job in the loo" (usually answered with "Mamma, but you anyway buy me anything I ask for". Drat! or "I have everything. I don't want anything". Huh?) 

Then came the app and DVD phase. Potty training apps are SO many and so varied in number online. Didja know? From Elmo to dinosaurs to Dora to dogs & cats, we tried many DVDs and Apps that were enjoyed for their graphics and music, but FAILED to convey the 'moral of the story' to Button. 

Finally, a fortnight ago, I was exasperated. The husband was traveling (nothing new there). No driver(also nothing new). And down to 1 diaper. No energy to go to buy another packet. No home-delivery by any pharmacy or shop either. In a moment of desperation (or maybe rare inspiration?) I sat Button down, explained that he was over 4 and that I had no intentions of buying any more diapers after this one was used. I asked him if he was okay with it and to my surprise, he actually said that he was okay with it. In utter shock I asked him if he was ready to use the loo, and he said "Mamma I will try. But only if you are happy, not angry. And if you buy me a blue Mater (a tow-truck from 'Cars 2')". Ecstatic, I hugged him, promised him WHATEVER he wanted and happily put on his last diaper. 

He kept his word. Like magic, he just switched to using the loo. Without any accidents whatsoever. Like IT companies say.. seamlessly! Almost as if all the past struggles were games designed to be played by parents, for parents. As if all the threats, tears, bribes, speeches, lectures, demos and what-not were a figment of our imagination. Just magic I tell you. Can't tell you how relieved and thrilled and happy I am (and chastised too!) 

Yes, my house has been a diaper free zone for 2 weeks now (and will be so for 12 more weeks!) 

Lesson learnt? Talk to the kid. LISTEN.  They are too smart to be swayed by empty threats or heavy bribes. At 4, Button is practically an adult... okay, at least a teenager. His words are to be valued. Accepted. And bug bears and threats do not work (at least with Button). 

Other lessons? Oh, when he DOES become a teenager, I am going to have a really tough time! Maybe threats will work then? :) 

Meanwhile, life is happy. For now! 


  1. Congrats to Button and Button ki maa. I liked the word seamlessly ;)

  2. Button's cool and on track so don't worry too much. :))

  3. Preethi SukumaranDecember 23, 2012

    LOVED this - very very useful info. And I sym/empathise with the pressure :-(