Riley had a bad day yesterday, the details of which were fuzzy but seemed related to the two accidents he had at daycare, one resulting in a pair of underwear that came home in a sealed plastic bag and went directly in the trash if you know what I’m saying and I think you do. On the occasions when he’s had an accident at home there have been a lot of frantic tears and panicky upset and most heartbreaking of all, the stuttery claim that he’s SORRY (dear god), and we’ve immediately swept in with Parental Damage Control, soothing and doling out hugs and reminding him that having accidents is okay, all kids have accidents, it’s totally no big deal, etc, and I don’t know precisely what happened at school but he confessed something to JB about how he “couldn’t stop crying for Daddy” and ohhh, it’s not often that I feel like Riley’s school situation is anything but positive, but this morning, as he leaned against me and said he wanted to stay home with Mommy today, I felt like one of the Spartan mothers from 300. You know, where they send their little boys off to fight wolves and shit, and maybe they survive to become great warriors but maybe instead they are simply devoured in one bite like toddler-shaped Slim Jims? Look, I know it’s not exactly the same, but I think we can all agree that sometimes school environments are every bit as traumatic as battling flint-eyed wolves in the snow. Especially when sometimes you have yourself a little bathroom break and whoops, the built-in toilet that’s previously been attached to your butt is no longer there.

While I was helping him get dressed this morning he kept getting his foot stuck in his pants, then putting both feet into the same leghole, then starting to walk off while I was trying to button the waistband, and I was bent over uncomfortably and the whole time Dylan was blatting endlessly from his chair in the kitchen and I finally barked in Riley’s face, “JUST! GET! YOUR! DAMN! PANTS! ON!” or something equally gentle and maternal. Because it wasn’t bad enough that he was feeling skittish about going back to school today, I had to go and yell at him for no good reason too. Go me.

(There is nothing in the world like the feeling that you have done less by your child than you should have. Even if it’s for a small thing, a blip on the radar screen that surely won’t be remembered, it settles onto your parental soul and digs in. These transgressions seem different to me than other embarrassments or regrettable actions we all accrue in life, because they can’t be buried or dismissed — they require that you look them in the eye and see your reflection for what it was in that moment, acknowledge it and vow to do better. A good thing, surely, but much better to avoid the process altogether.)

I had thought that potty training might be made easier by his part-time daycare attendance, but maybe not. Those of you who have been in similar situations, do you have any tips? He’s armed with multiple changes of clothes and diapers for naptimes, and his teachers seem patient and willing to remind him about breaks — anything else we should be doing?


76 Responses to “Break”

  1. emily on July 30th, 2008 6:25 am

    No advice, I think you’re doing great (and I have learned a ton reading these comments!)

    Just want to again say thank you, I too was nodding all the way through this post. Thanks for helping me feel normal.

  2. Jennifer on July 30th, 2008 6:26 am

    Long time reader, here, love this blog to pieces. I especially love how you say what I feel but have trouble admitting to anyone but my husband and closest friends. I too remember all the little infractions, the nastiness that can come out from being bored or annoyed or at the end of my rope, all the ways I am not gentle and kind with her.

    Potty training is the worst though; the least linear thing I have ever participated in. I made the mistake of starting charts and all that before she was 2; now she is nearly 4 and the accidents drive me up a wall, even though they don’t happen that often. Makes the control freak in me just bloom. I vacillate between “It’s ok” and “Jesus Christ, what’s going on?” and I am not always good at editing what is in my head.

    All this is to say: I hear you, I am there, and I’m guessing the only way out is through. You rock, mama.

  3. ben on July 30th, 2008 6:29 am

    Patience, grasshopper. And maybe some good laundry soap.

  4. Christie on July 30th, 2008 6:57 am

    I have no comments about potty training as I have no children of my own. I do however, have two step-children. My step-son is currently with us for the summer and I blew my lid the other day…over socks…yes, socks! Work has been stressful (ah…yes…a working mom), I go to school full time as well…and my husband is a drill instructor and NEVER home! So, everything…house, kid, dog, homework, laundry, groceries…it’s all on me and I lost it. I asked for dirty laundry to be brought down (he’s 13). I went upstairs after that and found another entire load of laundry which got to me. Then when the whites cam out of the dryer there were two pairs of socks and three random others. I knew it had been over a week since I last did laundry so I lost it! Wearing socks for more than one day…eeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwww!!! Not to mention that the socks were so gross looking (when they were clean) that I didn’t want to touch them! The conversation went something like this:
    ME: Where are the partners to these socks? I asked you twice to bring down ALL your dirty clothes.
    HIM: I don’t know
    ME: And, it’s been over a week and there are only two pair of socks and some stragglers.
    HIM: That one there isn’t mine.
    ME: Oh, so then you wore 4 pair of socks total in 9 days?
    HIM: …staring blankly at me
    ME: Are you sleeping in your damn socks and then wearing them again the next day?
    HIM: No
    ME: Then explain to me why there are only 4 pair?
    HIM: I don’t know
    HIM: …big eyed and shocked at my behavior…turned and walked away

    Sometimes it’s just plain and simply hard to be a parent and I think that there are times when we all lose our cool a bit and then feel like ginormous asshats! Just because we lose it at times doesn’t mean that we love our kids any less…it just means that we are human!

  5. Party on July 30th, 2008 7:01 am

    I don’t have kids (yet…oh but I can’t wait), but this reminded me of my nephew Ty (he’s 4). Everytime he farts he swears that he has pooped his pants and runs to change his underwear! You can imagine what my sister is going through, finding all these tiny trails of underwear! Good Luck with R!

  6. KA on July 30th, 2008 7:10 am

    My mother-in-law told a story about how she potty trained one of her sons by making him help clean up any mess. I guess she had a broken arm at the time, so she really had a hard time doing it herself. So, she had him help and from then on, he was trained. At the time, I thought it was kind of harsh, but then I read about some potty boot camp, where they have the kids help clean up after they have an accident. So, maybe there’s something to it. I don’t have kids, so I don’t know how effective that would be.

  7. ang on July 30th, 2008 7:36 am

    I think every one of your readers with children were nodding and commiserating with this entry. We all have sucky parenting moments. It happens. The most important (and the hardest!) is to not beat yourself up about something and try and forget it. Easier said than done, but know you’re not the only person who’s cringed a little after replaying a particularly difficult moment.

  8. MRW on July 30th, 2008 8:44 am

    Just wanted to say I hate those moments when I feel like I haven’t been the kind of parent I want to be. I’m not perfect and I don’t expect to be, but when I get angry and impatient with my son at times when I really could have handled it better, it’s so painful. All any of us can do is try to handle it better next time and if things have got really out of hand apologize for shouting or whatever.

  9. Sara Moon on July 30th, 2008 8:47 am

    We love you, Linda. My daughter is exactly the same age as Riley and we are no where near potty trained. It sucks. However, I keep believing when people say it’ll happen when it happens.
    And we all lose our patience with our kiddos. It’s natural, normal and as long as we apologize for our mistakes – they learn so much from that.
    Again, I for one, just love coming here.

  10. Christian ODell on July 30th, 2008 9:50 am

    You’re doing great. You’re not experiencing anything out of the ordinary.

    All kids have accidents.
    All parents lose their cool once in a while.
    Sometimes parenting sucks … but the rest of the time makes up for the lows.

    Ten years from now, you’ll look back and wonder how the hell you made it through everything and you’ll be surprised that you not only did but that you did a great job.

  11. Jennifer on July 30th, 2008 10:39 am

    Awww. This entry makes me a little melancholy, as you see your dear little one begin to take steps into the world and face the little daily tragedies and disappointments. Down the road there will be tears when he encounters a bully on the playground, tears when he gets picked last for the kickball game, and maybe hidden tears when he asks that special girl to a junior high dance and she says “no.” You’ll be there with mommy comforts (and hidden tears of your own) as you send him back out there, knowing that those experiences are what he needs to face growing up. It’s an exciting, sometimes sad, sometimes scary, adventure for both of you.

  12. fff on July 30th, 2008 11:09 am

    My son is right around Riley’s age and I just posted about my troubles with the same issue yesterday. No good advice except a great big, I feel ya. If he’s going at home, it will click, along w/ peer pressure, to do so at daycare too. You know about all the stickers and candy motivators at home, maybe do star chart for accident free days at school with a big toy reward?

  13. KIm on July 30th, 2008 12:56 pm
  14. telegirl on July 30th, 2008 1:25 pm

    Totally feel your pain. I get frustrated and it’s over stupid things. Last night was one of those nights. Little man wouldn’t go to bed. Husband is out of town. Dog won’t stop licking his surgery wound and I hate putting the e-collar on him. I just wanted to sit down and have a glass of wine and turn my brain off to watch a movie. God. Sometimes…

    I didn’t get upset last night. I tried to keep it in perspective but I have gotten mad in the past and been a little less than sensitive. And I feel like shit. Totally. The parental lows are really low, aren’t they?

  15. Clueless But Hopeful Mama on July 30th, 2008 2:11 pm

    Like the loving legions above me, I was nodding like a bobble-head throughout this post. Zoe is almost 2 and half and simultaneously working on the two very important jobs of potty training and (intermittently) driving me loco en cabeza.

    I love your readers over here. From reading their comments I know to expect accidents. I know to give myself a break for losing it from time to time. I know to tell them if they have another accident I will tie their penis in a knot. (oh wait….)

  16. Maria on July 30th, 2008 4:07 pm

    I had to put myself in time out with my son the other day when he kicked me in my (six months pregnant) belly and I swatted his butt and yelled at him. I went to time out for losing my temper and he went to time out for kicking me and we both cried. Ugh.

    I hate the ACHE of losing my temper with my son and feeling in any way that in those moments I’ve failed him.

    This job is hard!

  17. Sam on July 30th, 2008 8:18 pm

    As for the potty training – poor little dude, it’s hard to get the pooping aspect perfected, it seems – and as a former preschool teacher, it was ALWAYS the last stand, so to speak. I just resigned myself to changing poopy diapers until the breakthrough came, even though I always made a funny deal about it whenever it happened (if they were training) – “Oh yuck! Poopy diapers are SOOOO stinky! This poop needs to be in the potty!” along with silly faces and sound effects. Of course this was based on my kids – if any of them would have been too sensitive or shy about it, I wouldn’t have dealt with it like that. They usually giggled and agreed that yes, poop in the potty is a good thing!

    Sometimes, especially in the beginning of the year, they were very adamant that they could only poop in THEIR potty at home. So I spent a lot of time telling them how wonderful the school potty was, and how it was great for pooping!

    Also, and I don’t know how many teachers Riley has, but if we felt like one of the kids was on the verge of really getting it, we did a major focus, lots of breaks and encouragement and hoo-haa, usually with one of us taking on the responsibility of the extra breaks, etc. You might send a note saying, “I think Riley needs some extra reminders, thanks so much” and that should do the trick. I try to be extra understanding of daycare providers/teachers – it’s a lot of kids and a lot to manage, especially when you add potty training into the mix.

    Anyway, that’s my experience. Just wait til it’s my turn to train my own kid. I’ll be in the corner, keening and moaning and begging God for merciful wisdom.

  18. Lesley on July 31st, 2008 5:43 pm

    Completely off topic, but since you love horror movies, you aren’t going to frickin’ believe this. A Greyhound bus passenger travelling in Canada – my peaceful sweet normal little country – got beheaded while on the bus by a complete stranger lunatic in front of all the other passengers. One minute this young guy is just reading his book on the bus and the next he’s being murdered by a 40 year old loon. Are there any safe places left?

  19. Vicki Worthing on August 1st, 2008 9:52 am

    Hi Linda,
    Love your blog. Read it everyday, but I’ve never commented before. And my comment today has nothing whatsoever to do with your entry. It is in response to your most recent twitter. I saw a cute movie a couple of weeks ago that I’d never even heard of, although it’s recent. It was called ,”Charlie Bartlett”. Like an updated, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” Very silly, and definitely aimed at a younger audience, but I thought it was a totally entertaining way to wait a couple hours. Also, you probably have already watched these, they seem like they’d bo totally up your alley, but Arrested Development has to be one of my all time favorite shows. I’m so sad that it’s not on anymore. Brilliant writing.

  20. Christy on August 1st, 2008 9:55 am

    I just read your last PD post. Good for you. I couldn’t have stuck it out there as long as you did. Now I have absolutely no reason to read it anymore. Does that mean you’ll be writing more here? Please?

  21. Melissa on August 1st, 2008 12:43 pm

    I just read your last PD post as well. You are better off. It wasn’t worth the aggravation…more time to spend with your guys or on a more productive and positive writing project. Onward and upward.

  22. Melanie on August 1st, 2008 1:15 pm

    Just a quick hello to say…again…that I’m so happy to have found your page Linda. I totally think you made the right call about PD. I couldn’t believe some of the readership over there!

    Potty training is…well….let’s face it a pain in the rear. Like you’ve said they go from having a toilette strapped to their behind to nothing. Of course accidents are going to happen and I’ve found they happen more at places like daycare where there is so much activity going on. Let’s face it, what toddler wants to stop playing with an exciting new toy or new game (that he doesn’t have at home) to go pee. Then when the urge hits situation critical…well it’s too late for little muscles to with.

    I am completely of the school to let them take their time. Could be a fluke but with my first I rushed and pushed and at 7 she still wets at night, every night! My second I did not push at all and at 3 she has only had 1 night accident about 2 weeks after she stopped wearing pull-ups.

  23. Carolyn J. on August 3rd, 2008 8:14 pm

    I have no advice to offer but I do wish to say that I wish all these commenters were my mommies and daddies. The one thing I wished for as a kid, that I can now articulate to everyone, is that it means a lot when an adult apologizes to a child. I never heard “I’m sorry” as a kid and I missed out.

  24. SART on August 4th, 2008 7:40 am

    We’re with you too in the accident wars. Reeve is 3.5 and he still has 1-2 accidents a week while at school. It’s a focus thing for him. That Barney crap on the tv or the crazy squirrels on the playground are waaaaaayyyy more interesting than running to the potty to take a piss. So we’re just dealing with it. I went to Target and bought an assload of undies and we probably throw 2-3 pairs out a week. Oh well. Oddly enough, he’s night trained now and hasn’t had one accident at night. Probably b/c his 3 second attention span is not in play while he is asleep. That and I wake him up at midnight and throw him on the toilet while he’s still semi-conscious. I figure he’ll stop having accidents one day – hopefully before he turns 4. I’ve given up on worrying too much about it.

  25. Andrea on August 4th, 2008 9:30 am

    That whole paragraph you wrote in the parenthises? The one towards the end about parent guilt and doing better?

    That sucker punched me because it’s so true. Sure, sometimes our kids can be little assholes, like when they’re playing with you only they’re actually trying to hurt you and decide the best way to do so is to headbutt your chin and you actually see stars for a second they got you so hard… Yeah, they can be little shits. But they don’t know better all the time. We are supposed to know better than to shout in their faces that the next time they headbutt us, we’ll do it back and as hard as we can and that’d SHOW THEM, whoa ho ho!

    Shaking head at own guilt. I’m promising on the internet that I’ll do better.

  26. Carrie on August 5th, 2008 12:42 pm

    All I can say about potty training is don’t start them until they’re ready. My son is 16 (holy crap!) and he still won’t use public restrooms unless it’s a medical emergency. We trained him based on the fact that he had outgrown diapers physically instead of whether he was ready emotionally. Now they have diapers for middle school kids, so it wouldn’t have been an issue.

    We do the best we can with the tools we have at the time. Try not to beat yourself up. (What am I saying. I’m 45 and my parents are still beating themselves up.)

Leave a Reply