Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NaBloPoMo 30/30: Potty accidents, play, and some parenting lessons I've learned

Yay, 30 posts in 30 days! This is the 4th year in a row I've done this, and I'm always pleased at the end of the month that I managed to post something significant almost every day. It's a good reminder that there is a lot I could post about Carter and what he's currently doing, but so much of the time I never get around to it. This is one month a year when I really do keep a good record of Carter's life. I want him to be able to read this blog when he's all grown up and see pictures and read about these parts of his childhood that he won't remember. And hey, considering how old I'll be when he's all grown up, I may not remember either!

Today, like all Wednesdays, was a work-from-home day for me. We had a few hours in the morning to have breakfast and play, and we ended up spending a good chunk of that time sitting in the front room by the Christmas tree, playing and listening to holiday music. I'm loving having the tree in there instead of in the foyer. It encourages us to hang out in that space that otherwise so often goes unused.

I worked during the afternoon while Michelle and Carter played. For the last two days, he's basically wanted to play in his playroom all day. She tried to lure him outside this afternoon, but he wasn't interested! They put up some holiday decorations in the playroom. Here is the window, which has sort of turned into a bulletin board:


Yesterday I posted pictures of the ornaments they made. Here they are on the tree:


I'm really loving the way we're using the tree to display the seasons and holidays. It's something we'll be able to do year-round, and it's a lot of fun.

This evening Carter and I went to McDonald's for dinner and then to Target -- I was desperate to get to the grocery store, and this was the only time we had to do it. At McDonald's we played and fed a chicken mcnugget to a stray kitten who came to hang out on the playground. It wouldn't let us come near it at all, poor thing. Something I would love to do when Carter is older is foster cats for the Humane Society. I would love to take in a stray and help it learn to adjust to life with caring people before it finds a permanent home. I would especially love to foster a pregnant mama cat sometime. I have such good memories of seeing my cats raise kittens when I was little, and since it's fairly irresponsible to fail to spay and neuter cats these days, the only way for Carter to experience that would be in a foster situation. Maybe someday...

We then went to Target, where we got some (caffeine-free) yummy drinks at Starbucks and then did the necessary shopping. We always end our trips to Target by spending some time in the toy section, where Carter loves to play with whatever he can get his hands on. After playing with some trains for a while he said, "Mommy, come here. I did something." I wandered down the aisle to where he was to see a puddle on the floor next to him. For the first time in a long time, he'd wet his pants. I opened up the package of wipes that was in the cart and cleaned up the mess, then we swung by the kids' clothing area and I picked out a cheap pair of sweatpants. I don't usually carry spare clothes anymore, so I wasn't prepared for this! I bought the pants and then changed him in the bathroom, and we headed back over to the toys. So yeah, Target was a convenient place for it to happen!

The whole potty learning thing has been really interesting. We're coming up on a year out of pullups, and though it's generally gone well, there have definitely been particular periods where he's regressed for a few weeks at a time. During the last regression, we learned by trial and error that we had to just back off and let him sort it out. Reminding him to go to the bathroom would just frustrate him, and he'd end up holding it even when he was clearly uncomfortable, and would inevitably have an accident. Reminding him to go had worked in the past, but suddenly it only made things worse! So we learned to just wait him out, doing no more than gently observing that he looked like he might need to pee, and accepting his "no" without argument. And when there are accidents, it's no big deal -- we just clean it up without comment and move on. As soon as we all started doing this, the regression ended within a matter of days. So we were clearly making it worse when all he needed was a little space!

He's still pooping in pullups, but we've been saying for months now that when he turns 4 he will have to start pooping on the potty. He seems to accept this, but I'm not sure he's aware of how soon his birthday is coming up! I've told him we'll have a special party when he starts pooping on the potty -- which he's never really done. We'll see!

Speaking of pee, this evening when we got home he stripped off his new pants and ran around half-naked for a while. I'd just gotten off the phone with Doug when I looked over and realized he was peeing into his hand, and then drinking the pee! I wasn't exactly sure how to respond to that, so I decided to not make a big deal out of it and hope for the best. I asked him if he thought pee tasted yummy or gross, and he made a face and said, "Gross!" and then spit into his hand as if trying to get the taste out. And that was it -- he didn't do it again. I even asked him about it after his bath, and he said it was gross. :-P

Here he is sitting in a basket at Target while we were checking out. He said it was a boat.

He started to get really loopy after the pee incident, and I realized that it was 9:00 and he was overtired. I'd lost track of time. One thing that I've learned in the last few months is that under these circumstances, rushing bedtime is NOT a good idea. Despite the fact that he's tired and really needs to get to sleep, these are the times when the bedtime routine is super important to get him wound down. It's also really important to connect with him during bedtime, and that really helps him stop whining and acting crazy.

One of the big parenting lessons I've learned in the last year is that the times when kids are most annoying, when you really don't want to deal with them, are actually when they need your full attention the most. Their brains are still developing and changing all the time, and they just can't regulate their emotions like adults can. They desperately need help to get themselves back to normal. Conventional parenting "wisdom" would say that you should ignore or even punish them at a time like this, and to actually give them love and attention would only reinforce the wrong things. But you know, kids are not puppies, and that sort of behaviorist thinking is not a good basis for a parenting philosophy. Kids need parenting then far more than they need it when they're happy and not being annoying. This has been a great lesson for me, and you know what? It totally works.

So the bedtime routine took its usual 45-ish minutes, and it was completely pleasant and fun. Carter only made it through one story before he decided it was time to go to sleep, and he was out in a minute. If I'd tried to rush things at any point, it would have been a disaster (as I've learned from prior experience).

Another thing that's changed in the last month is that Carter has suddenly become more interested in understanding the rationale behind rules and actions. We've always provided the rationale and he's seemed to just ignore it, but in the last few weeks he's started pressing for more information. And it's really making me be more careful and thoughtful about my own actions.

For example, a constant battle we have at bathtime is over the "keep the water in the tub" rule. Carter takes baths in the big garden tub in our master bathroom. For some insane reason, the people who built this house decided that the master bathroom should have carpet on the floor, which means that we have to be careful about stepping on bathmats when we get out of the tub. Carter likes to pour water onto the carpet, unfortunately -- not the bath mat, or a plastic tub placed there for just this purpose, or even a pile of towels, but the carpet itself. There has been much discussion of this rule and nightly taking away of water-containing vessels at bathtime, but it's a rule that he just doesn't seem to be able to follow. There is something about pouring water on the carpet that he finds incredibly appealing.

So once again tonight, he poured water on the carpet, and I reminded him about the rule. And this time, he asked, "Why?" He's never asked why about this rule before, but this is a new trend, so I wasn't surprised. But still, I mentally went through a list of all the reasons why I don't want water on the carpet to really push myself to understand why this rule was so important. Clearly Carter doesn't yet believe it's important, and this was a chance to convince him. I finally picked one: I'm worried about the carpet getting moldy and becoming a health hazard. We talked about this for a while, and he really seemed to listen and think about it. I told him that mold is especially bad for people who have asthma (like him), and that we could all get very sick if our house got moldy, and that it would be difficult and expensive to fix the problem. Only time will tell if that explanation helps him understand the rule, but I really think that was a turning point.

I'm liking this new phase, though. It's pushing me to be honest about why we do things the way we do, rather than just arbitrarily choose to stop him from doing something because it's inconvenient. I think he's almost ready for us to start talking about formulating a set of house rules that we all agree upon and follow. That should be really interesting!

And I'd better stop writing now so that I can get this posted before midnight. :-)

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