Our third child will be three in just thirteen days. He was very ill as a baby, suffering Bacterial Meningitis and Encephalitis at just nine weeks old which nearly cost him his life but thankfully only cost him the sight in his left eye and some problems with fixing and focussing. Our beautiful boy was also late eating and late speaking but he has made up for it in leaps and bounds.
I was told a few months ago that our son should not be wearing nappies at his age and that the new owners of his preschool may not be too pleased to have him return in September in nappies, as apparently nappy changing takes staff away from an otherwise strict ratio of staff:children. I have also heard other stories from friends and fellow mums of other parents and childcare workers criticising those who allow their children to remain in nappies past two years old. I have even heard tales of parents attempting to potty train children as young as one year old.
In my humble but somewhat experienced opinion this whole sense of ‘the earlier the better’ when it comes to our children’s milestones is ridiculous. I believe it places unnecessary pressure on everyone involved with caring for the child, especially impressionable first time parents.
Why does it have to be a race? What are we, as parents, racing towards? Where is the finish line? School age? Teenage? Or adulthood? And what the hell is the prize? Rushing through your child’s delicate and amazing development, pausing only briefly to celebrate each achievement with a quick Facebook post and obligatory picture before commencing training for the next milestone? The stupidity of this astounds me and genuinely makes me sad.
So, in demonstration of my views I would like to share the following experience with you; our son has worn nappies both day and night since birth. We have not attempted to ‘train’ him to use the toilet. We have explained the toilet and allowed him to witness his parents and older siblings using the facilities in a hygienic and explanatory way. We have explained that big boys and girls wear pants and not nappies. We have allowed him to wear pants each time he has asked, less than a handful of times over the last year, but each time has been unsuccessful very quickly and he has simply not been able to identify the need to ‘go’ until it is already in motion. Each time he has cried his little heart out and asked for a nappy. We obliged.
Today he got up and while choosing his clothes for the day announced that he did not want to wear a nappy and instead wanted to wear his digger pants (they have a cute graphic of a digger on the front). We of course said yes, as always, but explained that there was no need for jeans under the guise that we were not planning on going out, but in truth because no jeans makes for easier clean ups!
It’s now just after ten o’clock in the evening and our little man has been safely tucked up asleep in bed for two hours now, albeit in a nighttime pull-up. Today’s score? Just one small accident early on, two pairs of pants and every single wee for the rest of the day successfully requested by him and done on the toilet (the real one, not a potty) with no panics or tears and even time to spare. After two years, eleven months, two weeks and one day the penny dropped, the switch flicked and our little boy gained control of his bladder. All by himself.
Today’s lesson? They all get there in the end but none of them before they are ready. Anyone that tells you otherwise has simply honed the skill of reading their child’s involuntary body language and chasing their child with a potty. Take your sweet-ass time and enjoy your child, they come with enough stress without adding make-believe milestone deadlines to your load. Give them the information and opportunities and they’ll let you know when they are ready.