I’ve been thinking about this for a while, about beginning the process of potty training Finn. I confess that I’ve been a little intimidated by the prospect, not really knowing if it’s going to take some measure of endurance on my part beyond what potty training my other kids took.
Let me just say first that I don’t recall potty training my other kids with any fondness. I don’t think Kevin or Lilah were particularly difficult to get toilet trained, but I do remember Joey and the twins being especially taxing, and I remember thinking at the time that potty training was worse – was harder – than the nightmare of “sleep training” little ones. None of my kids were potty trained before age 3, with the exception of Lilah who potty trained at age 2.
So in that regard, Finn’s not yet behind schedule.
I don’t claim to be an expert on potty training, on child behavior, or even on parenting. After really thinking about the mechanics of potty training, here are what I see as the factors that have to be taken into account:
- The child must be able to tune into his or her body’s signals and interpret those signals (What does that sensation I have mean?)
- The child must be able – that is, to have the physical (muscle control) and developmental capacity – to control the bodily impulses that those signals announce (Uh oh, I have to go potty, but I need to hold it for a few minutes until I get to the toilet.)
- The child must be willing to participate in this whole process.
- The parent/caregiver must be in a position to exercise consistency, patience, and perseverance.
These, I think, are the main factors that have to be taken into consideration with any child, typical or atypical. If even one of these components is not there, you’re looking at a situation that isn’t going to ultimately be successful.
So how do these factors fit in with a kid who has Down syndrome? Well, developmental disabilities generally require more of everything – more patience, more consistency, more perseverance, and it’s likely that the child will take longer to get there – to develop the physical and developmental mastery over his or her bodily signals and functions, as well as the willingness – than his or her typical peers. While some children with Down syndrome do successfully potty train as early as age 2 or 3, it’s not uncommon for a child with Down syndrome of 5 or 6 to have not yet mastered it. Knowing this actually gives me a little courage, because I know that if our first attempt fails, or even our second or third or fourth, it’s not really anyone’s failure – not Finn’s and not mine – it’s just the way it is, and he will get there eventually.
I’ve been thinking for months now that we would give potty training a first shot over the kids’ Winter Break, because it would be a time when I could stick close to home and exercise the consistency needed to sit Finn on the toilet at very regular intervals. I say “first shot” because in all honesty, I’m trying to approach this with an open mind, meaning I accept that it’s probably going to take multiple attempts.
So yesterday was Day 1. I tried the old potty chair we still have from the other kids, but found that the opening is too small and Finn would have to be positioned exactly right on it in order to do his business. I also remember the twins starting out with the potty chair and then being terrified of the “big potty.” Better to go straight to the big potty. So I got a potty seat that fits onto the big toilet, especially for little bums: Bumbo Toilet Trainer (very ergonomic, just what Bumbo is known for).
My first inclination was to put Finn in underwear and put him on the potty every 20 – 30 minutes throughout the day. After he peed on the couch twice in an hour, however, I realized that I can’t follow him around all day cleaning up pee, so I ended up putting him in a Pull-Up. I know Pull-Ups are a big no-no for potty training, and that current wisdom has it that you have to go cold turkey, but I’ll be honest: I really don’t believe that Finn has any notion of the difference between underwear and Pull-Ups, so I don’t believe this is going to make or break us, and it might save my back and my sanity a little.
We learned the “potty” sign and to say “potty” (Finn’s sign looks more like a wave you’d give from a Rose Parade float, and “potty” sounds like “poppy,” but hey, approximations are totally fine). Finn was willing enough to sit on the potty, and all told by the end of the day, he peed in the potty twice and pooped in the potty once (I’m pretty sure the pooping incident was pure luck, as I happened to catch him just as he was on the verge), and lots of praise and hoopla. There were also lots of accidents, but this was no surprise.
Today he seems a little less willing. When I sit him on the potty, within 20 – 30 seconds, he’s saying “All done,” without having done anything in the potty. I’m making him sit for at least a couple of minutes, but (a) my experience yesterday indicated that if he’s going to do anything into the toilet, it’s going to be within the first few seconds, and (b) I don’t want to force him to sit on the potty longer than he’s willing to sit and thus make the pottying experience a negative one for him.
So I will keep on keepin’ on for the rest of this week and see how it goes. If this attempt is not successful, we’ll try again over Spring Break, and know that at least we made some headway in potty awareness.