Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wife Rule #89: Stay On the Train

Andrew is barely three, and he loves trains.

And when I say he loves trains, I mean he loves, loves, loves trains. Andrew wants to marry trains. All of them.

So when my wife and I gave him a golden ticket on the Potty Train, you'd think he would have jumped aboard with unbounded enthusiasm. Well, he did, sort of.

Sitting on his special little potty seat was quite a novelty at first. During the first couple of days, we spent what seemed like several hours each day helping him lug the little footstool to the base of the toilet, put his potty seat on the big seat, climb up onto the potty seat, sit for a minute or so, climb down, put the potty seat away, lug the stool over to the sink, and wash and dry his hands. He became so adept at this routine that it soon started feeling like a real train:

Lugga-putta-climba-sitta, Waita-climba-putta-lugga, Washa-washa-drya-drya... (repeat indefinitely)

The only problem was that he never actually produced anything during this time-consuming routine, except the occasional

Toot-toooooot! Toot-toooooot!

Not too satisfying for us Train Conductors, when just minutes after repeating a cycle of the Potty Train routine, a messy accident would occur, off the track.

So we did what any sensible parents would do in such a situation: we bribed him with a toy. My wife promised Andrew that he could pick out a real train from the store if he were to actually produce on the Potty Train.

After many days and many more accidents, the blessed event finally occurred, and Andrew was whisked off to the toy store. He came home, bearing the fruits of his labors, a magnificent member of the Thomas the Tank Engine family of toys.

He pooped his pants shortly after arriving home.

So Thomas & Co. were put in indefinite Time Out, until our little prodigy produced--in the proper potty place. (Wow, all those P-words without even using the word "pee"--Alliteralicious!)

So our new routine consisted of more of the same, until we realized that the toy bribery wasn't providing much motivation anymore. I was informed of my wife's new plan one day when I called home during my lunch break, and spoke with Andrew.

Me: "Hi, Buddy! What are you doing?"
Andrew: "Oh, just watching Thomas the Tank Engine."
Me: "That's great!"
Andrew: "I am naked."
Me (being careful what I repeat aloud, since I work in an open cubicle wonderland): "What?"
Andrew: "I am naked. I have to poop in the potty. I don't like being naked."
Me: "I don't blame you."

My wife got on the line and explained that Andrew indeed had nothing on his underside. She heard about this technique and hoped this would get him to remember better. In fact, he had successfully used the potty many times already that day, and had already earned back his train toy.

Going Commando on the Potty Train seemed to improve things overall, though there were still one or more "incidents" per day. However, as time wore on, our little Tarzan wild child only became more accustomed to existing in his natural state. Accidents became more and more frequent, and now they had more dire consequences, since didn't have cotton Osh-Kosh-B'gosh or whatever to act as a loincloth.

My wife and I discussed strategy many times. We had been through this three times before, but we found ourselves befuddled. We talked about bribing with more trains. A whole herd of trains. Wearing wedding veils, if it would help.

Ultimately, we bribed him with Otterpops. Don't ask me why eating twenty frozen Otterpops on a 40-degree November day is appealing to a half-naked three-year-old, but it was. Plus, being liquid, they had the desirable side effect of greasing the wheels of the Potty Train, speeding the pace of our routine.

Lugga-putta-climba-sitta, Pee-a-climba-putta-lugga, Washa-washa-drya-drya...

Yes, the Potty Train was speeding along at quite a good clip now, thanks to our little slushy friends. Was it finally heading into the station?

This question was soon answered for me, during a time when I was at home with the kids and my wife was out. My daughter came running into the kitchen, reporting that there was a big pile of something highly undesirable on the carpet in the bedroom. Something that had been stepped in by more than one child and had now been tracked into at least four different rooms of the house.

The Potty Train had sped right off a cliff and crashed somewhere in the ravine below, exploding in a brilliant burst of flame.

My wife came home and I enlisted her help in disaster cleanup. After 30 minutes of mopping and scrubbing and spraying disinfectant at every surface we could find, we were honestly both feeling a little despondent. Would the Potty Train ever, ever put on that coveted Thomas-the-Tank-Engine smiley face, or was it doomed forever to bear a grunting grimace? When would it end?

We talked about progress made. We talked about momentum, and we weren't sure which direction it was presently going. We seriously discussed going back to diapers.

In the end, it boiled down to knowing that potty training was the right thing to do, so we decided to stick with it just one more day--surely we could handle just one more day.

And let's just say, giving it that last chance made all the difference. We now have a proud wearer of genuine Thomas the Tank Engine underpants plus pants! Our little passenger has officially graduated to status of Train Engineer. And we are proud--and relieved (no pun intended)--but mostly proud.

He's even learning when to board the Potty Train and when the Train is just tooting off steam.

My wife and I did learn something very valuable from all this, a life lesson that should serve us well for many years: it seems like just at the moment when we are ready to give up, we just need to hang on a little longer, and things often work themselves out. We have decided to ride many trains in life, like the potty train, and when it seems like the train is at a standstill, or heading off a cliff, or even like it has already crashed, if we believe in the cause, we should just stick it out. Stay on the train.

After all, Andrew is worth it--every bit of it.


Jenny and Al said...

Boy, I can't even describe how excited this post is making me for potty training days.

LuckyMatt said...

With any luck The Buddy will be easy. Each kid is very different when it comes to the Potty Train.

Shell said...

This post was incredibly clever And totally funny.
I HATE this stage!!