There are fewer parenting escapades I have entered into with my eyes more firmly shut than the Adventure of Potty Training. There I was, determinedly washing out the terry nappies (better for the environment), bemoaning the sate of my hands, and I thought, why not? How hard can it be? Yes, it’ll take longer, but, heck, I’m used to that. Better get started early. I blame them entirely. They lulled me into a false sense of security.
You see, you have to keep checking them. Yes, I know we have to do this constantly, regardless of type, and many is the time I have regretted an exploratory sniff, but my investigations had persuaded me that my firstborn son, despite the perils of low muscle tone, was not what one might call a dribbler, so I consulted the catalogues and rapidly discovered that there is an exciting array of plastic goodies with which to adorn your house and…. I fell upon the shopping possibilities with glee and set about the task with confidence.
There were potties with cow prints, potties that played a tune upon performance, potties that converted into chairs or possibly modes of transport, potties you could put in front of the telly, potties you put in the bathroom. I restrained myself and bought one for upstairs (chair-style), one for downstairs (conventional) and a matchy matchy little step up thing for the day when he graduated to the toilet. Oh and a squashy toilet seat that would mean when he did graduate, he didn’t fall in and flush himself away.
Typically, I did no reading on how to go about toilet training; instead, in time honoured fashion, I consulted my mother and my friends who were about to embark upon the same challenge. Equally stereotypically, me being a teacher and all, I broke the learning challenge into stages, prior learning needed, thought about steps to success, rubbed my hands and dreamed about freedom from the nappy bucket, and off we went. I considered the possibility of a chart, but, seeing as he had no reaction to stickers I reluctantly abandoned the idea.
Once I had persuaded him to stop wandering around wearing the potty as a hat and sit in it for short periods (well, sit down and stand up immediately afterwards), the next stage was to ascertain whether or not he had any awareness of being wet or dirty. I had my suspicions. A poo was undoubtedly imminent when he disappeared behind the sofa for some time, emerging, satisfied, trailing green smoke and a relieved expression, so he must have been able to tell it was coming. Step Two was to take the nappy off, let him wander around, free as a free thing in the breeze, and see what happened. My job, as his adoring mother, was to watch him like a hawk, ready to catch whatever made an appearance and heap fulsome praise whenever it occurred. Simple.
I should have realised. I should have known that all might not turn out as I thought when, with rather depressing regularity, Sam would chose to hose down the hallway whenever I was attempting to put the baby down for a nap. I should have known, whenever it went quiet and he disappeared behind the living room curtains, that something was suss. Potty training took a lot longer than anticipated.
But, by the time he went to school, I reckoned you could pretty well rely on him to stay clean and dry so long as you took him to the toilet at intervals and he didn’t fall asleep. Mind you, even with a 1-1 TA he regularly came home with a little plastic bag full of wet clothes in the early years of his primary education. Oh, I know he wasn’t the only one to get carried away with the water tray, but why did he have to drop his trousers so regularly in the welcoming pool on the floor in the Reception toilets?
Poo, though, was another matter entirely. Once he’d got over the shock of something that big coming out of him and splashing him on the bottom in revenge, that is. Thankfully (sort of), to the low muscle tone, Sam was always what you might call a little slow in that department, giving whoever was looking after him plenty of warning…except when that person wasn’t very experienced with small children.
Now, I don’t think I am being particularly controversial, but, having potty trained three of them, I reckon that any parent who has got that far knows what to do, especially if they aren’t watching 30 other small people (who are also dancing about, declaring that they do not need to relieve themselves and wafting the classroom with an interesting perfume). I reckon that it’s a no-brainer that you do not expect a small boy with a learning difficulty who needs to do a poo to use a urinal. (Or a small boy to do a standing up wee at all, unless in emergency circumstances, valuing, as I do, the ability to enter the toilet without fear of puddles.) The poor young man who found himself attempting to stop Sam from cleaning up the mess with his bare hands found himself sent home in a traumatised state, and with not much sympathy.
It never occurred to me, or to the school, I think, that Sam might need an intimate care plan. He was trained, and accidents happen to all young children. The thing is, though, that he was taught and supported by a succession of professionals-who-were-also-parents who knew what to do, when to do it, and weren’t phased when it went wrong. It was a new-ish school and the facilities were clean. No, the accidents happened when the person keeping an eye on my boy wasn’t.
Like the time he was followed home by an almighty stink because the poo had been tipped out of the pants, and the pants pulled back up. I wasn’t very happy about that. He never seemed to mind sitting in a smelly, warm, squashy pile (just like his brother) but I sure as hell mind about sore bottoms and nasty smells. Nobody wants to sit next to the smelly kid, after all. It’s why we potty train after all; because we want to give our children the ability to take care of themselves, we want to see them grow into independent people with self respect and confidence. In the end it comes down to dignity.
If you have a child like mine, either in your class or in your home, get an intimate care plan.