Potty Training at 35,000 Feet

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

May 10, 2011

Levi's 4th Birthday

Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

We went on vacation in March, you may recall. (Michigan Vacation 2011) Our son, Levi, is four years old. He started potty training at 2 years old with his first day care experience. Now, at nearly 4 and a half years, I feel confident that we can celebrate Levi being potty trained.

More or less.

Potty training, as you may recall I preach, is a spectrum. We start out in diapers, learn the mechanics, figure out how to listen to our body when we have to go until we can no longer hear our body, and we end up back in diapers — again.

But, there is immense pressure on the child and parent to have a potty trained child. I want a career. I like to work. It is an important way in which I keep my mind active, moving, thinking, evolving. IN order for me to work Levi must be in some sort of daily care. Our choices are home care, day care, or preschool (in varying forms). I prefer center-type institutions, as it appeals to structure that I crave. When we were deciding before I started this job (my goodness nearing on 10 months ago!), the qualifications were:

  1. Will you work with a (then) three year old who isn’t potty trained?
  2. Various motherly and fatherly intuitions to factor in judgments.

Home care is often thrown out, as I am not usually satisfied with the level of attention I see given. However, I know of one mom who has a daycare in her home, and she is absolutely fabulously. Ironically, the choice came down to a home care near our home or a center near my work.

The center, the Goddard School, won out. (With these hive issues, I’m glad, triply, that we chose “close to work” for ease of visits.) The owner, the teachers, and the rest of the staff, are diligent, persistent, consistent, and patient in their training of Levi. During the Fall parent-teacher conferences, they even identified working out his frustrations and potty training as the two top things they wanted to work on throughout the  year. (We have our spring conferences in two weeks where we shall see how he’s done!)

So, the school has been working with him consistently, and mom and dad (my husband and I) have been working with Levi less consistently. We encourage, we prod, we remind, but we are less likely to go into the potty with him since we know that he knows we know he knows the mechanics. Got that?

Enter Michigan Vacation 2011. We buy these pull-ups. We don’t put them on him. Levi has been pooping in his underwear. Frustrations abound. Suddenly, we are on an airplane and going potty is cool! Twice, on the airplane, Levi asked to go potty.

Can you believe it? The desire! The want! It appeared, as if out of the blue!

Levi potty trained himself, up in the air, at around 35,000 ft! As an adult, I don’t find airplane potties cool or comfortable, but I suppose that’s the difference between me and a four year old.

Levi’s teachers also noticed he was holding it until the break rather than stating he had to go. That means the connections he was missing at home he was also missing at daycare. In the last two months, post airplane training, he has finally made the connection that he misses out on more if he has an accident.

The other major change we instituted was one of those potty-seat inserts with handles. I’m not even sure what they are called. Ours is decorated with Lightening McQueen and was purchased at Target for $18.

This was the best $18 we’ve spent as parents. It’s paid for itself in this first month, the first month where we haven’t bought pull-ups or diapers since our child was born.

Listen when they say when the kiddo is ready, he’ll be ready. Patience, reminding, and constantly working at what the real issue is are about the only things you can do.

I guess what I’m really thankful for is that the first daycare taught him how to aim.

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