Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The zen of potty learning*

Opportunities to practice mindfulness arise from the most unexpected places. I didn’t expect the potty to be one of them.

We’ve had a potty knocking around the house since before zen baby was a bump, but it has mainly been used as a comfy seat for tv watching (for toddler, not me; my rear is far, far too large for that) or a handy dust-catcher.

We never made an issue of it, because child-led is my thang, although we would occasionally remember to do a rather half-hearted ‘want to use the potty? No? Ok then’ every  three or four months.

And then one day, a couple of weeks back, I asked her if she fancied sitting on it while we read a story. She did, and wee ensued. Not long after, I popped to the kitchen to make toast and by the time I came back she’d removed all lower body coverings and was perched proudly on the pot: ‘I done another wee, mummy!’

And, incredibly, since then it’s been mainly successes, with the occasional accident (apologies, lovely new carpet of our newly renovated local library).

It has been a gentle process, and an unexpectedly enjoyable one.

Enjoyable not so much because there has been so much less stress and mess than I feared, but enjoyable because being alert to zen toddler’s bladder and bowel situation at every given moment has been a very mindful process, and one that has made me more aware of her. It’s been all too easy, recently, to leave her to her own devices because I’m feeding zen baby, or sorting laundry, or scribbling some work notes, or tired and lethargic and not very engaged.

But keeping an eye out for the tell-tale body language that lets me know that there’s an elimination on the way and keeping a mental balance sheet of ‘liquids consumed + length of time since last potty sitting – volume of most recent wee = likelihood of needing to go soon’ has meant that I’m thinking about her as much of the time as possible, I’m staying close to her, and I’m putting myself in her place and being as aware of her needs as I can be (emotional needs as well as physical: I’ve been mindful not to convey any anxiety or neuroticism. We’re British, she’ll develop plenty of her own hang-ups about bodily functions and biology in due course … )

Potty learning ~ an unexpectedly zen experience.

Which aspects  of parenting have you found to be unexpectedly mindful experiences?  

 * The differentiation between ‘potty training’ and ‘potty learning’ could be dismissed as mere semantics, but the weight of a word is important to me. I haven’t ‘trained’ her to do anything (ok, I may have conditioned her to bring me my towel when I’m finished showering,  but that's totally different. Honest). The way I see it, she decided that she wanted to start using her potty, and  I’m helping her to learn how to do that. You toilet train a dog, not a child (and I'll say it again, towel-fetching doesn't count).

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