Not When She’s 16

I can’t count the number of times we’ve said this to each other. We may or may not have been crying into pints of ice cream at the time. Who am I kidding, we’ve never done that. Whole pizzas, perhaps, but I’m definitely putting ice cream on the “to cry into” list because I’ve read that salt is really good with chocolate.

In fact, we probably should have just named RR “Not When She’s 16” because it entirely sums up her personality. There we sit, watching the latest debacle that is our daughter’s development thinking: Huh. Well. She won’t not be able to do this when she’s 16, right? She’ll figure it out. And then we go back to giving her grapes to add.

For example, RR would not roll over. At 4 months, she had not made any effort to roll over. We both know that I haven’t read a single baby book – relying on you all to keep me from losing my mind – because I am not the sort of person who can be trusted with rules. I’m not that sane. I do, however, look at an occasional developmental milestone chart, find I’m on some emotional roller coaster of epic proportions, and talk myself off the ledge. I asked the doctor why RR wouldn’t roll over. SHE talked me off a ledge. We resorted to the only thing that has kept us going: There’s no way she’ll be 16, on the couch with her boyfriend or girlfriend, fooling around, and NOT be able to roll over. She’ll figure that shit out damn quick.

She won’t be 16 and not be able to…
sit up.
feed herself.
stack blocks.
roll over.

Anytime I think about her driving a car, going on a date, or slamming the door to her room, I remind myself that she won’t do any of those things without figuring out how to roll over. It works. I don’t think I’ve ever actually SEEN her do it, but I know she can. Finally.

And so here I am. She can’t figure out how to pull down her pants. Or pull them up. The child will be THREE in June and she has never tried to take off her own clothes. She looks baffled when I suggest she might try taking off her own diaper or unfastening her own shoe. With potty training upon us, this pants thing is pretty critical. She can hop on one foot. She can spell more than a handful of words. She has the musical rhythm of a Rolling Stone. But she can’t pull down her elastic pants.

That’s okay though. She treats the idea of the potty like it’s the devil come to swallow her ass. This weekend we tried the panty technique, going through 7 pairs of shorts and panties in the space of an afternoon. On the final attempt, handfuls of rabbit pellet-esque droppings spilled onto the floor and rolled under every possible piece of furniture, her having eaten something that didn’t give her the…flow…she needed. Never once did she attempt the potty. But I’m pretty damn sure she won’t be 16 and not able to use the potty. Pretty sure.

Potty training is one thing for which folks have plenty of advice because every kid seems to have their own secret to unlock. We are trying (or have tried): waiting until she shows interest, watching her friends, pull-ups, elastic waistbands ad infinitum, naked time, panties all day, potty books, not worrying about it. We are not despairing. Mostly. And, most importantly, to her I believe we actually appear laid back about it. Which is why I have you. Because she can’t go to her new school in August unless she’s potty trained and that’s about 13 years shy of 16.

We’re in trouble, Elmo.


23 Responses

  1. Dresses. I have no advice on how to actually get her to use the potty because it was a miserable experience for me with every child. But dresses are much easier to navigate because the only thing you need to pull down then is the underwear. Also, they twirl. Good luck!

  2. What about boxers for shorts with no underwear under for ease? Our 3 y/o is just now able to handle pulling up and down his own pants–but if he’s wearing underwear has a REALLY hard time and usually can’t do it on his own. And, the bonus of that, it won’t feel like underwear and she may think potty thoughts when pee runs down her legs multiple times a day (which sucks for you tho’).

    • Hey, I keep hoping pee will make a lightbulb come on, to no avail. Perhaps taking the panties/diaper substitute away would help!

  3. 1. My daughter has a neighborhood friend who didn’t figure out how to dress herself and pull up/down her own pants to go to the bathroom until second grade. And it was my daughter who taught her.

    2. I have no potty advice. My husband got so irritated she was going to be 3 in a month and still in diapers and he wanted to spend diaper money on other things. Like beer. So he took a week off of work and took charge. I know there were glitter stickers & M&M’s involved, and that’s it. It took forever to get her to use TP properly, but that’s another tale.

  4. “She treats the idea of the potty like it’s the devil come to swallow her ass.” This made me laugh out loud.
    Our almost 3 year old potty trained herself, but our almost 9 year old did the opposite. I mean, why use the potty when you can use your underwear and continue what you’re doing? For years? And, really, it became a power struggle, so my only advice–not that you asked for any–is not to force it. And, also, good luck.

    • It definitely has that ring of power struggle to it. Also, it’s absolutely in part because she doesn’t want to stop what she’s doing. The mere suggestion of interrupting her playtime results in dramatics. What’s with first borns, anyway? (says the first born who didn’t potty train til nearly 4)

  5. I had to offer Bug an elaborate reward system before he figured out how to dress himself. It involved the Rise Up Singing songbook and a lot of YouTube videos. (I am not necessarily recommending this method.) I read somewhere that you have to tell/show kids things something like 300 times before they really get it. I don’t know if it’s true or not but it sure feels like it.

    Our reward system for potty training involved a potty in the living room, paper-training him on a towel (not on purpose), an entire package of Clorox Wipes, most of a spray bottle of pet stain remover, a thing of M&Ms that lived next to the potty, a box of baby wipes (he still uses them), and an immediate trip to get a Mater The Tow Truck figurine. The reward rate went up after that. There were a lot of accidents for MONTHS AND MONTHS OH MY GOD so I feel like ‘potty trained’ is a flexible definition for ‘mostly does some of their business in the toilet’. Peeing on trees is also a lot of fun. And the no-diapers-at-night took another nine months or something, mostly because I was completely unwilling to change wet clothes/sheets at 3 AM pretty much ever. I don’t DO middle of the night. (Again, I am not recommending any of this, merely commiserating on the elaborate systems involved in getting kids to do stuff.)

    We also did a lot of sitting in the bathroom with Bug, doing something he liked until his business happened (reading books or watching ZZ Top, mostly).

    I really think if you pick a week or two to endure a lot of pee-soaked misery then you can make it happen. By make I don’t mean force your sweet baby, I mean provide so much focused opportunity that she finally does it. Gritting your teeth to endure all that, however, is not fun.

    I am also certain that, before she is 16 and fooling around, she will DEFINITELY figure out how to take off her clothes. 🙂

    • The Rise Up Singing songbook is one of our favorites! Did you employ it a threat or a promise? 😉 That said, we were so excited to try m&ms until she looked at us like we were nuts. Seriously! What kid doesn’t want M&Ms?!?!

      • OK, I said I wasn’t giving advice, but a doctor (yup, it came to that when he was much much older than 3) told us that we had to work in his currency. Which, you know, changes. So, there were candy rewards (what’s her favorite?) and Pokemon card rewards and matchbox car rewards. We started with stickers, and he looked at us with pity. “You think I’ll poop in the potty for THAT? do you not KNOW ME?”

      • Ahh…we’ve been trying the wrong thing then! Popcorn and ice cream it is!

      • Yeah. My kid couldn’t care less about stickers unless they are working him toward a Transformer.

      • We mostly use stickers as a shortcut to a tantrum. It’s like a miracle. Give her a sticker, watch her meltdown. Go figure.

      • I forgot to add that every time Bug was required to put on his clothes, i.e. every morning, he would wail “But it’s too HARDEEEEEEE!”

        RUS was a reward, not a consequence, too. 🙂

  6. If I ever get pregnant, I’m going to take the final four weeks off work as early maternity “study time”. I shall spend that time printing your blog and binding it in to a manual. “She won’t be 16 and not be able to…” Genius.

  7. Noah’s only a month behind RR, but I have a feeling we won’t get to potty training for a year. Ugh. I was thinking the same thing about him not being able to undress himself yet. He can take off shoes if he has to, and socks – because his feet are hot now. He CAN pull down pants, but sometimes it’s hard to get them over his diaper.

    He has had a potty chair by the bathtub for a long while now, and will use it to pee before his bath – thankfully instead of IN his bath. But that has in no way translated to wanting to pee any other time. He’s also told us when he’s pooped a few times, so at least he’s aware of it. Biggest thing I’ve always heard with boys is don’t rush them.

    And yes, we find with all things – it’s all about the right bribe at the right time!

  8. Ok, I have yet to read the previous comments, but have you tried putting her on the potty every 30-45 minutes? Sometimes it takes them actually going to get it. Good luck! There are few things we can’t force, bribe or encourage along and this, unfortunately, is one of them.

    • How do you get her to stop what she’s doing long enough to go? We’ve tried bodily moving her but that makes things way more traumatic than it should be. Any techniques?

      • That would be why our potty and towel were in the living room, i.e. where we are 90% of the time. That way, it’s only two feet away! And if the kid is already pantsless, well. Faster.

  9. I have no experience with the potty training thing, and therefore no advice to give.

    I did want to say though that we, too, use the “not when they’re XYZ age” technique in order to keep ourselves from freaking out about the little stuff. It’s amazing how much a little perspective can help!

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