Mamatography/week 14: Easter week

This week (in my case, actually showcasing photos from early April) crosses a significant milestone for us Mamatographers: day 100!! This is our Easter Week. My energy and creativity were a bit low at the start of the week, but a family Easter fun-day turned that around!

Day 95

day 96

Janitors for Justice. Nica and I were out for a stroll when we ran into this demonstration. She asked what they were doing and I explained it is a protest march, that they just want to be paid a fair wage for the work they do, so they can feed their families and send them to school and keep them healthy… I started crying. Silly? I don’t know, it just got to me, the unfairness of the world that generally the people who work the hardest, most physical, dirty jobs get so little pay and respect.

Also, not to get me started on politics (toooooooo late!…) but I didn’t see a single white face among the janitors asking for equality. They were 99% Latino and 1% African-American. The segregation in this country can be shocking. I love the USA. I LOVE California but the stark contrast between the haves and have-nots and the geographical divide between them, which so often coincides with racial divides, too, is both surprising and saddening to me. All those songs about ‘the other side of the tracks’ – you just reckon it is a figure of speech when you are in Europe, and then you get here and discover it is literal. In so many towns here, you find that one minute you are in a very nice, clean, middle-class neighbourhood and then you keep driving down the same road, cross a block, and find that all the windows are either barred or boarded up. Not that we don’t have bad neighbourhoods in Europe, of course we do. We have poverty, too. But somehow it is a little more dispersed, not so ghettoised – perhaps because the cities are smaller and old and you can’t just add a new wing for new arrivals, so to speak. But also, it seems to me, I was used to more integration in London, for example. We have black, Asian, white and Chinese middle-class communities(among others) integrated, living and working side-by-side. So, it is a little surprising to find it seemingly so stratified, over here. Okay, okay, I am sure there are many exceptions and I know it varies a lot from city to city, too. But I remember noticing, after living here a year or so, that practically the only Latinos I had met since moving here had either been cleaning my car or serving my food.  I know in a couple of generations this will have changed (insh’Allah) but at this point, I am with the janitors, may they find the justice they seek.

day 97

Low inspiration day… shot this technically after midnight but before sleep so I think it still counts :p

day 98

on the way to Easter at the park:

day 99

Easter Sunday – family egg hunt at our local park. For the full photo shoot go here.

day 100 – wooohooo!

Monkey was going for a swing in his ‘car seat’

day 101

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Are you up for a challenge? One that will take something from you every day, but give a whole lot back too? How about joining me for the photography challenge in 2012 then? A photo a day of whatever your day involved. You can jump in any time through the year!

If you’d still like to join us, you can start at any time, just sign up here and our host will email you further information.

Without further ado, here is the current list of all participants for Mamatography 2012 so far!

Two and potty trained: a real world review of how the ‘3-day’ method worked for us

My child is two and is potty trained. Actually I would say she was potty trained at 22 months, but it is all in how you look at it, really.

I have been fielding a few questions about this recently – people asking me how she is doing now (following my 3-day potty training series), so I wanted to come back and write a kind of wrap-up post with a review of our progress. First, for those who haven’t been following along…

Our ‘stats’

  • we did the three-day potty training starting when little’un was just shy of 20 months old. We did not wait for the traditional ‘signs of readiness’ as we learned from our EC friends that a child’s instinct to stay clean and dry comes from birth, the rest is all habit and ‘learning’
  • day one of the process, we had our first ‘walk-to’ poop, meaning she felt the urge and walked over to do a poo in the potty, completely spontaneously and unprompted. She got it – what this whole potty learning thing is about. But we were still having lots of ‘pee-misplacement incidents’
  • day two we were getting more and more pees in the potty and three out of three poops had gone in the potty. Hazah!
  • day three she night-trained herself. That was completely unexpected. I checked her diaper when she woke up after the second night and it was dry. That has remained the case with only a couple of exceptions to prove the rule (both exceptions happened not during her sleep but when she was restless, worked up and fighting sleep)
  • … but we continued to have mixed success with pees – most went in the potty (either partially or fully) but one or two a day were still full-on misses
  • at the end of the first month, we had our first full day with NO accidents. Hooray! We had had lots and lots of nearly-nearly days (where she made it all though the day without incident and then when we got home she would pee just before making it to the potty, often). Finally after four weeks she had her first ‘all in the potty’ day!
  • … but there were still days with some accidents. We had very few poo accidents at all, in the whole process (and the ones that did happen were like on my friend’s patio – sorry again – or our hardwood floored hallway, thankfully) but we continued to have some pee accidents on some days. Then every few days we would have a full day with all the pee in the potty.
  • after two months, when she had just turned 22 months, the ratio shifted and suddenly most days were ‘dry’ (underpants, trousers and legs stayed DRY) and days with any accidents became fewer and fewer.
  • and from there on what started to happen for us was a new cycle. She would go for about two weeks with no accidents, then she’d have one mishap – usually on daddy’s watch (sorry to point this out… but really it is just the result of the fact that he has  less ‘training’ and is therefore less attuned to her non-verbal signals and she is less receptive to his prompting to go, too). Then after one accident it would be like a floodgate opened (no pun intended) and there would follow lots of other ones. I also noticed that invariably what had happened was that I had started the ‘dry’ cycle super vigilant and treating it like a dance for two, more like EC where I have to tune into her and sense her need and offer the potty at opportune times, lest she forget. After a couple weeks of success, I would get complacent and just wait for her to either go on her own (at home) or tell me she has to go, which worked most of the time… until she got distracted or absorbed by something (say playing with daddy) and forgot to go or overrode her body’s signals, which is normally where I would come in and offer – but daddy’s timing wasn’t always as finely honed so… accident one would give way to accident two and so on for a day or two till we got back to the rhythm.
  • now, at 26 months old, it has been about a couple of months since Pipoca’s last full-on accident. What does happen now is she’ll often have a kind of pre-leak, where a little escapes before she acknowledges she has to go. So we still get through a lot of underwear but… when she needs to go, (the vast majority of) it goes in the potty.
  • we are now transitioning to the big potty (aka the toilet). She was most comfortable on a little potty for a long while but the last few weeks we have mainly been using public toilets and only use the potty in the car. She seems to be really into this new phase, too, of doing it on the big potty like big girls and grown ups.

Our approach

We did all this with NO punishments, shaming, bribes or rewards. I really wanted her to want to go in the potty for its own sake, not as a way to get a raisin or a big family celebration or anything else. Yes, the timing largely came from us, adults, but it was very much from observing her interest in the potty (much as one introduces food when the kid follows our every spoonful – we don’t wait for them to ask for food to know they are ‘ready’ to eat). This was her process to lead, the speed at which we advanced was hers. We never pushed her or forced her to go, we always said, ‘okay, when you are ready’… even when we could really see she needed to go. The message was always: “This is your body and you know best when you need to go and how long you can hold it. We trust you.” This is what we wanted her to see, not that she would please mommy and daddy by going or that she’d get a reward – what we wanted her to come out of this with was a confidence that we trust her, we are here to support her learning. Plus, of course, she needed to gain a new awareness of her body and all the sensations that mean you need to go, etc. We also hoped we could have fun along the way… and we did.
So, it wasn’t the picture-perfect ‘three day’ process I was promised in the ‘brochures‘ (hah!). It took longer than that for us and we had a lot of accidents along the way (including in Ikea, Toys R Us, at the park)… But, actually, when I stopped thinking about it as ‘potty learning’ for her and instead started thinking of it as kind of dance, pair-work, something we do together, much more like late-start Elimination Communication than like traditional potty training, I adjusted my expectations and found that I really enjoyed the process – and it was much more successful this way, too. What I mean by this is I stopped putting all the onus on her to go on her own or tell me when she needed to go (which she did do most of the time) and remembered that even though she has ‘potty learned’ I still have a role in this, I still need to stay vigilant, offer the potty before we go out (whether she takes it or not, the offer is made); offer to go with her if I feel she needs the incentive, remind her it is time to go when she is starting to leak (small wet patch!?) or doing the potty dance, etc!… even as I always respect the fact that ultimately it is her choice (and pushing her would only make her push back harder, anyway).
Maybe this sounds obvious to many of you, but because she was doing it so well and so independently 90% of the time, it was easy to assume she’d got it and I could rest on my laurels the other 10%… until I learned over and over that (with her at least) I still had to be on the ball.
Reflecting on this process, this is the shocker: I think potty training my child has been one of the best things I have done on this parenting journey. It is actually one of the things I would say that has most helped me connect and get even closer to my beautiful baby girl. It was VERY hard at times, exasperating, even… but overall this brought me to a new level of attunement to my daughter, so that it became that (after a couple of weeks), most of the time I could ‘sense’ when she needed to go – without her actually communicating, in words or actions, anything at all.

Well, I say it is a ‘shocker’ but any EC mamas and papas will be laughing about how long it took me to find this out. All EC parents I know enthuse about how much the process helped them bond with their kids. To those of us that didn’t EC our kids from the get-go this notion seems, well, absurd. “How does helping your kid pee and poo help you bond??? ergh – gross!” But there you have it. It is true, for me, too, now I realise.

The emotional shift

I have already shared most of my top tips for potty learning here. But there is one, the importance of which has really become more obvious to me in the last few weeks, which I want to share: Cushion the way for the emotional and psychological side of this transition, as much as possible.

I am sorry to say I didn’t give this side of the process much thought, before embarking on it. I mean, I talked to her lots about where big kids and grown ups ‘go’. We watched the Elmo and other (free) potty training videos on YouTube and read books about going to the potty. We played with dolls who went on the loo but what I didn’t think to address was the loss of diapers and the diaper-changing ritual.

Now, it is clear to me that this ‘loss’ really is a big change for a little baby and I could have handled it much better. The babycentre write-up I let guide me into this process, recommended you show your child the pile of diapers you are going to use up before you do the 3-day process and explain that when those are used up, baby won’t be using diapers anymore. I literally forgot to do that step. Ooops. I focussed instead on the potty and what it was for and figured she didn’t really get what happened with the diapers, anyway. Why would she be attached to them?… and I know I was partially right, as I remain convinced she was oblivious to her bodily functions up until this process began but now I realise how important that whole ritual of changing a diaper was in her toddler life. Okay, she resisted being changed a lot (which might give you the false impression she’d be happy to be rid of it, right?)  but it was still a fulcral, familiar process in her every day that was done with mommy (or daddy). But here’s the thing, from the moment we went diaper free (and only from then) she became obsessed with role playing diaper changing – both on her bear and on herself. And that remained one of her favourite games for the last few months up until recently. Well, I remember that when kids get stuck in play, it is usually a sign they are not able to fully process what is going on. I was prepared to step in and help her with that, in play… and then it seemed she moved on from that game – just when she seems to have really gotten into the swing of potty use and she has taken to announcing that she is ‘a big girl that doesn’t wear diapers but wears knickers instead’! So, yeah, this transition IS a big deal and helping them cope with it emotionally is an important part of making it as easy and enjoyable for them, as possible. And I have learnt that it is not only about introducing a potty but about taking away diapers.

Advantages of ‘early’ potty training

  1. free sexual exploration – naked time means they get to look and touch and feel what is going on, down there. They are going to do this sooner or later. It is theirs afterall. So, I reckon the sooner they get some quality naked time with themselves, the better. I’d rather this be happening at 18 months than at 4 years old, myself. Kids should feel free and at ease with their naked bodies. Hooray for diaper-free time.
  2. fostering independence – I don’t believe they need to ‘ask for it’ to be ready – in some kind of crazy reversal of the extended breastfeeding put down (“if they can ask for it they are too old”); it seems many parents go with a kind of “if they can’t ask for it, they are not ready” policy on potty training. I (mostly) disagree. I think you watch your baby and (much as you did for introducing food) you can follow the signs as to whether they are ready to go independently – and ECers will tell you they can communicate to you when they need to go, from birth or soon after. Anyway, if you let the process be baby-led (once you have followed the unspoken timing) children find their way to mastering a new aspect of their physical embodiment. This brings pride, joy and a sense of confidence and independence, as it all begins to click. It is empowering – or can be (on a good day)
  3. deepening the parent-child bond – I mentioned this earlier. Doing this kind of (late) EC-ish method meant I was pushed to become super attuned to my daughter’s needs. And I found myself developing what NinjaDad and I jokingly called my ‘spider senses’ whereby I often just ‘knew’ when she needed to go. I guess it was my unconscious making clever calculations based on how much she drank, how long it has been since her last pee and taking in subtle cues from changes in her body language… anyway, I was not consciously aware of how I knew, I just did. And then, of course, there were the occasional ‘ghost pees’, another phenomenon apparently well known among ECers whereby sometimes you have a vivid and very realistic sense that you are being peed on or indeed that you yourself need to pee – when in fact this is kind of like a premonition of your child’s need to go. Weird but fascinating. See what I mean? A new level of closeness and inter-connectedness developed.
  4. lessening the impact on the environment – less diapers to land fill or cloth diapers to wash and fewer wipes, so many fewer wipes! It is amazing how much cleaner using a potty is compared to diapers. Gone are 10-wipe-blow-outs. Most poos I just need to use one wipe, nowadays. Amazing, really!

On balance

Each to their own, I say. I have spoken to LOTS of mums about this, now, both in person and online. My conclusion is that there isn’t only one way to potty learn gently, in a child-centered manner.
This is a confusing subject, I find… I mean, I resonate and understand arguments from both sides of the potty learning debate. I agree with ECers and early potty trainers that since babies are born with a sensitivity and even a kind of instinct to be clean, it may well be the most respectful, empathic and responsive thing to get them used to the potty as soon as possible. After all, what would you want? Who wants to sit in pee or poop all day?
On the other hand, the ‘wait until they are ready’ and ‘follow the child’s lead’ arguments also make a lot of sense to me and is totally how I am in almost every other aspect of my child’s life. We dance, play and learn together, finding what works for BOTH of us in a timing that reflects her development, her ever unfolding curiosity and her needs.
Clearly the EC/early potty training logic won out on me, this time. Plus, I had seen some pretty adversarial examples of ‘late potty training’ that put me off that approach entirely while, at the same time, I kept meeting ECers who raved about the process and really seemed to get a kick out of it. So the examples in my life were guiding me this approach, somehow.
But since then, I have met gentle, responsive parents who chose to EC convinced that is the most child-centered way to go AND other equally connection-oriented parents who waited till their kids were ‘ready’, some of whose kids, in fact, never had a single accident, when they traded in their diapers for undies. And I have met AP or gentle parents who have chosen nearly any path in between – all of them coming from a place of love, compassion and trust.
Truly, I think there are many ways to go about this that can be empowering for both parent and child, bringing the two together. This was the method that worked for us, this time (so far, at least). For us it was the perfect compromise: as early as we could do it so that she could walk to the potty and manage the process herself, independently. Any earlier (we started around 20 months) and she might have needed more help and as is she could manage the whole process (walking to the potty, etc) herself… and I didn’t want to go any longer than I had to, on account of the number of (chlorine-free) disposable diapers we were getting through. She responded well and quickly took to it, in our view (though, as we say, it was not a perfectly smooth journey).
Having said all that, would I do it this way, again – start early (from say 18 months) and go diaper-free from day one? I am not sure. I will say, I have no regrets. This was the way that felt right for us with this, our first child… but I do have ‘no accident’ envy, from the parents who told me that was the result for them… Then again, honestly I have heard ‘no accident’ stories coming from all methods, including the three day method (no accidents after day two or three) AND I have heard lots of ‘many accident’ stories from all methods, too. So, really, my conclusion is that has more to do with the child and, dare I say it, their ‘readiness’ (though not necessarily in the T. Brazelton sense) and with how much they are driving and embracing the process than necessarily with the method or the parent’s approach. So, do it your way… or better yet, do it your child’s way, at a time that works for the child and the whole family (like probably not just before a new sibling comes or when they are stressed… but a time when you can all give this your caring attention for a little while).
So, would I do it this way, again? Depends on the baby… Did I enjoy and learn a lot out of it this time: heck YES!


Mommy-brain or not… I still have a brain!

“So, what do you do?” She says in a break between talking about her world travels and her fulfilling job working with refugees.

“I am a full-time mom”

“Good for you. How old is your child?”

“She is nearly two years old”

“Oh. That is a long time. How important that is…” Her eyes drift as she looks for somebody else in the crowd… anybody to talk to.

— — —

Am I alone in this? I have been noticing since I gave birth – and especially since I decided to ‘stay home’ and care for my little one myself – that it seems as if people think my IQ has dropped several dozen points, that I have now no interest in world affairs and that even if I do, what I have to say about them is of no consequence, because, you know, I am only a mom.

Arrgh. That irks me. I don’t write ‘irk’ posts very often, I don’t think, but this got to me and I felt the need to share, to vent.

I am still the same person, guys! My memory might be slightly addled by hormones and yes my first love and interest is my child, but I am still me. I still love photography, spirituality, nature, travel, world politics (with a very small ‘p’). I am still me. I’d like to think I am still as fascinating, engaging and funny as ever (the dellusion may be in thinking I was ever any of those things – lol) and that my thoughts are as as insightful, thought-provoking and challenging (in a good way) as they were a couple of years ago. But it seems some people phase out before they have a chance to find out. Even some people (uh… men) very close to me seem to talk to me slightly differently, slightly more slowly, now. It would appear, the consensus is that the onus in now on me to prove I can keep up.

Somehow, it reminds me of when I went travelling around Central America with my (then) very blond boyfriend who did not speak a word of Spanish. Invariably, people would address themselves to him. I would speak to them in near-fluent Spanish and, for example, ask for some information about some local curiosity. They would respond by looking him straight in the eye and giving him their full answer. I’d have to kind of wave at them while thinking, “Hello, over here! Can you talk to the one that can talk back and, you know, understand you?”

My breasts are tiny… but I imagine that is the issue big-breasted women face: “Hello… I am up here!”  Now it seems the distraction, that keeps people from talking to me, is not my breasts or the fact that there is a man, nearby (who must be more competent and capable than me at receiving information). Now, the distraction that makes people’s eyes wander and assume I cannot possibly contribute to this exchange is my job or lack thereof.

I know I am preaching to the converted, here. Most of my readers are women. Most of you are moms, some of you stay-at-home (and go out a lot) moms. But I just want to remind everyone that if you have a degree, a Masters or a PhD it does not expire when you give birth. If you held a powerful job in a big organisation (or a meaningful job in a non-profit or what have you), you did not lose those skills over-night by chosing to care for a child. If you were able to string conversations and interesting thoughts together, before you got pregnant, you probably still can now.

We could be having a different conversation here, about the equal value of different roles in society. We could point out that in a post-feminist world, we have CHOICE and that intelligent women can and do chose to stay home; and that the world needs all these roles to be filled – and with passion… And that, in fact, the world may even be a better place for women being able to chose to stay home and educate their children themselves, rather than leave them in the care of well meaning but over-stretched, underpaid care workers who divide their attention between your and a host of other children and whose main agenda is likely to be to minimise crying, rather than light the fire of imagination, discovery and self-‘discipline’. Some of the most interesting people out there, were not the products of mass education but were lovingly home-schooled. Here’re some CNN chose to highlight. Here are some more. And here is a big old list that includes Einstein, Mozart, Monet, Alexander Graham Bell, FDR, Washington among many others. Was the world enriched because their mothers (and sometimes fathers) guided them rather than handing over their education? Were the men and women who raised their kids at home less because they were not also working a job?

And I am not even a ‘homeschooling mom’. My child is, as I said, not even two yet! But in any case that is not my main point, here. My point is only this: don’t talk down to stay-at-home mums, you don’t know if they indulge in astrophysics as a hobby.

And, to be clear, my hat is off and tilted in the direction of working moms, too, both those who do it because they have to for economic reasons and those that ‘have to’ for themselves because it is their right place, to be back in the millieu, contributing to the world in that way. I am in favour of free choice (if only we all could have that). I am for honouring everybody who follows their passion, their dream, their Heart and knowing that we each contribute, when we are true to ourselves in this way, we do truly help to make the world a better place.

So come on, talk to me like an equal, like you used to, like I matter, like caring for a child doesn’t mean I can’t do anything with my brain in a ‘real’ job, in ‘challenging’ situations with high level decision making that affects many. Know that I (and many) chose this path because we feel it is our higher calling, not because we can’t do anything else or because it is in some way ‘easier’, softer, less… In fact, having talked to lots of working moms, I think many would agree a day at the office, as stressful as it can be, is often a blessed relief from the non-stop, draining intensity of caring for a baby. Plus, relinquishing a job and a second income often means many sacrifices for the whole family. I know that in our case, chosing to stay at home, meant downsizing, living in a flat, rather than a house, going out less, having less holidays and less ‘nice things’. But it is okay, this was our loving, happy choice. We think we are helping to change the world, one child at a time. People… society seems to think we are dropping out, being boring and have nothing of value to share.

And with this, let us for a moment celebrate our differences, the incredible gift of choice (for those of us that truly have it) and the enlightened age we live in that is able to recognise the vital role that ‘full time’ moms play – and that when we make that choice, the hospital doesn’t say “oh, you are chosing to be a stay-at-home mum, shall we excise a part of your brain then, while you are here?”

How we (playfully) put an end to nipple biting

Ouch! My daughter recently started biting me at the end of a feed. It wasn’t very aggressive, as such, it was more one of those ‘I am bored and there is no more milk and I want to get a reaction out of you’ kind of bites. She would come off the breast, bite me and then when I said ‘ow’ she would smile like it was the cutest, cleverest thing she ever did – which as you may imagine didn’t endear me to her, in that moment. I am usually very patient (it is one of my rare virtues) but this was pushing my commitment to gentle parenting.

I didn’t want to fight her on this – I knew that. I mean, sometime back, when she went through a little biting phase (which retrospectively I realised was actually due to a funky latch caused by teething) I tried a more conventional ‘no biting – we treat mama’s breasts with love, respect and gratitude’ along with taking her off the breast. She did stop, but the feeling was always more adversarial than co-operative. Surely all my new-found knowledge about parenting through connection could help me find a better, more resonant way.

So, I got to thinking about her needs. What she clearly wanted here was to engage me and get a reaction out of me. So, I started wondering how we could both get what we needed. I remembered this game from Lawrence Cohen’s Playful Parenting

The original game is about dealing with ‘naughty’ words. It is very simple. If a kid says a potty word, for example, trying to get a reaction out of you, you simply respond by saying, in a clearly lighthearted way: “you can say ‘sh*t’ as much as you like as long as you don’t say…” and insert a funny-sounding, long word like ‘schmoopotilupo’. Invariably what happens is that they will immediately say this new, forbidden word. Then you give them a huge reaction. “Oh, no, now you are going to get it” and run after them and tickle them, for example, or maybe pile onto them in a mock wrestling move or whatever works for you. Everybody wins. They get to play with being wayward and they get the reaction, connection and attention they clearly needed at that moment. You get to have fun AND ensure your kid is keeping their language clean. It really works. Try it!

Well, I thought, since the scenario was kind of similar (the need was to get a rise out of me) I could try something similar to help with the biting. If she bit me and looked up at me with mischievous eyes, I said: “you can bite there as much as you like as long as you don’t touch my belly button”. Like clockwork she puts her finger right in my bellybutton and I give her the biggest, loudest, silliest reaction ever. I yelp and giggle, tickle her and pat her bum, all while being really noisy and over the top.

Now it is effortless, if Nica wants to engage me and get a big energetic burst of a reaction out of me, she just pushes my belly button. I call it the ‘Push Here for a Reaction’ game. And it is great, we transformed what was an angsty situation into a playful game. She still gets a rise out of me but now it is a wholly fun and positive reaction whereas before it was anger-fuelled. Plus she has a new and very easy way of signalling when she is feeling disconnected from me without having to act-up. She gets to be the initiator and can choose a positive interaction over a… less positive one. And the biting has stopped.

— — —

Have you tried similar playful ways to tackle situations you were previously being reactive to? I’d love to hear some of the playful parenting successes from your life? Or if you go away and try a version of these two games the ‘forbidden words’ or ‘push here for a reaction’, do come back and let us know how they work for you. Cheers,

Gauri

EC, traditional potty training or the 3-day method – which one is for me?

107.365_potty_training_jaiden

Image by ToddMorris via Flickr

The moms I know fall mostly into two categories, when it comes to potty training: the Elimination Communication (EC) moms and the traditional Potty Training (TPT) moms. The EC moms, while tiresome to hang around sometimes (because all they want to talk about is poop) are super happy talk about this stuff. They speak of each poo they caught with such excitement you’d think it was a major league sport. This is clearly an area of parenting which, while challenging, brought them great pride and fascination. The TPT moms I run into, the ones that waited for the ‘signs of readyness’ well… most of those are miserable if you bring up this topic and are mostly looking for misery with whom to share company. One lovely young mother said she was ‘literally banging [her] head against the wall’ with all the set-backs and power-struggles.

Having missed the EC train (well, let it ride on by, really), I was staring at TPT with some dread. That can’t be the only option – bribing with smarties, cajoling, coercing, only to break down in tears (the parents, that is). Eek! Then I heard of the three-day potty training method. It received glowing recommendations from the mommas on the homebrew chat group I belong to – two moms said they successfully potty trained their 18 month olds using this approach. My curiosity was piqued. I read as much as I could about it online… but never did get round to buying a book.

In fairness, I have also heard from natural mommas who went the opposite way, instead of joining the EC and early potty training movement (no pun intended) they let the timing of potty training come from their kids and did it at their pace. This presumably means waiting until they are influenced by their peers and verbally express a desire to use the potty. Still, the point is, even among natural-minded parents there is a spectrum, every thing from starting EC at birth (which some but not all ECers do) to waiting for the child to be ‘ready’ and sometimes still working on potty training at age 4. There are families out there that have done any combination of techniques at any age along this spectrum, and done so gently and respectfully.

I remained intrigued by the three-day method. The fact that it is short and to the point appeals to me. I am that kind of gal. I like to dive in, go for it, get it done, when it comes to challenges. I would rather do it intensively, in three days, than do it slowly and (arguably) more easily, over months and months, if I have the choice, even knowing those three days will be exhausting and demanding for me – but hopefully actually easier for my DD. Indeed, I am also really drawn to the fact that this method is bare-bottomed and super gentle: you essentially just support kiddos to figure it out for themselves, with no rewards or distractions used.

So, here’s the basics of the 3-day method – the prep:

  • Ensure kiddy is between 15 and 27 months of age and shows signs of being interested in the potty
  • Chose a potty training partner – this method is full-on and it takes two people, committed for the full three days
  • Schedule the 3-day starter weekend when you can have 3 days in which you dedicate yourselves entirely to the success of this method
  • Get a potty, preferably one for every room or area you will be in for those days. Ideally introduce it to your child a few weeks before the actual long weekend and talk to them and let them see how mommy and daddy go to the loo. Talk them through the steps (pulling down pants, sitting, doing the do, flushing, washing hands) over and over. Make it ‘normal’.
When you start:
  • From day one your baby goes bare bottomed 100% of the time in the house, when awake
  • Give them lots of yummy drinks to ensure they have lots of opportunity to recognise the feeling of needing to go
  • Each time they are about to pee or poo or as you see them starting quickly sit them on the potty. If you get ANY pee or poo in the potty make a huge deal of it and do your own, family potty dance/song
  • Keep it up – consistency is the key. It is important that your actions communicate that there are only two options: going in a diaper or in the potty. Going on the floor or in your clothes is not a valid option. If they pee or poo, act swiftly to get them to the right place. Do not make them feel bad or humiliate them for any (inevitable) accidents. In fact don’t draw attention to them at all. Focus on the positive and on the successes.
  • Day one you stay in the house all day. Day two you can go out for one hour in the afternoon after they have peed. Day three you can go out for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon – again only straight after a pee (which helps cement the ‘I need to pee before going out’ thing in their heads as well as giving you maximum time before the next probable ‘event’
  • Keep babe bare-bottomed in the house ALWAYS for the next three months (starting from day 1 of the intensive start-up). Wear only loose-fitting trousers (no panties, diapers or pull-ups at all) when out of the house – as any of these can just give the signal to the brain that there is something there to ‘catch’ your poo or pee and can lead to regressions
For a full description on how to get started on this method and what signs to look out for to know they are ready, go here. I am going to follow this post up with a post on how it is going for us. What you see here is the theory… next comes the practice! Will it work for us?
Now, over to you? Have you potty trained your child(ren)? Which method did you use and when did you start? How did it go – smoothly with a few setbacks or nightmarish, head-banging time? What are your top tips for us newbies?
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5 steps to losing weight the AP way

Attachment parenting II

Image by bricolage.108 via Flickr

I was a size 6 before I was pregnant. I don’t know what size I was immediately after birth, I just lived in old sweats (hah!) but when Baby was about 8 months old I celebrated getting into size 8 jeans! Now, I am a size 2. That sounds tiny to me. I am one size away from the infamous size 0. How the heck did that happen?!

This is controversial I know. There are two kinds of mamas out there, I reckon, the ones who didn’t lose the baby-weight and don’t want to talk about it and the ones who did lose all the weight and dare not talk about it. Anyway, I am going to break rank and brave the topic even though I am on the skinny-cow side. I am not crazy skinny, so don’t go getting jealous or anything like that. I am actually a flabby (non-toned) size 2 – if that isn’t too much information! And I am spotty and have a big c-scar, remember, if you need it for balance.

I have not dieted (certainly not with the intention of losing weight) and I don’t do any organised exercise… at all. So how did I do it? I credit Attachment Parenting. Here’s the rundown of what worked for me.

Weight loss the AP Way:

  1. Breastfeed at will/on cue: if your kid is anything like mine it will be a big challenge to consume as many calories as they are sucking out of us each day – and I, for one, love to eat! If I eat light for even a few days (and by light I don’t mean ‘less’ I just mean better quality/more greens, soups, salads, etc.) I find I automatically lose weight, without trying. This was especially noticeable in the first few weeks as my uterus contracted back into place, magically and seemingly overnight. And now, in the long term, I can see that breastfeeding is definitely linked to my new shape.
  2. Co-sleep: … which basically means you continue to do the above – breastfeed on cue – even through the night! Ooops, I just dropped some more calories just thinking about it, I think- and certainly without trying.
  3. Baby-wear: I have been pretty much exclusively wearing/carrying my baby since she was born. She is now 18 months old and at the 90% percentile for weight. I still carry her most places – if it is too far for her to walk or just easier to carry her. That has got to help, don’t you think?
  4. Walk: not strictly an Attachment Parenting practice but it definitely falls squarely within the Natural Parenting movement, especially if it is used as a greener alternative to driving. I love walking. For the longest time there, especially when Baby was smaller and hated to be in the car seat, I would just go for long walks – sometimes one or two hours at a time – with her in my front pack. I am not super fit, but I can walk and, again, I am sure this really helped the weight drop off.
  5. Eat Healthily: I try and eat as green, alkaline and fresh as I can… I am far from perfect, but I don’t eat wheat/gluten, dairy or meat and I limit refined sugar (the almost permanent stash of chocolate doesn’t count, right?!). The couple of times I got the flu, since Anya was born, I did nothing but eat ‘green’ for two or three days: all vegetable soups (with no carbs). I recovered quickly and I lost weight. You gotta be careful with this. You don’t want to lose too much weight when you are breastfeeding as it will affect your supply (it did mine) but eating healthily is always a good thing, to my mind.
So I lost lots of weight. Still, I want to acknowledge the role of luck in all this. This month I am this size, I hope it sticks but my love of eating has got me in trouble before, let’s hope I can keep balance, stay healthy and get way, way fitter so I can keep this trimmer figure which I am so enjoying (even now I don’t have the super-boobs, anymore).
Really this post should be about being healthy, the AP way. It is not about trying to lose weight, it is about doing what feels right for your family, going with the flow and taking care of you, too. If that so happens to bring a more optimised weight for you, hooray! I know plenty of hardcore AP mamas in all sizes and shapes. They nurse and baby-wear, eat healthy and still feel weight-challenged (and/or are happy and celebrating their womanly curves) so this is not a cure-all that works easily on everybody. But it worked for me. I guess now it is about finding what will work for you, but you can’t really go wrong with walking, breastfeeding and eating a diet with lots of fresh, green veg, can you?

Yes, I defend my child’s right to say ‘no’

If  I only had one word, if I was laid up in bed or something, couldn’t talk, couldn’t sign and for some reason my brain could only put together one word and if I could chose that word, now, I would chose the word ‘No’. It is a very powerful word. If I were (God forbid) unable to communicate or move I am expecting other people would be making a lot of choices for me. They would probably be doing things unto me, over me, around me… making decisions that I wouldn’t make for myself. The word ‘no’ might be the only word I need. Whenever they are doing things that I can live with, things that are loving and aligned with who I am and what I want, I could comfortably continue saying nothing and letting them do what they do. But if a line were crossed into something I really didn’t want to have done to me, then I could use my word to confidently assert that !

If I had just one other expression, I would chose ‘Thank you’ so I could express gratitude for all the work and care these grace-filled helpers were putting into maintaining my wellbeing.

Now I wonder if being a toddler is not a little like this. So much happening to them, decisions being made for them, they are physically picked up and moved and taken (sometimes expressly against their will) to places they don’t want to go before they were ready to leave. No wonder one of their first words is ‘NO’!! No wonder it is my child and so many children’s favourite word. That word is power.

I have said already my kid is not even 18 months old yet, but what I see in her is that word is freedom. It puts her for a second on an equal pegging – ‘I get a say, too. I am not just something to be moved and plopped somewhere else. I am a person and I deserve respect and choice!’ and most often when she uses the power of this word it is not to tell me ‘no, never’ it usually just means ‘not just yet, mom’ or ‘let me think about it for a moment while I finish what I am doing, mom’ but she is not quite articulate enough to say all that yet, so I fill in the words for her by looking in her eyes, feeling into her energy as it shifts through the day, as we do our dance.

Every ‘no’ I hear, I try to listen into it. Honestly sometimes I laugh. It is still fresh enough that it is cute. In fact my daughter doesn’t actually say ‘no’ yet, she signs it. I modified the sign from ASL to be easier for her, I gave her a proper, cool finger waggle and I love when she gets that finger out. ‘No, mommy’ (waggle, waggle). ‘I don’t want to put my PJs on yet. Thank you.’ And I remember, I probably wouldn’t want to be told what to do, when to do it and how to do it all the time, either. I might still have a lot to learn about this (the ‘terrible twos’ lay still ahead of me laughing… or is that screaming and banging their fists on the floor at me?!) but for now, I let her have some ‘nos’. I let her have as many as possible.