When he was just a wee little slip of a scrap of a thing in the NICU, we learned very early on that Nik didn’t like it when his diaper was dirty. The minute Nik was wet —or worse— he would wiggle his impossibly tiny foot which was wrapped in an impossibly tiny oxygen saturation monitor sensor. This temporarily interrupted the signals to the sensor; the resulting alarms caused multiple nurses to come running to make sure he was alright; as soon as he felt the touch of their hands he would unclench his toes and his oxygen saturation level would perk right up.
Little stinker, wasn’t he? That should have been a giant clue for Niksdad and me.
With all the amazing developmental leaps forward which Nik has made in the past months, it was inevitable that potty training would pop up on the horizon. We knew the day was coming; we just didn’t know how soon.
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For the longest time, childproofing our home hasn’t really been a big issue; Nik always played in the family room and never seemed to want for space. He was perfectly content to toddle from end to end of the room or to race around in circles, seemingly unaware of the world beyond the baby gates —until recently.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Nik has mastered the fine art of climbing over the baby gate —both shod and in bare feet. We installed a second gate on top of the first gate connecting to the kitchen. The back hall is more challenging as it leads to the laundry area, a powder room and the garage. Rather than install a second gate in the back hall, we simply locked everything that Nik could possibly get into. That meant using the deadbolt and the keyed door handle on the garage door, placing a safety tether on the bi-fold laundry doors and placing a doorknob cover on the powder room door to keep Nik from being able to turn the knob. With all that added security, we decided to leave the gate open; it seemed to be overkill and Nik can climb it in a matter of seconds anyway.
Nik has had a wonderful time taking toys into the back hall and playing in his own little alcove. He especially loves the fact that the garage door is steel (it’s a fire door) and his fridge phonics letters and player stick to the door. Every once in a while Nik would kind of rattle the laundry doors trying to figure them out. He would also spin the knob cover on the powder room door. Unbeknownst to us, he was actually conducting a detailed study of the design of the knob cover, trying to figure out how to open it.
It took forty eight hours. Technically, Nik never actually figured out how to turn the door knob with the cover attached. Being one to work smart instead of hard, Nik simply figured out how to remove the cover entirely. I discovered this by finding him splashing in the toilet one day —mere minutes before we were to leave for his therapy appointments. Since then, we’ve resorted to locking the powder room door which, I must confess, is beyond inconvenient since it is the only bathroom on the first floor.
So, now we have what I jokingly refer to as Baby Gitmo; our family room has become an unarmed fortress designed to keep Nik contained and safe. Even with the inconvenience of the locked powder room, it’s been working fairly well —until Monday of this week. Nik threw us yet another curve ball; he decided to show us in no uncertain terms that he is ready for potty training.
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Nik’s M.O. has always been to give subtle clues and escalating the messages until we get it loud and clear. It’s been this way his entire life and has not changed regardless of the issue. Why I thought this would be different, well, I really don’t know. I’m not sure where the subtlety was but, on Monday, Nik really ramped up the message. First, he stripped himself bare and divested himself of his wet pull-up. I simply dressed him and put him in a fresh one. Next, Nik decided to try to change his own poopy diaper; fortunately, I discovered that in time to avert a very big mess. As before, I simply changed him into clean pants and dressed him again.
The third time, Nik decided he obviously needed to do something to get my attention; he stripped again, this time out of a dry pull-up, and peed on the floor directly outside the powder room door. Niksdad and I got the message loud and clear!
Potty training has commenced in earnest.
The challenges feel nearly insurmountable: Nik will not sit still long enough to watch a video and climbs on the TV cabinet if it is open so he can get to the buttons on the cable box and DVD player; things such as “Potty Power” won’t help us. Really, the issue in our house isn’t so much motivation as it is communication. Nik is nonverbal and doesn’t have a way to communicate his need in advance of the event but is adamant about not wearing a soiled diaper. And the only bathroom available for use is locked up and is behind multiple gates. Short of sitting in the same room with him all day long, I haven’t yet figured out a method which will work for the long term. (We can’t leave a potty chair in the room with him b/c of sensory exploration.)
We’re going to try some simple push-button devices which we can program to say “Potty!” They need to be mounted onto something so that Nik can’t throw them as he is wont to do with many of his toys. While we wait to figure out that part, Niksdad and I are simply trying to set a schedule for taking Nik to the bathroom. Ultimately, we envision that we will have to unlock the bathroom door, lock the toilet (and wait to see how long it takes Nik to figure that out), install magnetic cabinet locks under the sink (Nik is strong enough to break the plastic ones), and turn off the water at the sink to discourage his playing. It’s not a perfect system but we think hope pray it will work. It’s just going to take us a few days to put it in place.
Nik has already decided that one is a few days too many. Yesterday was filled with many instances of Nik going au natural after he’d wet his pull-up. It got to the point that we simply put him on the potty at regular intervals after meals and after having water —all to no avail, of course.
At one point, Nik stripped himself down and we decided it was a good time for a shower. Nik adores his shower time with Daddy as it’s giggly, silly time in one of his favorite sensory environments. After his shower, as I was preparing his dinner, Nik stripped himself bare again —dry pull-up and all— and proceeded to pee on the floor in the family room!
As Niksdad and I double teamed Nik to dress him and clean up the mess, we couldn’t figure out why he would do such a thing if he was dry. While we mopped up the mess, Nik went into the back hall and stripped again and started to fidget at the bathroom door. I asked if he was ready to sit on the potty and he responded by signing yes. So, we went through the motions of sitting on the potty despite the absolute knowledge that it would be unproductive. After all, Niksdad and I had just cleaned up the evidence of that. Nik sat for a few minutes as I sang songs about going potty. He signed all done and we got him dressed again. The issue never came up again.
Niksdad and I scratched our heads wondering what it had all been about when it hit me! Nik knew that he was clean —fresh from the shower— and didn’t want to sit in a wet diaper, so he pulled the floor-watering trick. I think the second time was probably because he’s already made the association with sitting on the potty after he’s had a wet pull-up or “accident.” In his mind, we hadn’t completed the sequence he had come to expect.
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Nik has already made the connection with wet pants and sitting on the potty. Today, after every wet diaper, he would go stand at the door and rattle the knob. Once we sat him on the toilet and waited a couple of minutes, he’d tell us he was all done and that was that. I think we need to get that speech generating device as quickly as possible so we can work on the timing.
I see some significant bathroom maintenance/upgrading in Niksdad’s immediate future —the cabinets, the water, etcetera. Meanwhile, I’m looking for a slightly bigger potty seat; the one we have is a tad on the small side and seems uncomfortable to Nik. I suppose we should have thought of these things sooner but, well, we thought we had more time!
Clearly, Nik is far readier than we are for this new endeavor! Guess it’s time for us to get off the pot.