One of the things that has made potty training Gracie very different than potty training Bean is having Bean around. He was sort of hanging out on the fringes for a while, just making sure Gracie wasn’t getting anything that he wasn’t getting. He sniffed around her Skittles jar, and he talked about stickers a lot when she’d put one up on her chart. I knew that it must be kind of hard for him to suddenly have Gracie be the center of attention for a week while we potty trained, so I tried to be sure to spend some extra time with him when we weren’t sitting on the potty with Gracie. I made sure that he got to pick games and activities for us to do, and I tried hanging out with him after Gracie went to bed every night.
One of the best pieces I had of advice for dealing with siblings while potty training came from our friend, Gary, who has no children himself. But he was one of four in his house when he was growing up, and I adore his family. Everything he tells me about them makes me think that I want to raise my family like his parents raised theirs, and potty training was a great example. When Gary’s little sister was potty training, Gary was about Bean’s age. His mom told Gary that if he was in the bathroom cheering for his sister when she went potty, then he got a treat, too. I thought that was a brilliant way to make potty training a whole-family affairs, and to share some of the spotlight with an older sibling.
We have been doing that with Bean, too. If he is in the bathroom and cheering for Gracie when she actually goes potty, then he gets a Skittle, too. They both think this is awesome. Bean loves getting the treat, and Gracie loves having her brother cheering her on.
Unfortunately for Bean, that means he has to endure hours of waiting in the bathroom while Gracie and I put on pretend make up and do our hair until she actually goes potty.
He’s normally a pretty good sport.
But sometimes he gets bored and goes on to play with super heroes or something like that. And then he inevitably wanders back into the bathroom, and starts encouraging Gracie, “Go potty, Gracie!” he’ll coax. “Go potty so we can go outside and play!”
I have also let him be part of all the potty training activities that are slightly more fun than waiting. He likes to help Gracie pick out her underwear. Are anyone else’s children obsessed with underwear? Mine are, and it kind of weirds me out. But they LOVE their underwear. Choosing which pair to wear is critical to the success of their day. Bean asks Gracie which character she wants to wear, and then he picks them out and she gets to choose which ones. They came up with this little system all on their own, and so far it has worked out nicely. Weirdly, but nicely.
Another thing we have done is make sure that if Gracie gets something out of the ordinary because she is potty training, we give it to Bean, too, just to make it fair. So, when Gracie can’t sit on the couches (harsh, but true), Bean plays by those same rules. He sits on a towel pallet just like her. We called them their “TV seats” this week, and they were a big hit. Bean kept saying, “Come on, Gracie, let’s go sit on our TV seats.” And she went happily along…
Sometimes having an older child while you are potty training can cause some hostility and jealousy if you’re not watching for it. I had not even thought about that when I started potty training Gracie, but it was a subtle change in Bean Man. Giving him some tasks and perks so that he was involved with the potty training itself made a huge difference. Gracie was more successful on the potty because her big brother was cheering for her, and he was happy to be involved and even leading the show in some instances.
Bean was sick all weekend. He’s had a fever since Friday, which peaked on Sunday at 103 degrees (taken under his arm, so add about a degree to that reading… wowza). We just could not get that fever to break, even rotating between Tylenol and Motrin, which usually does the trick for Bean. Little Man was just puny. I took him to the doctor yesterday and the diagnosis was a sinus infection. Poor buddy.
Then, this afternoon at school, our daycare called to say that Gracie had a low grade fever and just wasn’t acting like herself. I didn’t have to come get her because her fever wasn’t that high yet, but they could tell she wasn’t feeling good and they wanted to give me a courtesy call. Not 30 minutes later, they called again. Her fever spiked to 102 degrees. I had to come get her.
So, back to the doctor’s office we went. Turns out, Gracie has tonsillitis and an ear infection.
Two kids. Two doctors. Two days. Two co-pays. Sheesh.
But all of this prompted me to actually be GRATEFUL, of all things. I can’t remember the last time we were dealing with kids ping-ponging illnesses back and forth. I feel like last year that was our state of existence for a while. One would be sick. Then the other would get it worse. Then they’d pass it to me and Chris. Then one of them would get well enough to go back to daycare, only to bring home something else. It was awful!
But having two sickies back to back reminded me that we haven’t had that experience in a long time. Even our doctor commented on it.
“See?” she told me today. “Those immune systems are strong as they can be!”
Let me tell you something. I almost cried tears of sweet relief right there in the pediatrician’s office. After two years of feeling like a terrible parent because my wee ones were in daycare and were getting sick all the time, I am finally on the other side of the hill. And it is wonderful!
So, if you’re a new mom or a working mom to little ones, and you feel like you are just a terrible parent because your child is the one who is sick all the time – take heart, momma! Hang in there just a bit longer! This too shall pass, I promise you. Let go of the momma guilt. I know how heavy it is to carry that around. I carry it myself. But let it go this time. Babies get sick. Toddlers put other people’s tissues in their mouths. Preschoolers cough in each others faces. It’s just the facts of life, I’m afraid. You aren’t doing a thing in the world wrong.
So, hold on!
It’s going to get better. One day, you’ll go to the doctor and they won’t know your children by name. One day, you’ll go by the pharmacy to fill a prescription and they won’t smile sympathetically and say things like, “You again?” One day, illness will be the exception and not the rule.
So just sit tight. Healthier days are coming.
Bean has always been a pretty mild dude. He gets that from his dad. He’s a laid back, go with the flow, playing-with-my-action-heroes kind of a guy. But lately, it is like someone is pouring buckets of testosterone into his system and the BOY is just BURSTING out of him! He’s running and throwing and yelling and climbing walls.
No, seriously. I caught him trying to CLIMB THE DOOR FRAME of his bedroom the other day. When I asked him what he was doing, he said he was climbing like Spiderman. And then he gave me this look like, “Duh, Mom!”
The other day, he came tearing through the kitchen, chasing Gracie with a giant plastic claw. When I told him he had to leave her alone, he said, “But, MOM! She’s my DINNER!”
And yesterday, he threw an entire basket of action heroes down the stairs at one time and yelled out, “LOOK OUT BELOW!” No apparent reason for that one. Just decided to chuck everything down the stairs.
On some days, I get really irritated. He’s just so loud and rough and… and… LOUD. But, I try to look at him as a whole, not just as his rough actions. Usually, he’s rough when he’s imagining games and playing pretend. And I think that is awesome that he’s got such an active imagination. I love that about him. He’s also fairly innocent when he’s being rough. It’s like he truly doesn’t know how loud or rambunctious he is being until you tell him he needs to pipe down a bit. Then he’s pretty quick to dial it back a couple notches.
I’ve been thinking about him as if he’s just gotten a new body and he doesn’t know yet how to control it because that’s basically what it’s like to grow like a stinkin’ weed. Every day he wakes up, that kid is bigger. I feel like I blink and he grows a foot. I remember when he was around a year old, and starting to look a little bit less baby-like. I would sometimes catch glimpses of what he was going to look like as a toddler or preschooler. Now, I sometimes catch glimpses of what he’s going to look like in elementary school. And that terrifies me. This past weekend at a birthday party for one of his friends, I found myself talking about KINDERGARTEN with a couple of the other parents. KINDERGARTEN, PEOPLE.
WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON HERE? WHAT TIME TUNNEL HAVE I GOTTEN STUCK IN?????? WHERE HAS MY BABY BOY GONE???????
Okay, minor mommy meltdown over. Let’s get back to the rambunctious thing…
We are starting to notice now that with the rambunctious actions we are starting to see a little bit of a rambunctious attitude. His tone is a little more sarcastic when he talks to us. He can be a little more demanding. He is arguing more. He is getting a bit more bossy. All of these are just part of growing up, I’m sure. But dude needs to get the tiny ‘tude under control.
And then! This morning when I was dropping him off at daycare, I happened to stand there a bit longer than I normally do (I’m a quick drop and run kinda momma – usually because I’m running late!), and I noticed a table full of boys “playing” together. And I use the word playing very loosely here. They were shoving toys across the table at each other, trying to hit someone with whatever they were shoving. They were getting in each other’s faces and arguing and snapping at each other – sort of harmless yelling, but it was the same tone that we’ve started hearing at home that we are really trying to curb.
I waited for the teacher (who, thankfully, was not his regular teacher but a fill-in during the morning rush) to say something about speaking nicely or using gentle hands, but she didn’t seem to think anything was wrong. Finally, I stopped the boys at the table and said, “Hey, guys! Let’s speak nicely to our friends, please!” And only then did the teacher come over.
Now, we have a stellar daycare. Really excellent. I love both the kids teachers and feel good about where they are. Which is exactly what I said when I spoke with the daycare manager this afternoon. I told her how happy we were at the daycare and with their teachers, but that I was concerned about some of the rambunctious behavior and harsh speaking that was going on in Bean’s classroom. While I certainly understand that little boys are learning how to be bigger boys and that there have to be allowances for the rambunctious playing, my real concern was that the teachers were not helping them learn the appropriate ways to interact with each other.
Kids yelling, screaming, and throwing things? Fine. Sure. As a teacher myself, I totally understand boys pushing the limits. But there better be a teacher there to redirect their behavior to more appropriate interactions with their friends.
It was one of the only times I have ever had to voice a concern at a daycare, but I think it was the right thing to do. RIGHT???? Or am I being ridiculous? Tell me, imaginary friends, how rambunctious is too rambunctious?????
“Okay,” said Bean.
“I laid your clothes out for you on your table.”
“Oh, I don’t need those,” said Bean.
“Uh huh…” I said, too distracted as I tried to wipe mascara off my eyelid to pay attention to what he’d said.
So, Bean disappears down the hall, returning about 15 minutes later. Wearing this:
“Whoa, Bean Man,” I said, grabbing his arm as he casually strolled by me. “Whatcha wearing, Buddy?”
“I picked it out myself!”
“You did? Uh… Well… that shirt doesn’t really match those shorts, big guy.”
“Yes, it does!” Chris called from across the room. “I think it looks great!”
“Yeah!” said Bean.
“Well… um…. It doesn’t really… go together…” I stammered, not wanting to crush little Bean’s spirit, but also keenly aware that I was about to go out in public with him.
“Yeah, it does!” Chris insisted, ignoring my silent pleas with bug eyes for him to stop encouraging this. “There’s blue in the shorts and blue in the shirt!”
“And there’s white in the shorts and white in the shirt, too!” said Bean.
I checked my watch. 7:05am. Too early for any kind of argument. Especially insignificant ones.
“You’re right!” I said. “You look great! I’m so proud of you, Bean Bean! Way to go, man!”
(high fives all around)
Bean left the room, and Chris whispered to me, “You know, there should be a button or something you can put on your kid that says, ‘I dressed myself’ so that we don’t have to walk next to him in shame.”