Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Getting so big…sort of

Last week was a long, painful one. It was potty training boot camp here at our home. It was not fun. It needed to happen, the time was right, but fun was not had. The whole experience has reminded me, though, of how we humans resist change—especially change that involves growth.

We played hardball with the boy, and simply talked about the merits of underpants for several days, warned him that there were no more diapers after Sunday, etc. And then, we started putting him in tiny tighty whities. Well, not whities, exactly—there were small Thomas the Trains emblazoned on them, so they weren’t all white. But you get the idea.

Of course, I did a lot of laundry during those days. I covered the upholstered furniture with sheets and blankets. We had an encore viewing of Elmo’s Potty Time, a lovely instructional DVD that a neighbor passed to us after their youngest had mastered the art. And we talked about potties. And pee. And the other. Endlessly. After a couple of days of being stuck at home in wet clothes, the kid’s incredibly strong, stubborn will began to break. There were touch-and-go successes, and then more successes than failures. And then, number 1 was accomplished. We haven’t slipped up with number 1 for almost a week. Number 2? Another story. He still prefers to sneak off somewhere and do what he shouldn’t. We’ll keep working on it.

But what was most difficult about the week, and continues to be difficult, is my son’s sudden and suffocating need for me. All the time. Constantly. I used to be able to run downstairs for a few minutes to do laundry, check email, clean cat litter, and he’d be fine, singing to himself, talking with his toys, whatever. No longer. Now, if I’m out of his sight for a moment, he starts calling for me. He finds reasons to “need” me:

“Mama, come see how cute my animals are. Mama. MAMA!”

“Mommy, help me build baseball stadium out of Duplos. Mama, come here!”

“Where are you, Mama? Come in my room! Please!?”

He’s suddenly incapable of entertaining himself, even for a minute. It’s been making me crazy. And I didn’t get it, couldn’t see why this is happening, why he’s regressing in this area. I only knew I wanted to poke my eyes out. Many times. More times than I had eyes.

And then I thought about it, and I think I understand. He’s made this giant step—a step toward bigness, a step that undeniably moves him away from babyhood. We keep talking up the big kid idea, trying to glamorize it. And he’s not stupid; kids are pretty good at reading between the lines. If we’re making such a big deal about it, then being a big kid must not be all good. There must be a price to pay for independence from diapers.

So, he’s clinging to his mom. He’s taking that big-boy step in one area, but he’s still holding tightly to Mom in other areas. Yeah, Thomas undies are cool, but being a little boy is cool, too. Going to the dinosaur museum was great! But staying home and snuggling on the couch watching “Arthur” is nothing to sneeze at.

And aren’t we the same way? Change?! What!? No! I like things the way they are! I like my dirty, stinky pants! I don’t want to be clean and dry and mature! What’s so great about growing up? If it’s so wonderful, then how come people are so crazy about babies and little kids? Aren’t they just jealous? You know it!

Change and growth are tough, even when they’re in our best interest. Thank goodness there are dinosaur museums, and carousels, and roller coasters to tempt little boys to use the potty. Thank goodness that as adults, we can look back over our biggest life changes and see how they’ve stretched us, expanded us, made us stronger and better than we used to be. If we choose to see things that way, perhaps we can begin to embrace change for the catalyst to improved conditions that it often is.

Perhaps. Or perhaps we'll just find a quiet corner and happily soil ourselves.

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