I have spent most of the past four days potty training our little Simeon. It’s been an intense few days. The process has required me to tune in completely, to cancel my other plans, to smile and speak encouraging words in frustrating moments, and to stay positive when I feel like quitting. And, at the end of it all, it has required as much as I can offer with no guarantee of results.
I have felt this feeling many times throughout my stint as a mother. When I felt it today, it seemed familiar. “What is that feeling?” I pondered….After considering for a moment, I knew: It’s the feeing of being out of control.
I felt it when I had labored for three days with our first and could not make birth happen of my own power. I felt it many times with our first actually…when I could not make him roll over or learn to crawl or use the potty or learn to read or draw or write – all things he lagged behind other kids on. I would read all about these things, support him, do the exercises and techniques with him; yet, I could not control him. He had to do these things in his own time. With my two older kids, eating solid foods was also this way. I did everything right – making baby food from scratch, introducing veggies before fruit, not introducing sugar until age 2. Still, they would not eat hardly anything. I could not make it happen.
The frustrating part was that I would feel really laid back for long time. I’d think, “Just keep doing the right things, and they’ll get it.” But then, as things went longer and longer and they fell into the range of uncommonly late, I started to stress out. I’d start to feel like the milestone would never happen. Really, that’s a bit of the feeling I had today.
In this “land of opportunity,” we often believe that if we try enough we can make just about anything happen. Parenting is a grand lesson in how impossible it is to control another person. Yes, I know, we can discipline them and train them up in good behavior and values, but there are some things we simply cannot touch. People are who they are – whether by free will or genetics or whatever it is – you cannot make them develop by your exact plan.
The thing is, you really have to move beyond control to trust. It’s the only way. I have to learn to trust that my kids can figure this stuff out. It is my confidence in them – the knowledge that it isn’t up to me to make it happen for them – that makes all the difference. Really, it’s their job to figure out how to use the potty, how to relate socially, how to succeed in life. When I try to force it or do it for them, I’m really doing them a disservice. What they need more than anything is my belief in them to do it on their own, and my holding the line that keeps them from turning around and quitting.
That’s what I’ve been doing for the last few days – reminding Simeon that it’s time to use the potty & not offering any chance to go back to the ease of diapers. I’ve been a broken record of encouragement and empowering phrases. Still, there are moments when I think, “Can he really do this? Is he really ready? Maybe we should just quit. Maybe we should have waited.” But, I know he can do it. Babies his age do this every day all around the world, and they’ve done it for ages and ages. He can do this. And, I can believe in him. I can let go of control and trust him to figure it out.
And, the truth is, that’s kinds what we all want some one to do for us, right? We want to be trusted, not controlled. We want to be cheered on, believed in, and allowed to figure it out on our own (with support and helpful tips here and there, of course).
And, despite the fact that I’m exhausted and need a break, the little guy finally seems to be “getting it.” 🙂