This little guy turned three years old recently.
He’s also now decided that he’s potty-training. Yeah, we’re a little laid back about that around here.
It was somewhat of a different story five years ago, though, when Captain was in his shoes. I’m in the ranks of moms who are way more relaxed with subsequent children than with the first child. I kept trying to figure out how I could “get” my little boy to potty-train. He just wasn’t in a hurry. And I kind of was. How did I convince him to do it by my timetable? We tried all the tricks, you know: treats for using the potty, begging, reasoning (with a three-year-old – ha!), and we even had a special toy he had picked out, up on the shelf in the bathroom, for him to receive as a reward when the step was finally (and completely) taken. But, he still wanted to do it on his own timetable.
I must not have been too forceful, because he still didn’t potty-train until he was over three-and-a-half. I remember when he did it, though. It was like magic. Something just clicked. He just got it. Because he was ready for it, it was time, and he suddenly knew he could do it. And he did it in a day, and never digressed even a little bit. You know what, I learned from that. Eventually.
Vi was next in line for toilet-training and I think I pushed her more than she was ready for as well, and regret it. But over the next few years that fell between then and now, I’ve learned from those lessons. I’m not so worried about it now. Sure, I’d rather the kids be out of diapers, but I’d much rather do diapers than frequent accidents. I know that none of my perfectly healthy children will wait until they are eight years old to potty-train. They will hit a point when they are ready, and they will do it, and that will be that.
So with Orator, he’s getting a different ride than Captain and Vi did. There are no treats, no mommy begging, no tempting toy sitting just out of reach in the bathroom. The strategy this time: If he keeps the diaper dry and goes on the potty, he gets underpants. If he has an accident (unless it was in an honest attempt to get to the toilet), he’s back in a diaper again. That’s it. And there is no cajoling – I just put a diaper on him in the morning, unless he remembers and asks to “be a big boy today” on his own. And do you know what? It is working!!!
I’ve been amazed at the progress we have made. He is not there yet, but he is getting there. Because he wants to, and because he is ready.
I’m really grateful that Captain is the kind of kid who has to do things on his own timetable. It has made me a better, more patient and understanding mother. But still, as the oldest he has to be patient with me as well as he blazes the trail. He constantly reminds me that it’s okay for me to let go and let him lead in his own paths.
I called my wonderful mother in distress the other day, asking her what in the world I was doing wrong. Why wasn’t Captain reading well yet? What was I doing wrong? Was I failing as a homeschooling mother because I couldn’t even help my child become literate?
Thank heaven for mothers. As a homeschooling veteran, she has taught all of my brothers as sisters and I to read. She was not worried at all, but gently reminded me that each child has their own timetable, and that is okay. It turns out that many of my siblings didn’t learn to read well until they were eight or nine years old. And they are some of the most functionally literate people I know. They read hefty books, write stories and articles of their own, edit manuscripts for other people. Learning to read on their own timetable and through their own readiness and motivation has not crippled them in the least.
I had thought Captain would be an early reader, because he learned his alphabet quickly and easily, with very little prodding, at 18 months. My mom shared with me something she had read about how, often, those children who show early signs of literary ability are those that learn to read later than is normal. Why? Because they are the ones that really want to do it themselves. They don’t want to be pushed. Boy, that described my Captain to a t.
He actually reminds me a lot of my brother that is just younger than me. He didn’t learn to read until he was eight or nine, but when he did learn to read, he learned to read out of an encyclopedia, because everything else was just too boring for him.
Patience, Tia, patience. My mom commented during a different conversation that it takes time to realize that you can’t control those that you are closest to. You can’t make them do what you want them to do by monitoring, manipulating, and forcing. In the end, you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. But that’s okay, I don’t want to. One reason that I am homeschooling is so that my children can be self-led academically. There is great benefit in that!
I’ve backed off for now. He’s getting there on his own. Captain actually loves to write notes and letters to people more than he loves to read, because he knows enough phonetics that he can usually make a note legible. He thinks writing is cool; reading (for now) still seems hard. So instead of pushing the reading, we are capitalizing on the writing! That way he can have it his way and teach himself how to read, right?
We have been writing letters to cousins and friends, he’s been writing in a journal, and we’ve been writing letters to each other. We’ve got a simple mail delivery system going on in our home right now, but I think I’m going to make fun felt mail pockets for the wall to make it even better. If you want more ideas, check out this post by my wonderfully clever and creative friend Arianne. It will provide you with some great inspiration!
I’m learning, really I am! Hopefully by the time Orator gets around to reading, I’ll be wiser like my mom, more relaxed and ready to let him lead the way. Sort of like I am now with potty-training him. There is so much value in simply assisting children and inspiring children to educate themselves. They are interested. Don’t push and make them hate it! This is easier said than done sometimes, but it is true and it is worth it. Some children learn to read early, like I did, and others just need a little more time. And that is okay.
*Update* It took me a few days to get around to finishing and publishing this post, and as I write we are on day six of Orator in underwear with zero accidents. And that includes staying at someone else’s house for several days, and other trips. We made it! Hooray for self-motivation!!
What have been your lessons in letting go?