As of today, the 31st of January, I am proud to say I have a 5-year-old who is day-time potty trained. SHEW. That was a long arduous battle. And, if I’m being honest, one I stressed over a little too much.
The Down Syndrome population is famous for their strong will and determination to succeed on their own terms. This will and determination is very prevalent early on. When I was nursing Cecilia in the hospital after her birth, I received many “helpful” hints that a child with DS is akin to a child having an extraordinary will. Somewhere in the fall of 2015, I kept hearing these stories of “How difficult it was to potty train a child with Down Syndrome” due to their “extraordinary will”.
At the time, I was proud of her for having that characteristic: Individuals with Down Syndrome are capable and able, but they want to succeed on their own terms. “Good for her”, I thought.
I had no idea.
Sometime in the fall of 2015 I joined a “Mom’s of special needs children” and “Moms of Children with Down Syndrome” online support groups. In each of the groups “Potty Training” had its very own page with thousands of stressful stories from parents around the country. Knowing my own limitations for potty training with my typically developing children and knowing Cecilia’s “will” at 4, I had a flash of what our future might look like if we didn’t do something about bathroom independence sooner rather than later. So suffice it to say, I was spooked.
Also during that time, I was taking a monthly class with my friend Amy about how to “help” and “advocate” for our children in the educational world. I was acutely aware of those parents who were at their wit’s end with their double-digit, not yet potty trained kids. This combined with my online support group’s Potty Training pages did more to exacerbate the stress I was already feeling. In fact, I allowed their stories to ignite a feeling of anxiety toward potty training Cecilia.
So Aug 2015 was the beginning of the long tumultuous road to bathroom independence. I was diligent in my efforts: I had a plan of action which included songs, videos, books, a full arsenal of candy, mini-toys, potty charts with daily success stickers, and a kitchen timer with the loudest most annoying ring. Together, we embarked on a 6 month training period at 30 minute increments 7 days a week.
6 months. Every 30 minutes.7 days a week.
Needless to say, I began living life in half hour increments. It is very difficult to start and finish any task within that time period, but I was resolved. I kept repeating the mantra: patience, perseverance, consistency. After 3 months, she became accustomed to releasing her bladder every 30 minutes regardless of whether we made it to the potty or not. But I was in the trenches. I couldn’t peek my head out to gauge the situation because I was buried so deep. We continued this crazy schedule for 3 more months.
Finally in February of 2016, we sold our house and began packing everything up. I decided the whole stressful ordeal of moving was only going to make potty training more stressful. Putting aside my pride, I had to admit to myself I couldn’t pack up, sell our belongings, give my children the attention they deserve, move across 3 state lines, potty train, and maintain my sanity.
Something had to give.
Looking back with the knowledge and experience I have now, I have to forgive myself. It wasn’t a failure on her or my part. She simply….and if you know me and have read this blog for sometime, you may recognize a theme which keeps rearing its head around here…wasn’t ready.
She wasn’t ready.
No matter how “ready” I am, if she’s not ready, her stubbornness will butt heads with my stubbornness. At that point it becomes a war of wills. Children’s wills usually win. Especially when it comes to their little bodies. It is the one thing in their lives they have full control over…or in this 4 year-old’s case, it is the one thing she is trying to learn how to have full control over. I was not interested in breaking her spirit or our relationship, so I decided to walk away. I had to trust we would pick up our bathroom independence with full force when it was a little more convenient for everyone.
Just last week, I finished reading (for the second time in 2 weeks I might add) the most glorious self-help book I have ever read. The author is all about setting goals and future thinking. He encourages visiting the decisions one has made in the past to see if, “knowing what I know now, would I make the same choices”. If so, why? If not, why not? The idea is supposed to encourage seeing your mistakes, admitting them or owning them, finding the lesson learned, not repeating them, and then letting it go or forgiving yourself.
So with that in mind, knowing what I know now, would I put all those arbitrary pressures and deadlines for potty training on myself during that 6 month tug-of-war? The clear answer here is a resounding “HELL NO”.
So I put this story out here for those mothers of young children with Down Syndrome who may potentially be going through the same situations I was going through. Or maybe attempting to prepare to go through the potty training stage. Have patience. Don’t lose hope. Trust that your child wants to be potty trained, she might just need a little extra emotional support, your understanding, love, and encouragement.
On this beautiful Tuesday, I am proud and relieved to say she stays dry during the day and asks for help when going to the restroom. She still has the occasional accident, but it happens once every week, rather than once a day.
As I add another check to her major Developmental Milestone list, I have to say, I am visiting Pride Avenue today folks.