I am suddenly desperately aware of the absence of carpet cleaner in this house. I keep looking anxiously to the spot where the carpet cleaner used to stand, a gaping void of nothingness where there should be something.
And I look at the carpets, which right now are clean and blissfully ignorant of the fate that might soon befall them. The couch, likewise, has no idea of the coming storm.
And then finally, I look at the ticking time bomb: my cherub of a son, happily sipping on milk as he watches The Fantastic Four cartoon, clad only in a pajama shirt and Captain America underwear.
“You can’t pee in this underwear,” I remind him. Again.
“Why?” he asks.
“Because there’s nothing to absorb the pee. It’s not a pull-up. The pee will go everywhere. All over you, all over the carpet, all over the couch…you can’t pee while you wear underwear.”
“Oh," he says, and goes back to watching TV.
I persist. “If you have to pee, you have to tell Mommy, and we’ll go to the potty. And I’ll take you every 20 minutes or so until you go, anyway. But you cannot pee in underwear. You have to use the potty.”
“Oh. I don’t wanna use the potty.”
“But you HAVE to, if you want to be like Captain America and Ironman and Thor. Thor doesn’t wear a pull-up, does he? He uses the potty.”
Eamon shakes his head. “Thor doesn’t use the potty. He flies.”
“Well, yes, he flies, but when he has to pee, he uses the potty.”
Thoughtfully, “Thor doesn’t have to go pee. Ever.”
And I realize with despair: this is true. Never in any superhero cartoon have I seen The Thing or the Black Panther stop mid-battle and announce, “Hold that thought, Dr. Doom, potty-break!” The absence of superhero potty-breaks, just like the absence of carpet cleaner, is tragic.
There are any number of resources about Elmo using the potty. Videos, books, decorative mugs, etc.. But where is the 30 minute special on Spiderman and His Amazing Toilet Adventures? Eamon has gotten to the age where Elmo no longer holds sway, but if only the Human Torch could explain the ins and outs of how little boys use the toilet, Eamon might understand.
I suppose that “experts” would tell me that I shouldn’t be trying to toilet-train a child who emphatically insists that he doesn’t want to use the potty. But just because someone is an “expert” in toilet-training doesn’t make them an expert in Eamon.
Eamon has never felt a sense of urgency about any physical milestone. He has no problem staying at the stage he’s in as long as humanly possible. He rolled over the day before we had a check-up in which the doctor asks if your child can roll over…and if not, you get the “Hmm” and the eyebrow raise. And he didn’t roll over once, but constantly after that.
Then with walking…he liked crawling. Crawling worked for him. He took one step on his birthday, fell flat on his face, and refused to try again. By age 14 months, we were pretty sure he could walk if he wanted, but he didn’t want. My parents finally bribed him with teddy grahams one day, and by the time I came to pick him up, he was running across the room.
I think it might be the same with the toilet. I have a feeling that he’s ready, but he has no interest. And because he’s Eamon, that interest might not come for a long time if he’s not properly motivated. So I’m trying to figure out how to properly motivate him.
First of all, Eamon is not motivated by food. M&Ms don’t do a thing for him. Anything edible is right out.
What he does love is superheroes, so we went out and bought him a ton of superhero underwear. I washed them all last night, and this morning he found them, took them all out of the laundry basket, and surrounded himself lovingly with them. Then he sat on the pile, like a dragon on his precious hoard. I put him in Captain America, but he wanted to wear Ironman. No, Wolverine. No, Thor.
“You can change your underwear…” I said, slyly. “…when you use the potty.”
“Okay,” he said cheerfully. I had brought his Elmo potty downstairs into the den, so he could continue to play and yet not be far from a “toilet.” Eamon yanked off the Captain America underwear, sat on the potty, and immediately peed.
Success! Feeling like a toilet-training genius, I helped him into some Thor underwear, took the potty apart and washed the inner bowl, congratulating myself on my ability to manipulate a three year old.
Two minutes later he announced happily, “Mommy, I gotta pee again. Yup, I do.” He yanked off the Thor underwear, sat down, and peed a small bit more.
We changed him into Wolverine, then I went and washed the potty, wondering if I was losing control of the situation.
Two minutes later, you know what happened. I helped Eamon into some Ironman underwear, and found myself washing the potty yet again. Yes, by this point it was abundantly clear which of us was being manipulated, and it was the person who was washing the potty for the third time in fifteen minutes, not the little person turning in mad circles trying to see the Ironman picture on the back of his own underwear.
And that’s where we are now, an hour and a half into Eamon’s Amazing Potty Adventures. The carpet cleaner has been a non-issue (so far), I still have no idea if this potty-training this is going to work in the long-term, and the only real conclusion anyone can make is that, without a doubt, my three year old has outsmarted me. Again.
Update: Eamon just had his first accident. He came over and announced, "I peed on Ironman, mommy. Yep, I did." But he had only peed a little, so I put him on the potty, where he preceded to pee...and pee, and pee. So even though it was an accident, he realized what he was doing, STOPPED PEEING, and came over and told me so that he could finish on the potty. That's progress, right?