I've been awfully quiet about potty training because we've not really attempted it in earnest until pretty recently. Sure, we're the proud owners of not one, not two, but three potties, plus numerous portable toilet rings (one lives at school but is no longer used; another lives in the stroller or car and is the fold-up kind; and a third lives at Grammy's house). We've owned the majority of these potties and potty-tops for over a year now and at various points in time I've considered turning some of them into planters because they were woefully underused. In contrast, we have been supporting our good friends at Procter and Gamble (parent company of Pampers Easy Ups) and Kimberley Clark (who make Huggies Pull-Ups). We are fairly certain that we've helped keep their companies afloat and are now seriously concerned about the potential for imminent lay-offs.
This is because, drum-roll please, we are now well into training Hallie to use the potty. For over a week now, we've been practicing the keep-Hallie-in-the-altogether from the waist down while she's at home and, for the past two days, have sent her to school in Gerber triple-ply 'big girl underwear'. I wasn't going to send her in her undies today because her aide was out due to an arthritis flare-up. But when I went to change her (out of her undies) after nap time, she was dry. She proceeded to use the potty and then requested that she be put back into 'big girl underwear.' I gave her a choice, but she informed me that "diapers are for babies. Big girls wear underwear." Notable here is that Hallie used to (as of three days ago) refer to her pull-ups as pull-ups or "Princess pull ups" (the Huggies kind) or "Doras" (the Pampers kind). Now, all of a sudden, she is calling them diapers again. And big girls don't wear those.
Leaving Hallie naked from the waist down has really worked for us (and for her): Hallie has been consistently using the potty (and with great glee) when she's needed to pee and is now doing so without reminders. In part I think things have gone so smoothly during this attempt (in contrast to all earlier attempts) because we've relocated the main potty (the wonderful Primo potty that has a removable soft seat and turns into a step stool that allows those under 4 feet tall to climb up onto an adult potty on their own and provides them with a nice footrest once they have assumed their perch) to our living room. While a bit unseemly, perhaps, one should remember that French noblewomen used to use chamberpots in their dining rooms whilst dining. These were pretty fancy chamberpots, too, and not our typical unadorned white porcelain ones (there are several really interesting ones on display at the Chatelet, which is the Museum of the City of Paris, in the Marais Arrondissement). Refined ladies would lift up their skirts, hop on their pots, and do their thing while never missing a conversational beat. This, of course, was facilitated by the fact that said ladies did not don undergarments; until the late 18th century, underwear (at least among the Parisian haut monde) was the sole reprieve of, shall we say, a less refined class of ladies who practiced the (ill) reputed oldest profession. (Remember, I am a European historian...)
Anyway, back to the subject at hand: once we put Hallie in panties, things do become a bit dicier: I don't think that the distinction between disposable pull-ups and washable undies is as clear to her as it is to me (while not practicing history, I do a lot of laundry). So she's had a few accidents, but how else is a girl supposed to learn? What's happened the past couple of days at school is that she doesn't quite realize she's going until it's a bit too late, and then she can't get to the bathroom in time to prevent leakage. The critical thing is that she's telling her aide/teachers that she has to go and is trying to get there in time. In the process, though, she is learning about her body and, as she does so, she is refining her capacity to hold things in.
This was driven home tonight as we gathered in bed for our bedtime stories (we are trying to integrate Lea into the book-reading-at-bedtime ritual). Part way through one of Hallie's five books (a typical evening involves reading most of the Mother Goose Rhymes collection, which Hallie has committed to memory, along with several other selections), she informed Sharon that she needed a new diaper (again, note that she did not call it a pull up). We checked and she was dry and clean. Then she insisted that she needed to go potty. And she did: Sharon and Hallie headed off to the bathroom where Hallie peed with vigor and then let Sharon know that she wasn't done. She then proceeded to poop in the potty. She was beyond gleeful. While she is normally quite proud of herself when she pees (we do lots of high fives, smiles, clapping, etc), her joy this time around was beyond anything we've ever seen. She proudly described her poop (sorry, Hallie, if you are reading this) and kept exclaiming, "I DID IT!!!!" Exclamation points were audible. So was the glee and mirth of the potty celebrants.
Anyway, we're very proud of her. I think there's no turning back on this: our girl GETS IT. I don't think that she did a month or two or six ago, but she's ready now, and she's let us know. So while we are not ditching the pull ups quite yet (they will no doubt remain useful at night, perhaps during naps, and quite likely on our upcoming long car trip to Maine), we are getting to the end of our disposable rope. And Hallie is entering a new chapter of her life, just on the cusp of four. While this may seem delayed to some, in our estimation, it's just on time. Hallie seems to us to be on the cusp of yet another cognitive leap, and this is why potty training her right now seems like the perfect time to do so.