How Old is Hallie?

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Potty Training Update

It's been a bit of an up-and-down week in the land of potty training Hallie.

While Hallie is apparently more or less fully trained at school, her performance on the home front has been a bit more checkered. We've been sending Hallie to school in 'big girl underwear' for about six weeks now.  (We are still using the extra thick Gerbers' undies that are very soft and more absorbent than the cuter princess and Kai-lan panties that Hallie has in her drawer.  Hanna Andersson is rumored to make excellent training pants, too, but at about 400% the cost of the Gerbers', these seem a bit too much of a splurge, particularly considering that we need about 10 clean pair of these on hand at all times just in case). Since summer camp started at the beginning of July, she's had two accidents at school, I think, and those were both in the first week.  They are on a fairly regular potty-break schedule at school (all of the kids are asked if they need to go at the transition from one activity to the next, and these transitions take place every half hour or so).  And I am sure the sheer visuals help the teachers figure out who needs to go on off times since four year olds have an uncanny way of pulling at their crotch when they really need to get to the bathroom.  But Hallie has also asked her aide or teachers to take her to the bathroom a few times in the past week and none of these were false alarms (signaled by Hallie in an effort to avoid undesired activities). 

This is all wonderful.  I still pack four outfits for her each day but these are beginning to seem a bit like overdoing it and I'm going to consider scaling back to three pretty soon.

Home potty training, however, has been a bit more hit or miss.  We began this whole adventure by using the strip down approach where we have Hallie stay naked from the waist down (sometimes complemented by a waist up strip that leaves her streaking through the living room with the exception, perhaps, of high heel princess shoes, cowboy boots, or some other accessory.  Visuals omitted to prevent parents from being referred to DCFS, of course).  This works like a charm and Hallie has no accidents when we do this.

But she cannot remain naked at home forever (we hope). So we have been trying to keep her clad (sometimes we lose this battle for sensory reasons) most of the time now.  And this has been a bit problematic on the pottying front.

We continually (and I do mean continually) ask Hallie if she needs to go when she is wearing undies at home, and quite often she'll respond in the negative.  And then go anyway.  Even in cases where we just her on the potty (which is situated in the living room still so as to not add in the problem of her having to take a break from a preferred activity) for an unproductive session, she's been wetting herself almost immediately after we help her pull up her pants.

This is a bit vexing, to say the least.  On Friday, after Hallie emptied her bladder immediately after returning home from school (and being asked if she needed to use the potty, a question to which she emphatically responded "NO!") and then again peeing on herself while in her current favorite costume (a very warm dalmatian costume that you could not pay me enough to wear on a day when the temperature was in the high 90s).  I let Hallie know that I was disappointed and upset after the first accident (exaggerating my response so that it would be clear to her) and demonstrated to her that I was even more upset the second time around.  We're working on feelings right now (and Hallie is really beginning to understand these, so much so that she is more often demonstrating appropriate empathy when Lea gets hurt and fashioning some creative, good responses to Lea's crying -- like offering her a water bottle or getting her a bandaid -- that actually are quite helpful).  So Hallie definitely got it.  But what we're hoping she gets even more is that she is not going to be seeing that (now laundered) dalmatian costume until she spends five days accident free.

I am happy to report that we just completed day two of this experiment.  Perhaps her bladder control is coincidental, but she's managed to take a long round trip car ride (about an hour in each direction) to and from hippotherapy on Saturday and went out to dinner and dessert with us and her lovely cousin Sarah, who was down for the weekend, and stayed clean and dry the entire time.  She asked to go to the potty three times at dinner/dessert and actually peed two of those times (the third time we think was attributable to the fact that the historic saloon in which we ate dinner had pretty cool bathrooms with a lot to look at--and flush).

Also interesting to us is the fact that Hallie has woken up with a dry pull up two nights in a row.  I think this has more to do with the fact that she went to bed pretty late on the eve of both of those events and hence probably emptied her bladder fully before bed.  I have no aspirations at this point of attempting to night train Hallie any time soon.

So hopefully Hallie's gotten the message about needing to win back the dalmatian costume.

I find it interesting, though, that all of the problems we are having are at home.  One theory (to which Sharon subscribes, I think) is that the root of the problem is that we've been keeping Hallie stripped down at home and that this has allowed her to become a bit lazy.  Because she's naked from the waist down, she continues to dribble out her pee (which is what babies do before they have bladder control) on the potty any old time and is not self-aware enough to keep it in at home when she's got underwear on.  This seems plausible but is only part of the story, I think.  I think that another component of this is that she is so exhausted--mentally and physically--once she gets home from school that she loses it a bit (we see this with other behavior, too).  She expends so much time and effort controlling herself--staying on task, engaging with kids and teachers and therapists, and also holding her bladder--that she just can't do it anymore when she gets into our house.  Our home is a safer place for Hallie to let go, literally and figuratively.  I think she gets that we are here for her no matter what; she's not particularly in need of winning our love and respect since she already has that; and she's probably less embarrassed at having an accident at home than she is at school.  While she is beginning to understand that her behavior sometimes disappoints us (and she responds appropriately by getting upset herself), I imagine that she still feels safer with us than she does with anyone else (at least I hope so, because that is a good thing).  So I'm willing to cut her some slack (even if I really won't return that costume to her until the five days have been checked off).  She's come a long way in terms of this potty training thing (and so much else) in a very short period of time.  So we'll plod on and try not to get too disappointed by the fact that we're still only 80% there or so.


Adelaide Dupont said...

80% is good enough for me.

Especially when you talked about the energy Hallie spends in environments where she can't be her true self.

Unknown said...

Gavin was fully potty trained by 3 1/2, but we had the same issues in that he was trained at day care long before he was at home. He HAD to be trained at day care to move up to the next age group (3 yr old) room. All his buddies were moving up. He had been sort of dinking around (for lack of a better term!) with potty training until then, and then all of a sudden, after only 2 accidents, he was fully trained at school. He continued to have accidents at home, and refused to poop in the potty. He would demand a pull up as soon as we got home, bc he would hold it in at school.

His behavior was also horrible at home, full melt downs as soon as we got in the car. So I definitely agree with the amount of effort it takes to hold it all together during the day, and the safety of letting it out at home.

So - school trained at 3, home trained by 3 1/2. You'll get there! Honestly, there was no magic bullet. One day it finally just happened.

BusyLizzyMom said...

She is making progress, hang in there. I spend a great part of my job helping parents with toilet teaching their children with special needs. The last thing that kids do is ask to use the toilet and before that I suggest timing her every 1 1/2 - 2hrs and do not ask if she needs to go just take her. Hallie asking to go is last thing she will do, don't worry.
Glad to hear the dalmation costume is washable.