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Mr. Independent, Take II

Two steps forward and one step back, I’m afraid.

Our first area of growing independence is, as I just wrote, the preschool drop-off. Last week, on Wednesday if I remember correctly, I needed to go inside KIP. Simon wanted to walk up alone. I continued to explain to him that I had to go to the office, and he kept insisting that he wanted to walk up alone.

So I finally resorted to a gambit I use every now and again in other situations to great effect. I told him I wasn’t going to argue any more, that I had to go inside, and that if he wasn’t OK with that I’d go up alone and he could stay in the car. At which point I shut the door on his side of the car and turned as though to walk away.

Normally, I’d turn around two seconds later and find a slightly upset, newly compliant child. That day, I turned around and found a child sobbing into his hands. Despite reassurances and apologies, he continued to sob as I picked him up, as I carried him from the parking lot to the door, and as he high-fived Shary (the director) on the way in. He recovered enough for me help him with his back-pack, give him a kiss, and let him walk upstairs on his own.

I felt like the worst mother ever. Here’s what Matt had to say:

“Next time, just let him off in the car-pool lane, then go park and come in on your own. He’ll be heading up the steps by then.”

Why didn’t I think of that? Is it because I’m also the stupidest mother ever?

I used this technique Thursday and Friday, and the joy on Simon’s face as he scampered up the ramp to the back door, high-fived Shary, and disappeared inside mainly served to make me feel worse about my ill considered and mean Wednesday stunt. I’m better than that—or at least I try to be.

Having restored my son’s confidence in school independence, I now have to figure out a way to have it survive a potty-training set-back.

Some time ago, Matt and I realized that Simon stayed dry overnight most of the time. When he didn’t, it was usually because he argued with us about going last thing at night and again first thing in the morning. Through a series of encouragements and small bribes (Skittles), we got him to stay dry five nights in a row, at which point we made a HUGE deal about putting him to bed in big-boy underwear and not buying any more pull-ups.

He did great for the first week. His first set-back came randomly in the second week. But it was the first, so we discussed and moved on. The second set-back came the night Matt forgot to have him go before bed-time. We figured we owned that one. The third set-back came from a nightmare at around 3:00 a.m. He awoke shrieking and scared, so we placed the blame on fear. The fourth set-back came the night we let him have a pretty big cup of lemonade after 7:00 p.m. Even going to the bathroom before bed, it still left too much in his bladder for too long.

And last night’s set-back, the fifth in three weeks, came for no reason that we can determine. It’s perfectly normal for a boy Simon’s age to need pull-ups overnight, so I’m not worried at all vis-à-vis development. My worry is that I have to tell my little boy that he’s has to go back to pull-ups. I don’t want to, but I can’t keep changing his sheets and being up half the night a few nights a week. We’re already going through a bout of interrupted sleep; I don’t feel like adding to it.

How do I do this without hurting his feelings or taking away his sense of accomplishment? I’m not sure. My best strategy so far, besides telling him that this is normal and that we’ll try again later this spring, is to pick a new task for him and offer praise and small treats for his taking it on. Perhaps something like taking his dishes to the kitchen sink or putting his own laundry in the hamper. I know he can do these things, and I know I’m desperate to find a way to keep his sense of independence and accomplishment from backsliding.

One Response to “Mr. Independent, Take II”

  1. Amanda says:

    You might just explain to him that it’s a physiological problem–his bladder is simply too small and needs to catch up to the rest of him. It doesn’t have anything to do with “being a baby” and a lot to do with “being a big boy whose body hasn’t caught up with his brain yet.”

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