Okay… so I have been having some rough times. Short version – I am busy, I still drive at least 2 1/2 hours a day, D has been working 72 hour weeks and leaving me alone with the kids and daring to criticize my housekeeping and discipline strategies.
A huge source of contention has been his firm belief that yelling at kids is not only ok, but correct. As a developmental psychologist and instructor of child development, I can tell him many reasons that he is full of shit, but he has also shown that he does not believe any of the research conducted by people like me.
Last week, I broke down crying when I received a letter from Banana Slug’s new pre-kindergarten teacher. He had had two wetting accidents at school (two days in a row no less). The school only allows three accidents before expelling a student because they are “not potty trained and not ready for school.” From my work, I know that wetting at age 3 is not abnormal (especially during sleep, which is when the second accident occurred). I can dig up statistics that put the “normal” range of completely accident-free potty training all the way up to age 4 for boys. The letter was so much more upsetting because I received it well after the fact. I had been trapped in a traffic jam on an elevated freeway and my mom (Crack Lady to the long-time readers) had to pick up the kids. I knew about the previous day’s accident (I had to sign something for that one, too), but I did not get to tell D because he got home well after I was asleep.
So, then… he gets home the next night as we are getting ready for bed (i.e., Mommy did all the cooking, feeding, entertaining, bathing, dressing, bedtime stories, etc.) and I show him the letter… and he loses it. How could I not tell him earlier? How could I let him get by without being potty trained? Why did I start him at school so young?
Potty problems are nothing new for Banana Slug. He has been scared of loud flushes and hesitant to interrupt teachers to ask to go. Should I have kept him in day care (even though he was older than the other kids by at least 6 months)? I doubted whether I had any right to be his mother that evening.
Then, despite the fact that I do not have the option of working weekends or even staying past 4:00 on most workdays (and I have my three-year review this year and desperately to become more productive), I had to cancel class and meetings and take Banana Slug to the doctor the next day in a desperate attempt to find SOME medical excuse for his wetting. I was hardly surprised when the doc explained, “The most likely explanation is that he is a three year-old boy.”
I kept him out of school the entire day out of fear that he would have an accident and get kicked out.
Have I mentioned that he loves school? He had separation anxiety the first few days, but quickly shifted to, “Bye, Mommy!” while running into before-school care. He tells people the name of his school and proudly says that he and JAG go to “big” school together. Oh yeah, JAG goes there. If expelled, he would SEE HER dropped off at his former school in the mornings. Oh no, no way. He had been showing off his new songs and counting to 10. Other preschools and pre-K programs have already filled their classes, meaning a day care would be his only other option (short of hiring a nanny). Day cares would not teach him all the new stuff he has been showing off.
I called the school and requested a meeting with the assistant principal the next morning. (So, more missed work)
While planning what to say, it came to light that other adults (Crack Lady and D) have been telling Banana Slug he will get kicked out of school if he does not use the potty! BS shared that he felt “bad” and hated the potty. That, more than anything, made me furious.
At the meeting, I met with the director of the program and the Assistant Principal, and I was extremely grateful that they decided on a probationary period to see if the wetting stops as he gets used to school. We have until the end of October, when there will be a “reassessment.” I cried again in the car, but this time from relief.
And then I really went into Dr. Grumbles mode (as in “I am a doctor, bitches, I know some shit!”) and called anyone who looks after BS to tell them criticism and punitive statements will not be tolerated. D and Crack Lady, of course, denied ever doing any such things. I loaded my Kindle up with positive potty books and videos (the episode of Bear in the Big Blue House is a winner). I loaded up a “surprise box” with little toys, and told BS he could pick a surprise every day he comes home dry. I hugged him, told him I was proud of him, and listed all the things he had done since starting school to impress me. JAG got on board with cheering, “Go BS, go!” whenever he told us he had to go to the bathroom. We two started exaggerated modeling of potty behavior (announcing each time we had to go, and making a show of stopping what we were doing to take care of potty business).
It has only been a week since that horrible “accident #2” was documented, but guess what? He hasn’t had an accident since then. He has picked enough surprises that he actually turned it down yesterday (“Don’t need a surprise, today.”). He has used public restrooms at swimming class, the supermarket, and the library. No one has threatened or scolded him and I been telling, “You are working so hard. I am so proud of you,” as often as I can.
D has not thanked me for any of the missed work or potty cheerleading, and I do not expect that from him.
I am still exhausted, but I have a new-found certainty that, if I am to be expected to be the sole caregiver even though I work full-time (and that will not change because I WANT to work), I need to do it on my terms. D is pissed off and disapproving all the time anyway, I might as well truly piss him off by parenting the kids the way my work shows is best for them.
Don’t listen to Daddy. He is the breadwinner, but he can be an asshole and he does not have a doctoral degree in anything, much less anything related to childrearing. (I still love him, just to be clear. And, no I would never say this to the children. Taking sides is never healthy for kids.)