"Mom, how does the Tooth Fairy fly through the air?"
"How do YOU think?"
"I think moms do it."
"But how can a Mom be a Tooth Fairy?"
"Good moms are lots of things, Princess."

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Whoo-Hoo! Spring Break! Sandy Beaches! Sunshine! Or Not

I've been (slowly, slowly) developing the conclusion that much of Princess's behavior is probably shame-based. I don't know most of what happened before she landed here, but the guesses I have are probably more right than wrong. And, if they are indeed right, she is exhibiting pretty classic shame. So, since I've started to suspect this, the question has become, "so what do I do with it?" Shame doesn't really look like anything. It certainly does not look like embarrassment or guilt. Mostly it looks like a whole lot of obnoxious behaviors with the general purpose of deflecting attention from the real reason: shame.

Hands down, the most frustrating behavior is the pe(e). I have never know exactly what was driving her desire to not use the toilet. In June, it will have been here four years. Years. At first, I thought is was that she was only three and of course she would regress. And, as I got to know her birth mom, I began to develop a mental picture of what toilet training must have been like. And, well, let's just say it probably wasn't the way I do it. But then, after months of insisting Princess had been perfectly trained before she was removed, her birth mom admitted that no, she never really was.

For the next three years, I tried every method of toilet training conceivable. Finally after consulting Christine's wealth of experience a year ago, I arrived where we are now. I pretend I am totally ok with it. I've gotten pretty good. I feel like screaming inside every time I see her walking around the house with a wet bottom, but you'd never know. If she changes herself, I say nothing. If I see it or smell it, I lean down, give her a hug and kiss, stay in her (smelly) space, and say, "you are wonderful and you deserve to feel clean and smell nice. Please go make that happen." And she does. Sometimes quietly. Sometimes not. There is a large lidded storage box out of sight in the downstairs bathroom. Every Saturday she luggs it to the laundry room (great heavy work for self-regulation, by the way), puts her laundry in the washer, and asks me to start it. Because, as I've explained, if she doesn't care to use the toilet, that's just ducky with me, but it's really not quite fair to expect I do all that extra work. She sprays the box down with vinegar and puts it back. All the children put their own laundry away, and so does she. Well. Sort of.

But here's the thing. A whole year. It hasn't gotten better; it may have gotten worse. I don't think I've handled it wrong, but with her neurological and processing issues, I'm not sure she knows how to get herself out of it. When the Cuddle Bear toilet-trained herself (she wasn't even two- I was totally against it), she had a few weeks where she would wet her diaper, whip it off, and sit on the potty chair. Next she had a few weeks where she would whip off her dry diaper, sit on the potty chair, not pe(e), walk away and wet on the floor. Then she got it down. I wonder if Princess isn't in the place where she doesn't know what order to do it in. I just wonder.

I get these feelings sometimes of what my kids who can't say what they feel are feeling. Not nearly enough, but sometimes. They are never based on any evidence; just a thought that starts to rattle around. And they are usually correct. And here's the thought that's started to rattle the past few weeks: she doesn't want this. This thought is based on ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. She hasn't indicated in any way whatsoever that she wants to start using the toilet. But Princess never communicates what she wants. I'm not even sure she knows herself. Even when she does say she wants something, it's usually something I know she doesn't really want. Like the doll that she wanted for her birthday that has been laying stuffed between her dresser and her bed for the last four days (for anyone who's not counting, her birthday was five days ago). So, if anyone's going to know what she wants, well, it's going to be me.

Next week is spring break. Like usual, every one of my friends will be somewhere more fun. So it's not like I have anything better to do. Every hour the timer will beep and Princess will sit on the toilet for five minutes. This is risky. I've thought of doing this many times, but haven't because I'm concerned I won't stay calm enough to not say something shaming (or have a shaming facial expression, for that matter). I'm concerned it will be grounds for another power struggle if I'm not careful. I don't want to go back to where I can't contain my frustration, irritation, and fear that she will attend her wedding in a pull-up. But I'm doing it because I'm even MORE concerned that by allowing Princess to continue this way, I'm allowing her shaming self-talk to feed itself.


  1. Here is what I think.

    You have very little chance of making it worse at this point. Seriously. So go for it.

    Secondly, it seems like she is stuck in a pattern which happens with Genea on oh, just about everything. She LIVES for predictability and so when we try to change something we use a variety of responses where we don't want something to reoccur and use predictability where we do want it to reoccur. If that makes any sense.

    So, no big party for peeing on the toilet. A calm quiet smile with strong pleasant eye contact and a 'good job sweetie'. No candy festival, no pizazz. Just the same reliable positive response every time.

    Good luck, I will be here suffering through spring break alone as well. For 11 days. Yes, ELEVEN DAYS OF BREAK!!!! Maybe we should meet up in the middle of Lake Michigan, lol!

    Ok, I am done with my 2 cents. We have battled this for years in my house and my "ordinary" 5 year old just pee'd on the couch this weekend. So take it FWIW!!!!

  2. And, just because we can't get TOO predictable around here, I just found my non-traumatized-perfectly-toilet-trained-for-two-years Cuddle Bear peeing in the toilet standing up. And she has better aim than either my husband or my son. Don't make me describe HOW she aimed, please. I will be having nightmares about it tonight.

  3. Wishing I had words of wisdom. Other than totally ignoring it, like no response at all, I've got nothing. Sorry.

    Cuddle Bear and your comment....I'm sorry but I had to LOL. The girl has talent.

  4. So, here's what you do. . .


    Just kidding. I have no freaking idea. You are doing better than I am. Kudos on the holding it together.

    And, fwiw, I definitely identify with the gut instinct of what they want. I totally get the invisible vibes and am usually right on. Mamma knows best.