I got home from work a little early today. It was too soon to get dinner started so we decided to throw the kids in the minivan and kill a little time at the park. This particular park isn’t the 1st string park in the neighborhood, but it is the closest – which generally means it’s totally empty at 5:00 on a Thursday evening and it’s close enough to get to and from before any meltdown can materialize.
We did our typical thing… swings, slides etc. Then, about 20 minutes into it my son says “Mommy, Daddy, I need to pee.” Now my son is only very recently potty-trained, and just barely at that. For anyone who’s been through it, this is a dicey period. In these final stages of potty-training, when your kid tells you they need to pee you need to drop everything and find a potty. No time to mess around. No margin for error. No time to get in the car and drive home… and to my horror, no potties at the park.
This is one advantage to having a son.
*The story takes a short detour at this point. I promise to get back to it soon.*
When potty-training our kids my wife and I have had success with the incentive-chart method. You find something the kid really, really wants and bribe them for successful potty-experiences with it. The incentive-chart has the benefit of giving the kid something solid (no pun intended) to work with while at the same time appealing to my wife’s type-A, over-organized, former-2nd-grade-teacher nature. We had a lot of luck with a couple Barbie-esque Disney princess dolls my daughter just couldn’t live without. One and a half charts later and she was totally potty trained. The trick is to find that one special thing the kid wants so badly they can barely see straight.
For my boy that “one special thing” presented itself when I let him crawl up the stairs to see what was in the attic. Not three feet from the opening to the attic are my old toy AT-AT’s (those big dinosaur walkers on the snow planet from Empire Strikes Back for you Un-Dork-Daddies out there).
There are two of them that almost stare you down first thing when you get in there (one from the original Kenner line in 1981, and one from the rebooted line in 1997… both complete and working perfectly thankyouverymuch). My son saw those and it was love at first sight. Six times a day he would pester me to go up in the attic and see the AT-AT’s. So shortly thereafter, when it was time to potty-train, it was obvious what his motivator was going to be. I tell you this, it didn’t take him one and a half charts like it did his sister.
He was potty-trained the moment we put the chart on the wall. I have never seen the kid so happy as he was the day he completed the chart and earned his AT-AT.
*Returning now to the story. Quick recap: barely potty-trained son, has to pee, no potties at the park*
I remember when my Daddy peed next to me on the wood pile in the backyard. It was a father-son bonding moment. We were being naughty together, doing something neither of us were supposed to be doing. It was big medicine for a little guy and I thought it was so cool; apparently too cool. As my mom tells the story they had a heck of a time with random brown spots on the backyard lawn that seemed to pop up out of nowhere for the longest time after that.
So I trotted my son out to the most out-of-the-way corner of the park. There, by a small, very unfortunate little maple tree, he and I turned our backs to the rest of the world and engaged in the time-honored, millennia-old tradition of a father and son taking a wiz out in nature together. At first he was a little distressed as there was no toilet bowl anywhere to be seen. He was clearly out of his element. But as any good father would do I lead by example, and he figured things out pretty quick from there. Crisis averted. Back to swings, slides etc.
There’s one essential father-to-son lesson checked off the list. Although my backyard lawn is in such sorry shape we probably wouldn’t notice, here’s hoping there aren’t too many mysterious brown spots that pop up in the near future.