Once Upon A Potty

Wait, you can't just plop a newborn on a toilet and save yourself a lot of diaper-changing? No, says the momosphere!

There have always been a few cranks who subscribed to this controversial - but awesome, and ecological-sounding! - theory of potty-training, "EC." (which apparently refers not to the European Commission nor to Emergency Contraception, but rather "Elimination Communication!" The more you know!) The more militant talk about the psychological harm of letting a child stew in his own, ahem, juices. The official medical line, however, has it that the toilet approach can itself be damaging - the pressure to perform leading to a host of long-term troubles - and, in any case, prolong the toilet-training process. And I guess we can see how being suspended over a pit of water for hours at a time on the off-chance of doing one's business could be somewhat traumatic. Still, one mom, Ronda Kaysen, wanted to try it.

I hate changing dirty diapers. They're messy and gross and throwing human waste in a landfill is disgusting. So when my son was eight months old, despite warnings from experts about the dire effects my efforts might have on his psyche, I put him on the potty. To my surprise, he pooped and peed. He did this nearly every morning with astonishing regularity. His willingness left me with two options: either these experts don't know what they're talking about or I am unwittingly causing irrevocable harm to my child's core.

At one year, they dispense with the diaper. The results?

My son stands before a puddle of pee on the living room floor. "Pee pee, yay!" he cheers....The word regression comes to mind. For days, he'll pee in the potty enthusiastically and then, without warning or reason, reject the whole business for a week. His wavering makes me wonder if the experts have a point: maybe we rushed into this whole bathroom business.

Kaysen, not shockingly, gets conflicting advice from different experts. One says not to pressure her son. Another says to stand firm, practically chaining him to the toilet if need be. Kaysen ultimately decides to take the relaxed approach: either way, she concludes, he'll turn out okay. Ah, but is any discussion of parenting that simple? Obviously not, say the comments, Some parents applaud the author. Many boast that their kids were out of diapers by "13 months" and cite American puritanism. A few are defensive and angry. Various people cite human development and "developing nations," which seems to have exactly nothing to say to the discussion save that all forms of "toilet training" are essentially "unnatural." Says one mom, sensibly, "Expert advice can be helpful, but should be taken with a big grain of salt, and without the extra helping of shame." But the impression we get is that, whatever choices moms make, shame is the one constant! Well, that and the certainty of "accidents."

Potty-Training Regression [Babble]