Thursday, April 8, 2010

Potty training: a division of labor

Tomorrow is a big day for Matthew.
Tomorrow he will wear underwear all day long for the first time.
And Jonathan will not.
Matthew has been using the potty for months now.
Until recently, he was inconsistent. He would pee on the potty or toilet when we set him there, but he would not ask to go and he would fight the suggestion. And number two? No way. He wouldn't even consider it.
But something clicked a few weeks ago and, much to our relief, he's ready.
Matthew is about to graduate from toddler to "big boy."
But he's leaving his twin brother behind.
Far behind.
And, for once, we're not worried.
If they follow their usual pattern, Jonathan will be whizzing like a pro in no time.
Jonathan has taken this same approach to each milestone since birth. Over the past three years, he has sat idly by while his brother struggled to roll over, sit up, crawl, stand and walk. And Matthew worked so hard. He plugged away, sometimes for months at a time, until, finally, the day of celebration arrived.
In the beginning, it worried me.
Who am I kidding? It terrified me.
I remember clearly one telephone conversation in the spring of 2007.
"Jonathan won't roll over," I told the pediatrician, nearly in tears. "His brother worked on it for months and is rolling well, but Jonny just lies there and watches him. He doesn't make any effort at all. He doesn't even rock on his side."
"Well, maybe it would be a good idea to have him evaluated," the doctor said in that I'm-not-trying-to-worry-you-but-this-could-be-serious kind of voice (a tone of voice that, in my stressed-out state, I probably imagined). "He really should at least be interested in rolling by now. I can refer you to an excellent therapist."
I hung up the phone with every intention of dialing again and making that appointment. But I got distracted. I don't remember what happened--whether it was a diaper change, a feeding, Matthew rolling out of the safety zone--but, for whatever reason, I postponed that phone call.
Within hours, Jonathan started rolling.
There was no struggle.
He just rolled and he rolled well.
He rolled with more ease and more speed than Matthew.
And that's the way it went from then on.
For each milestone, Jonathan waited until Matthew achieved perfection and then he immediately surpassed him.
And he's doing it again, we hope.
Jonathan has been Matthew's greatest potty-training supporter.
He follows him into the bathroom. He flushes the toilet for him. He does the "yippee" dance whenever Matthew succeeds, sincerely thrilled for his twin brother.
But when we ask him whether he wants to try, his answer is firm: "No."
Bribes, charts and postive reinforcement are useless. He is immune to them. We leave the bathroom defeated and deflated and, if we've annoyed Jonathan enough, sometimes even bruised.
We know better, or at least we should.
We should know that Jonathan will wait until Matthew is comfortable in his underwear and accident-free. He will wait until all the mistakes have been made and corrected. He will wait until the process is ingrained in his being, until every movement, every bit of required coordination that he witnessed over these past several month, is part of his own psyche, his own experience.
Then Jonathan will approach that toilet and he will attempt to one-up his twin brother.
He won't bother sitting on the seat.
He will pee standing up.

2 comments:

Phoebe said...

Haha! oh my! sounds like my boys! :D But my boys who are also identical are only 9 months. One will try and change strategies to roll over, crawl or just recently stand up for weeks and the other will be all calm cool and collected, as if he's not interested at all. And just one day he oh so casually rolled over like a pro! I wouldn't be surprised if he stands up or walk one of these days without ever seeing him practice :o)

Charity said...

On the rolling over (minus the twin part), when we took my singleton daughter in for one of her well baby visits, they pediatrician asked if she was rolling over yet. We said no and had some discussion about it. Then the doctor put her up on the table to examine her and... she rolled over for the first time right there. It's funny how these things work -- like they have decided they've stressed us out enough about the particular milestone and now they'll give in and do it.