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Stuck In The Middle With You

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams – Kahlil Gibran

Don Draper is a bad ass. For Mad Men fans, this is not news. The creator, Matt Weiner, deserves many kudos. He not only creates an observation deck into 1950’s New York, but also great characters…characters that explore human behavior and interpersonal relationships. The show may be set in the 50’s, but the characters are as fresh as ever.

In the season 4 finale, Draper, the leading man, decides to dump his reliable girl friend, Faye. She’s the one who, on paper, seems to be the perfect match. She’s intelligent, attractive & understands his history better than any other leading lady to that point…so he, of course, dumps her for the young, artistic, secretary, whom he proposes to after only a weekend together. As Draper breaks the news to Faye, she tearfully declares that she hopes the new fiance understands that Don “…only likes the beginnings of things”.

The Don

Draper smokes often, drinks heavily & cheats constantly…I don’t exactly relate to the character…but I do understand the notion of enjoying the beginnings of things. The challenge and discovery of taking on new projects is exhilarating.

At the tender age of five, I can see my oldest son, Henry, takes after his Ol’ Man. He goes full tilt, at all times…a few minutes of watching Olympic high diving, and he’s got the entire family room rearranged, re-creating the make-believe pool scene to a T. Things come easy to him, and he moves from one topic to the next, until he comes across an item that he can’t conquer…and then he gets frustrated, easily…

…I know the feeling well.

While Henry’s running full steam, Charlie, my middle child, personifies a “No Worry’s” attitude that would make Bob Marley proud. If there is more laid back 3-year-old, I’d like to meet him. At Thanksgiving last year, my Mother forgot to clean out the oven after cooking the festive turkey. The next day, as she tossed a couple Totino’s pizza’s in the oven for her three grandson’s, a grease fire broke out. Of course, most in the family over reacted, grabbed children, rushed out the door, assured the house was going to burn…except, the “Honey Badger”, as he was soon called. Charlie sat in his chair, observed his Dad and Uncle Dave put out the fire, and went back to coloring his books, only asking “Is the pizza ready?”

“I don’t think so, Badger, I don’t think so…”

*********************************************************************

I often hear new parents use the term “zone” or “man-to-man” when comparing the difference between having one child and two. If that’s the case, and I don’t disagree, then having a third child is like getting a red card. You feel like you are a man down from the second those kids wake up in the morning till there heads hit the pillow at night. Needless to say, our house is “busy”…So what’s the ray of light in our cloudy skies? The oasis of peace in a desert of chaos? That’s right…school…magnicant school.

This year, my oldest starts kindergarten and Charlie goes off to pre-school. That means many hours of peace and quiet for my wife and less stress on the family… hallelujah!…of course, there’s one small issue….Charlie refuses to pee in a toilet. And suburban St. Louis preschools apparently don’t look highly on dysfunctional tinklers.

Raising a toddler that cares very little is a blessing. Grab the kid some juice, throw him in front of the Ipad, ensure there’s no older-brother-torture, and voila…you’ve got one happy child. The flip side…he’s three and without a diaper, he’ll pee through his shorts, down his leg, into a carpet puddle, at which point he’ll look up and smirk, “It’s only a lil’ bit”.

Here’s the thing when a father who likes the beginnings of things meets the toddler who cares for nothing…we have issues. I say “Jump”, he doesn’t move. I say “potty”, he still doesn’t move. I say “I give up”, he giggles and runs away. I’ve tried just about every technique, idea, piece of advice I could find on training…Potty Charts, M&M’s, fruit loops in the toilet, you name it, we’ve tried it…he just doesn’t care…but preschool starts in two weeks and my wife is up all night with the newborn. So what’s it gonna be son, you and me, we getting this done or what?

***********************************************************************************

The midday, two-minute walk from my car to Barnes & Nobles has me sweating profusely. Not how I wanted to spend my lunch break.

See anything good?

“Excuse me, Madam Book Lady, yes, I need to potty train my child, do they have a book for that?”

“Yes, yes they do”…

She guides me to “Potty Training your Child in just One Day”. Apparently, the gold standard of Potty Training.

I have lots of issues with this book, which we’ll get into, but it starts with the title. It should be called “Potty Training in a day, after you prep for 6 months”. If you think you’re gonna grab this book and start her process the next day, you’d be mistaken.

The book’s intense. I’ve never met the author, but I think we all know the Alpha Dog, Super Mom type…think that, times about 60…she had me running all over town gathering items for her so-called “Potty Party”. Did you know they have stores that ONLY sell fabric? Well, they do, and you’ll find out when you go, because you have to hand make batman underwear for a doll that pees on itself…

Intense.

Here’s the basic idea…You throw your kid a big party. Streamers, themes, whatever. The morning starts with your child opening a gift, which happens to be a doll. You name it (we went with George), make a big deal out of it. You spend the morning playing games, watching videos and teaching the doll how to pee on the toilet. Fingernails on a chalkboard, people, fingernails on a chalkboard.

In the afternoon, you pull the ol’ switcheroo on your toddler and begin teaching them how to use the potty, instead of the doll… you finish by going out to dinner, & opening some presents. Throw in a few calls from Nana & Papa, and Boom!, they’re trained like a teenager emerging from boot camp…by the way, if all that sounds kind of expensive, it is.

What the book doesn’t warn you about is this: What if your kid doesn’t give a rip about the party and the doll? What if he looks at your Potty Power DVD for about 2.5 minutes and rightfully turns if off and says “That’s silly, Daddy, let’s watch Clifford?” What if he has a father who only cares about the beginnings of things?

Handmade Batman underwear, people, handmade Batman underwear

I’ll tell you what happens…you go off script. No sense in spending the morning trying to get my son to care about a doll and some DVDs. Besides, Charlie’s issue isn’t the process of jumping on the potty, it’s the process of knowing when to go…

To be honest, maybe not my best moment…

By 7:15am, we had the big boy underwear on, the DVDs off, and coffee was brewing. The book instructs you to fill your kid up with liquids so he “feels the pressure” on the bladder. So I was pumping little Honey Badger with a juice box every 30 minutes…the only thing feeling the pressure was my carpet, under the constant barrage of accidents that littered the floor. Meanwhile, baby-doll George is laying face up on the bathroom floor, mocking me every time Charlie decides to tinkle anywhere but the toilet.

“You should have stuck to the plan, Ol’ Man, you should have stuck to the plan.”

By 10:15 I was running out of towels to clean up all the messes. I was beginning to lose my patience and the only thing making it into the toilet was my attitude. By lunch, I’d lost count of the accidents. My wife and I began to consider what missing pre-school would mean to Charlie.

Wife -“I’m sure he’ll be OK, we’ll just go next year…”

Me – “Maybe they have a class for potty – challenged kids”

As Charlie & I sat down for lunch, I pondered the morning’s activities. I had planned, practice, and (mostly) followed the book. I had spent money, time, prepping for this day. I had poured myself into this, into Charlie. My wife had left with the other 2 boys, leaving just Charlie and I to bond, to discover, to overcome. I was stuck…Things come easy, remember…this did not. Charlie looked amused. I was broken.

“Time for your nap, Badger, time for your nap”

****************************************************************************

Something happened that afternoon that I’ll never fully understand. From the time that kid went down for his nap, till the time he went to sleep 8 or so hours later, he didn’t have one accident. Not one tinkle awry. Hell, he was pullin’ the Stand-&-Pee routine by the time we hit Chick – Fil- A for his celebratory dinner…

Where’s the Daddy Training In-A-Day Book?

He’s too young to remember, and I’m not smart enough to understand, but it makes me wonder. In our crazy, red-card world, Charlie sits and sees a new brother, stealing a bunch of kisses on one side. On the other side, he sees an older brother, so full of energy, stealing the rest. Makes me wonder, did good ol’ Charlie enjoy the morning of chaos? Enjoy that attention? Enjoy “his time”? I’d like to believe it was the calls of encouragement by the grandparents in the afternoon, or my tried and true enthusiasm and positive thinking, but deep down, I think he saw the despair & frustration in his father’s eyes, and thought…”Ok, he’s had enough”.

Several days of passed since the Potty Training in a day…and Charlie’s had very few accidents. He’s ready for preschool and his mother couldn’t be happier. I guess the book did it’s job, although if asked, I don’t think I’d recommend it.

I’m learning quickly that our kids will do what they want, when they want, despite what us Father’s say….better get used to it, I hear. But maybe, just maybe, those same kids will see how much we care, how much we want them to succeed, and they’ll take it easy on us…maybe, if we show them the dedication they deserve, stay true to ourselves, they’ll end up being OK…they can’t pee in the their pants forever, right?

The training is complete, the story has been told…and in this case, I enjoyed the ending of things.

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About gregdyounger

A Father of 3 in search of his DaddyBalance See more at https://gregdyounger.wordpress.com

2 responses »

  1. Greg, love your blog, great writing.
    We are planning to be in KC the weekend of Oct 26/27. We would love to see you all.
    Don’t think we will be there for Thanksgiving this year.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Charlie Goes Skylander Hunting | The Beginnings of Things

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