Friday, February 17, 2012

Cash Cows and Toileting Triumphs

When Jenna negotiated with the mall Santa Clause for not one but 5 candy canes so she would smile for the camera I knew my child was…ambitious.  Behind those bouncy blond pigtails and that sweet toothy grin lies the heart of a shrewd businesswoman. 

When Naomi was born and potty training progress took a major nose dive, I decided to take a friends advice and lay off for a while.  As mentioned in a previous blog (Potty Wars) nothing was working and I thought the only thing Jenna needed was more adjustment time.  We put away the potty charts and stopped the 30 minute reminders to try and go pee pee.  When Jenna’s third birthday approached at the end of January, I forced myself not to feel guilty that she would be attending her park party in pull ups and not big girl panties like all of her friends. 

Even though I wasn’t pushing the potty thing I still tried planting little seeds of interest here and there. When Jenna would point to a school yard full of children playing and ask if she could go to school too, I’d respond, “Oh, honey I wish you could, but only children that go pee pee and poopy on the potty get to go to school.” “If you use the potty like a big girl you can go to school someday too.” Jenna would just shrug and casually say, “Well I just won’t go to school then.”

Or when Jenna would bring up going to the playground with one of her friends I would toss in, “That would be fun.” “Maybe we can call and make a play date with Taylor.” “Did you know that Taylor wears big girl panties?” I could tell Jenna was not impressed with my information. She’d simply frown at me and then immediately request that especially annoying Wiggles song that I hate.

When Jenna turned three I was down to my last pack of size 2T pull-ups. (For the last two months Jenna had refused to keep her cloth diapers on, which were growing too small, and I refused to invest in the next size up).   I had originally vowed to be patient but come on, how much money can a person stand to throw away-LITERALLY? So I stuck Jenna in panties during the day to try and stretch the pull up diapers as long as possible. We have tile throughout the house, so what harm could it do?

Four days later I had made little progress.  I did my best to encourage big girl behavior, pointing out that Naomi was a baby and too small to help me bake, set the table, and water the garden like Jenna could. Jenna was thrilled at the constant special privileges and reminders that she could do a lot of things that Naomi wasn’t allowed to yet. Then one night I asked Jenna to help me harvest some mushrooms from our growing kit for dinner.  I used the knife to cut bunches of brown oyster mushrooms free and then Jenna placed them into the bowl.  Jenna had wanted to use the knife to cut the mushrooms herself but I had explained that it was too dangerous and that she could use a knife when she was older. 

Jenna grumbled something about a “very bad mama” placed the bowl on the floor and then trudged into the living room.  Two seconds later she happily announced, “Mommy, come look!” Her voice sounded abnormally cheery so I darted around the corner expecting trouble.  There she stood in a puddle, right beside her potty chair, a huge grin on her tiny face, “I pee peed on the floor like a dog.” And then she added gleefully, “Are you mad?”

What the heck? She had woken up dry from her nap & peed on the potty all day. In an instant my mind bounced back over Jenna’s so called “accidents” the last couple days: Right after she got into trouble for trying to ride Naomi like a horse and after I told her that Ice cream wasn’t a breakfast food and that she had to wait until after lunch to have some….  It hit me like a train. Aside from poopy (Which she had a genuine fear of) and naps/nighttime, the little stinker was peeing in her pants on purpose to get back at me!!!!ARGGGGHHHHH!!! Instead of morphing into an Incredible Hulk like creature I decided to remain calm, grabbed a roll of paper towels, and much to Jenna’s surprise she got to clean up her own mess.

For a whole week it was a battle of wills.  After a while Jenna grew tired of cleaning up her own pee, the constant changing of clothes, and the waste down spray downs in the tub.  Exasperated, I talked it over with Mike one night, “I just can’t believe how strong willed that child is!”

 “If I were you I’d just buy another pack of diapers.” He told me.

“Over my dead body!” I said, “I don’t care if I have to do five loads of laundry a day!”

“You will care when our electric bill goes up.” Mike sighed.

The electric bill went up nearly 20 dollars that billing period but eventually I got smart about it.  I started putting Jenna in a dress every day and gave up changing sheets, letting her sleep on a plastic mattress cover instead that I would wipe down in the event of an accident.

Two weeks into my no diaper vow I knew I needed to find something, ANYTHING that Jenna truly wanted that I could use as motivation to seal the panty deal.  For weeks the diaper solution was staring me in face as I vacuumed out couch cushions and emptied out jean pockets.  But I don’t think the true power of what I was holding occurred to me until Jenna found a quarter on the ground at Publix one day.

“Mommy, look, I found a circle.” She had proudly showed me.

“Oh!” “Good Job Jenna!” I said as I swiped my debit card and smiled at her, “You’re right it is a circle.”  “That is a special circle called a quarter.”

“What’s a quarter?” Jenna asked wrinkling her nose and forehead.

“It’s a piece of money worth 25 cents.” I told her.

Jenna’s eyes lit up and she quickly followed with, “To buy things at the store?”

“Yep that’s right.” I thanked the cashier for my receipt, returned Naomi’s gummy grin with a smile of my own and then turned to push my grocery filled cart toward the exit.

“Come on Jenna, we’ve gotta go now.” But there Jenna stood, the quarter pressed in the palm of her tiny left hand while her right forefinger traced its outline.  Suddenly images of Gollum shot into my mind and I swear I heard the words “my precious” whispered in a high pitched three year old voice.  Jenna clamped her hand around the coin, shot me a wide eyed grin, and skipped happily to my side. 

This was it! This was her motivation! We raced home and I quickly emptied my change drawer into a little Tupperware container and opened Jenna’s new cow bank she got for her birthday.   “Jenna, come look at what Mommy has for you!” Jenna raced into the bathroom and excitedly eyed the plastic bovine on the counter.  “See this cow, Jenna?” “He is very special for big girls.” I pressed the on button.

“MMMMOOOOOO!” “Hi There!” I’m the cash cow!” “I’m hungry for some money!” The recorded voice rang out.  Jenna was entranced.

 “Do you see this container of money, Jenna?” “Each time you go pee or poop on the potty we can feed your cow a coin.” Jenna tried to take a coin from the box but I pulled it back. “You can have a coin and feed the cow after you go on the potty.”

 Jenna smiled, “Can I go pee pee right now?”

“Sure you can, go ahead!” I was so excited I nearly floated into the air with happy thoughts of Tinkerbell panties in Jenna’s future. Just like that Jenna hopped onto her potty, went, wiped, washed, and then darted to the bank. 

MMMMMMM!” “That’s a penny.” “A penny is worth one cent.” The cow announced.  Jenna squealed with delight and then the cow, she, and I did a joy filled jig around the bathroom.

We had three instant dry days after that. But the biggest victory came when Jenna finally went #2 with the bargain price promise of 5 coins. Once she realized there was nothing scary about pooping on the potty she did it all the time.  It’s been three weeks since then and we have had only two accidents.  She even stays dry throughout naps and nighttime and has earned herself $9.88.  Sure she’s been requesting a lot more juice and water than usual, but for every penny we feed Jenna’s cow bank I save approximately 29 cents a diaper.  Some may say that money is the root of all evil but if it means one less poopy diaper to change then I say it’s worth every cent. So bring it on cash cow-you’ve saved my wallet (and my sanity) more than you could ever know!!!

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