Another one-two punch for your parenting arsenal: perspective and gratitude.
While fretting over my 21-year-old’s announcement that he might fail a class because of all the time he missed due to rehearsals and performances (Oh, come on! How hard is it to get to class?! and if you have to miss, how hard can it be to check in with your teacher about absences?), I was hit with a completely unrelated realization that just about took off the top of my head.
He’s potty trained!
Back in the summer of 1993, this seemed as remote a possibility as a Black president in the White House. Reeve was rounding the corner toward 4 and still adamantly refused—kicked, screamed, yelled, fell into a heap on the floor, the works!—to use the toilet. Extremely well-developed verbally, able to talk to his dad and me about aircraft of World War II and which whales are carnivores, yet unable to explain to us why he was being so stubborn about not using the potty. . .
This was one area where Tim and I had felt like complete failures for years. We had begun putting him on the “big boy chair-potty” when he was 2 or so, sitting with him and talking, trying to keep it low-key and comfortable. We had a success here or there, but nothing seemed to last. I guess he must’ve been 3 when we moved to Pull-ups, thinking that they might make the transition to underwear go more smoothly. Not so.
We were so uncertain what to do. (Unfortunately, we didn’t know about Mothering magazine until much later, when we moved to Santa Fe.) By all appearances, our boy was doing great—intelligent, curious, well-adjusted, easygoing, etc.—except for this one issue which was not apparent to those around us. It was our private shame and it seemed it would never get resolved.*
I bring this up not to relive desperate days but to remind myself how easy it is to get wrapped up in the problem of the hour—and to forget that these difficulties don’t last. I also forget, as time passes, to be thankful for the solutions that eventually came along and made the problems of the day disappear.
All those worries we have while pregnant (including my own deep-seated How will this baby EVER get OUT?) . . . worries that the new baby will never get the hang of breastfeeding. . . or that she isn’t getting enough nutrients . . . or that the toddler will never learn to play nicely with others . . . or that the five-year-old will still be sleeping with us when he’s a teenager. . . All are concerns which won’t last forever—and which, once resolved, we owe it to ourselves to take time out and celebrate a little.
Gratitude is holy, I believe. And luckily, it has no expiration date.
*But it did! When Reeve turned 4, we threw away the Pull-ups and went through seven pairs of underpants in one day, a really difficult, emotional day for all of us. But by that night, the just-turned 4-year-old was proud that he was a potty-user. (And when we asked him why he had been so reluctant before, he said “I don’t know. Maybe I was just scared.”)
Photo: Reeve and me, circa 1992. Back when I was worried about all kinds of now long-resolved and forgotten things.
P.S. Oh, and by the way, the college student did indeed email his teacher about his absences—and all is well. Go figure!