Adventures in Potty-Training - and Lessons Learned -- Rev. Julie Long
Forgive me for the potty-talk, but it’s nearly all I can think about these days. The Long family spent Labor Day weekend in the trenches of Potty-Training Boot Camp. Our little girl had shown some signs of progressing toward the potty-training milestone, but she needed just a little push to make it happen. We decided that the long weekend was our time to go cold turkey. It was agonizing and affirming, heart-wrenching and celebratory, all at once. Along the way, we learned a few life – even spiritual! – lessons.
Patience truly is a virtue! Sitting back and waiting for our little girl to figure out things for herself and do them in her own time and way nearly drove me bonkers. As difficult as it is not to jump in and solve a problem my way, being patient allows others to learn for themselves and empowers them to grow. Slowing down helped me to remember that not everything needs to be done in a hurry.
Accidents happen. When they do, clean up the mess and move on. An affirming hug helps to express forgiveness and grace, and gives the offender the courage to learn from it and try again.
Celebrate important moments. Each time our daughter was successful, we celebrated with a cheer, a hug, and an M&M. Honoring her accomplishment made her feel so good about herself. Every day, people all around us are facing and conquering difficult challenges. Taking the time to celebrate the key moments in the lives of others affirms their journey and gives them to courage to keep going.
Be intentional about affirming people verbally. My heart nearly melted when my daughter’s teacher told me that on her first day back at daycare, she used the potty and said, “My mommy is going to be so proud of me!” She knew that because I had constantly told her how proud I was of her for being so brave about trying something new. Taking care to express our love and pride verbally as well as with gestures sticks with people!
Rituals are comforting. Our little girl found comfort in the ritual of her task. Keeping things in order – go, sit, cheer, flush, wash, M&M! – made what had been a scary experience become something manageable. The more she practiced it, the more self-assured she became. Rituals, like in worship, give stability and dependability to our lives. They help us to feel safe and at home. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to throw a special treat in once in a while!
Be a part of a supportive community. Merrill couldn’t wait to share her big-girl news with her teachers and friends at church and school. She knew that they would celebrate with her, too. Good communities, and particularly the church, offer such gifts as encouragement, prayer, thanksgiving, sympathy, and simply being present for our life’s struggles and celebrations. I’m glad my child has already experienced that truth at age 2.
Spirits are high at the Long house! We all feel good, because we’ve all accomplished something new and learned a few important lessons along the way. We are grateful for these good gifts!