For those of you who’ve been following along since my daughter was small, it won’t shock you to know she was using a toilet at six months old. I blogged all about it but here’s the abridged version: One day, it looked like she had to go, I took her to the bathroom, and I just kept doing that until she was able to tell me rather than my looking for cues. She wore a ‘just-in-case’ diaper until she was 15 months but I hadn’t seen a poopy diaper since way before she was one and when I took her out of diapers, I wondered why I hadn’t tried sooner. And then, I had a boy.
“Boys are different,” people said. “Boys are slower to potty train.” My own mother told me not to hold my breath. Only a few friends thought it possible for a boy to be communicative and cooperative enough to want it. (Shoutout to Kelly and Alison, the wind beneath my wings on this!).
CAVEAT: Elimination communication takes time and support. Please don’t think I assume everyone’s in the situation to do it. But for those of you who are, I think it’s worth a go. Read on!
At five months (full disclosure I tried before 5 mo a few times and couldn’t figure out a good position… it seemed ridiculous), Paris was sitting up on his own, so I took him to the potty when I thought he had to go. I had to dangle his butt in a little more to than with my daughter 😳 but it worked. He did go. I felt VINDICATED, like I’d flown in the face of expectations. I found it easy to read him and my husband was getting good at it, too. Paris would push at his high chair tray or stop with wide eyes when he was playing and one of us would whisk him away to a washroom. Around nine months, I was predicting he’d beat my daughter in getting out of diapers.
But just before his first birthday, when he was already signing “potty” to me in ASL when he had to go, Paris pooped his pants right next to me. Whaaaat?! I played it cool because that’s what all Elimination Communication advice says to do, but he did it the next day, too. And the next day. After a week, I felt like we were back at square one and what was worse is that he seemed to be regressing in every other way at the same time: emotional control, neediness, sleep, eating… I was googling and asking friends to see what could possibly be going on that I could change. My friend suggested adding little potties in new spots (until this point he’d only used a toilet) so I tried that, but nothing seemed to help.
Then, like a switch turned on again, he was totally back to normal. Doing his little potty sign, sleeping more than an hour at a time, but I felt shellshocked.
Smooooth sailing for months minus some pee, and another regression that seemed willful right before I took him to Vancouver. UGH. But Google led me to forums of moms who were going through the same thing with their two- or three-year-olds, and I’d got through this before, so I tried to keep calm and carry on, as they say.
This time, when I added a potty outside in springtime, it was a quick fix.
“All done wit da-bers.” My 20-month-old told me he was ready, and you know what? HE WAS.
It’s been a few weeks now and through an airport journey, four flights, five days at Disneyland (he wore a backup diaper but the line stayed yellow all trip long), and countless errands run in and out of town, he is decidedly in undies.
I’m here to tell you that not only is it possible to ditch diapers early with your boy if you’ve got the time and are feeling up to reading those cues, but it’s SO WORTHWHILE. I learned that my boy is just as capable of communicating and understanding as my girl is, and although I dwelled a bit on the setbacks in this post, the bonding is what I’ll remember. That, and the not having to change diapers anymore. So. If you have a baby boy and this sounds interesting, I encourage you to try it out: Look for cues, sign “potty” alongside some encouraging words, and stay positive. Maybe he’ll surprise you.
p.s. A lot of E.C. practicing parents don’t resort to bribes because the whole point is to normalize using a toilet rather than making it a big deal. My opinion on this and in the grand scheme of things? Whatever works for your family is fine. We’d “take a date to the potty” for ages, I used to have these animal figurines pictured above, and even now, I pretend my hand is a puppy that asks silly questions. It’s weird. But diapers are gonezo so it’s a win for us. ;)