Monday, July 28, 2008

finding grace

Before they were born, while they were still fetuses entirely dependent upon my body, my daughters have had distinct personalities.

The baby that the doctors referred to as "baby C' was my smallest and the most active girl, flip flopping around and kicking her siblings on their heads with her tiny feet. "Baby B" was always larger and very rarely moved. She was content to lay still while her sister did tumbling passes in the adjacent placenta.

Yet while they were in utero, I had already determined what they would be named and had deciphered my daughter's personalities.

Baby C would have a bubbly demeanor. She would be constantly on the move, never content to sit still. She would smile at everyone she meets and be the life of the party. She would be the first to crawl, first to walk, first to do everything.

Baby B would be more laid back. She would be slower than her sister to do things. She would be more withdrawn and have reservations about every one that she meets. If there was a party raging poolside, she would be more content to stay at home with me.

When our children were born, it really surprised me that "baby B" was the smallest of the trio.

It surprised me that she was so active, even as a 3-pound preemie, whereas baby C, the baby that I thought would be so active, was perfectly content to sleep.

I thought for sure it would have been the other way around.

The notable difference in their size and personalities continued to puzzle me as we brought our children home from the hospital. Baby B - Elizabeth Jeanne - would hardly eat and squirm constantly; whereas Baby C - Carolyn Grace - would polish off all of her bottles and sleep soundly.

Several months after they were born, when we were comparing their growth charts, Charlie and I confirmed, without a doubt, that our girls had been switched at birth.

The baby that in utero, we knew as baby C - the smallest and most active of the trio - was born immediately after her brother. Once we discovered that they had been mixed up, I realized that the predictions I had made about my daughter's personalities while they were in my womb, could not have been more accurate.

Elizabeth is a social butterfly and it downright scares me how she will talk to anyone. As she was active on the inside, she is active on the outside. This child never stops moving. She rarely eats, and yet is a ball of energy. She has a gentle demeanor and adores her baby brother. She was the first to crawl, first to walk and first to potty train. I think that if William had not been blocking her exit, she would have been the first to be born.

Carolyn is very shy and withdrawn. She is extremely cautious and will not approach any one that she doesn't know. Whenever we go out, she will stay by my side, and frequently, hang off my leg. She is jealous of her baby brother and will snatch toys away from him. Where her sister will eat two bites and ask to be excused from the table, Carolyn will sit and eat every last morsel on her plate ... before asking if she can have what her sister didn't finish. She is four-inches taller than Elizabeth and 12 pounds heavier. She was the last to crawl, last to walk, and still shows no interest in being "fully" potty-trained.

That last issue, the issue of potty training, has been very difficult for me. Almost as difficult as the way she hides under my shirt in public and knocks her baby brother down whenever he comes near.

Because Carolyn has been so adamantly opposed to going poop in the potty, her refusal is beginning to negatively affect my attitude towards her. I simply don't have the same level of patience or compassion that I once had, and I find myself saying and thinking things that are less than kind.

I am frustrated beyond belief.

Now if someone were to tell me about their stubborn child who refuses to potty train, I would tell them to relax. I would say that it will happen when it happens and until then *shrug* there's not much you're going to do about it.

But when I've got two other children, the exact same age, that have been potty trained for several months ... and one that is going through a regression of monumental proportions ... it's difficult to stay level headed. It's difficult to not want to pick your child up and compress their belly like a tube of frosting - squeezing that poop clean out.

Six people have now told me that the key to having a stubborn child have a successful evacuation on the toilet, is to put the child on the potty and keep them there until they poop.

I tried that once before and after a solid two hours and a tiny poop, I hadn't done it again. And since I've got so many activities happening on any given day and I'm often managing my time in mere seconds, I don't want to sit around waiting for hours and hours for a child to defecate.

But one day last week, I was at my wits end.

So on Wednesday night - and again Thursday night - I sat my daughter on the toilet.

The first night it took an hour. The second night it took four and a half hours. I suspected that Child Psychologists the world over would tell me that this approach is WRONG. I suspected that my callousness in ignoring my little girl's pleas of "I'm tired!!" would land her in therapy. I suspected that the vast majority of the civilized population would say that this is a cruel thing to do to a child.

But, there I was.

She was doing this holding-of-the-poop thing to spite me and I was NOT going to lose. It was a war of wills and I would triumph. The poop that had been daylighting since earlier that morning, was no longer longer poop, it was sh*t, and I was tired of cleaning it out of underwear, seeing it, smelling it, and otherwise thinking about it.

I was determined that it was coming out in the pot.

Not in a diaper.

Not in underwear.

Not in pieces on her hand - which she might then wipe on our linen shower curtain.

Thursday night, I put her on the potty at 8:00 PM. Four and a half hours later at 12:30 AM, my daughter finally did go poop. It came out once she fell asleep.

All weekend I was upset over my actions on Thursday night.

I was upset that I would force my little girl to sit on a potty to go poop, when it was clear that she absolutely did not want to. I was upset that I would tell her the next time I see her knock her baby brother down - or hit him with a block - I was going to do the same thing, to her. I was upset that I have been so disappointed with her in almost everything that she does.

I was upset that I had less than favorable feelings about my daughter as a manifestation of the frustration that she was not doing this one thing that I really wanted her to do.

When our daughters were born, it didn't matter to me who was named what. But I find it interesting that the child that I always thought would be Carolyn Grace, my baby C, is in fact baby B.

After some soul searching this weekend, I'm certain that it was no mix-up that my daughters were born when they were. I have decided that it was a case of divine intervention that my girls came out when they did. Because if Carolyn was born when she was "supposed" to be born, she would have been named Elizabeth Jeanne. But because their names had been picked out well in advance of their birth, the angels on high must have known that the child that would really need her mother's grace, was baby B.

My Gracie.

I have decided that instead of being frustrated with her, I must shower her with love. I must spend more one-on-one time with her and not completely lose my cool whenever she does something that I think she knows is wrong.

Above all, I must show her grace.

I have also decided (again) that pooping in the potty isn't going to happen until Gracie decides that it should happen. I can only hope that it will happen before I am eligible for the AARP. Until then, I am putting her in diapers - all day every day - because she and I have both cleaned enough poop out of underwear to last a lifetime.


  1. You could always make an appointment to visit the montesory school and have them tell her that if she wants to go to school she has to poop on the potty. Then keep reminding her of that as the day school starts approaches. My nephew was the same way...he really wanted to go to preschool, so telling him that he couldn't wear diapers to preschool and knowing how to poop on the potty were necessary in order to go to school. I forsee a long road ahead with my 2 1/2 year old son...uggghhhh!

  2. You could always make an appointment to visit the montesory school and have them tell her that if she wants to go to school she has to poop on the potty. Then keep reminding her of that as the day school starts approaches. My nephew was the same way...he really wanted to go to preschool, so telling him that he couldn't wear diapers to preschool and knowing how to poop on the potty were necessary in order to go to school. I forsee a long road ahead with my 2 1/2 year old son...uggghhhh!

  3. One of my three daughters (not triplets) simply had no desire to go on the potty. None. Zero.

    I really understand (and LOL) at this:

    "It's difficult to not want to pick your child up and compress their belly like a tube of frosting - squeezing that poop clean out."

    Hang it there. You're right. Show her grace. She won't poop her pants at the prom.

  4. I have a seven-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter who still wear pull-ups to bed and SOAK them a few nights a week each. I'm not at ALL happy about it, but I know like everything else in their lives (good and bad) THIS TOO SHALL PASS.
    My advice:
    And have a few Peanut Butter Cups!

  5. I am just entering the danger zone of this territory myself with Olivia, who at 2.5 will throw a fit if I try and push her to use the potty for a poop, but I'm sure I read somewhere... by Kindergarten they are all potty trained. Hang in there!

  6. My little guy is not quite 1.5 yet, but I just wanted to let you know that I'm praying for grace for you.

  7. My oldest son, who has always thought well above his years, just was NOT going to be told where and when to poop. I stopped putting his naptime diaper on because he would hold it until I did. Then, he started holding it until his nightime diaper, which I eventually took. Then, I qualified for the bad mother award when he got horribly constipated. The dr. told me that it was better to let him manipulate me than to have him constipated. "sigh" I couldn't argue with the dr. and hated seeing him scream in pain when I finally did have to give in and give him the diaper! I have sat on the floor in the bathroom and cried for you...just waiting.
    It finally happened, but only when Patrick decided that HE was ready. Of all the things that I have been through with parenting, potty training Patrick has been the worst. I so know what you are going through.

  8. I was kinda wondering what happened this weekend?! JK. Anyway, I am sorry about all that. You do what you have to do in the moment...and you did. I don't fault you. You sound like me with my 3 year old...I hope it doesn't come to that but it just might if he doesn't start soon.

    Hang in there and I think you have the right perspective now...lots of love and grace...:) Good luck.

  9. I love your final words and meaning of this post Jen. I have always loved the name Grace...and I'm glad that you are finding ways to share your own grace on your strong-willed girl.

  10. Good for you. For trying everything, for laying it all bare when the lowest low came, and for stepping back and seeing what should come next.

    Sounds like the right solution to me.

  11. Erica: unfortunately, Gracie has NO desire to go to Montessori school. She sat in on a class a few months ago and wouldn't let me leave her side. While Elizabeth and William loved being in a class by themselves, Gracie couldn't wait to leave.

    So ... telling her that she can't go to school until she goes poop in the potty may actually make my situation worse!!

  12. Jen, this post made me cry. Amanda has always been more difficult and it's always been a struggle for me to show her grace and I have felt at many many times that I've been less than the person I should be with her.

    I have tried very very hard to stop thinking of her as the "stubborn" one or the "hard" one or the "jealous" one (which she is, truly) and when my attitude changed towards her, her attitude changed. I haven't thought of her as those things for awhile now.

    I think you should tell Carolyn you are sorry about Thursday night and tell her that you guys are going to do it different now. It's amazing to me how telling Amanda how sorry I am changed our relationship.

    And I truly think going to school is going to be a big help for her. I really do. It's helped Amanda immensely.

    I'd give you a cyber hug if I didn't think those were stupid. I think you are on the right track now. She'll be potty trained in the first week of September. You watch.

  13. I felt a little teary, for you reminded me of the time I needed extra grace with our Mia Grace. Not over potty training, but a extremely busy, frustrating toddlerhood.

    Saying a prayer for you tonight for extra patience and calmness this week.

  14. As a mom, regrets are going to happen. It's what you do with it that counts. Potty training is hard work...on both of you. There's no sense constantly upsetting both of you. I agree she will go when she is ready. I'm sure it will be soon. I think some one on one time will be good for both of you. Good luck.

  15. Some children have a real "thing" about pooping. It is fear, and I believe it is very real. I think your decision to put it aside and put her in diapers for a while, with nothing said about her pooping habits will do wonders.

    I've know several children who carried this aversion to using the toilet when they pooped. One nephew asked his mother to put a diaper on him when he needed to do his business. She always did and he continued going to the corner of his bedroom, doing it, and then asked to be put back in his big boy underwear!! He was 5 before it stopped. Really, in the total scheme of things, what difference did it make?

    My eyes welled up with tears for you...and for little Gracie..How well do I remember the feeling of going to bed after being impatient with my kids--it causes pain like a knife, and further more, it makes a very heavy heart.

    I'm glad you are purposing to practice grace with her--"grace"--that which we don't deserve--oh that we would all practice more grace in our day to day lives!

    You will get through this, my dear. Don't doubt yourself--God will give you the grace and patience as you practice using them for His glory.

    God chose you to mother this little group and God doesn't make mistakes. He also knows your frailties and He understands!

    Well, lest I take the liberty to do a sermon, I must stop.

    You have people praying for you and for the children.

    You are blessed.


  16. I am normally a lurker, but just had to comment. I really enjoy your blog!! This was such a touching post.

    I have no words of wisdom to offer you, especially since it seems like you have heard them all :) I just want to say that I think that being a mother is difficult beyond words sometimes. Hang in there!!


  17. What mother hasn't felt like this at some time? I often find myself locked in a battle of wills with my two-year-old daughter that later makes me say, "Why couldn't I find a graceful way out of that?"

    I keep reminding myself that my child's strong-willed nature will serve her well in this harsh world.

    I also pray that perhaps not ALL of the triplets on the way will be quite as strong willed as Amelia!

    All things in good time, Jen, and in the meantime, plenty of grace!


  18. I have also had moments where I have not been proud of myself as a mother. I kick myself hard too because I WANTED these children so badly (which I know you feel the same) I should love every minute of it, right? We are not perfect, and it teaches our children how to come back from imperfection. They can learn that they too can have a second chance (at least most of the time). Things always look better in the morning than they do at 12am. I'm sympathizing with you and I will keep notes for when my 3 are ready (or not ready) for potty training.

    You are a great mom and your kids will remember some bad times (who doesn't?) but there are a whole lot more good times.


  19. I think your decision to put her back in diapers was a good one. You definitely realized that whatever you're trying, isn't working. Carolyn sounds to me like a free spirit, similar to my 5 (almost 6 year old). As they say, "Pick your battles"

    I had issues with her and going poop too, but I only had her. She wasn't so much afraid of the poop itself, she was afraid of the act of it coming out. We would sit and read books with her on the toilet to help her calm down. Sometimes it worked. A friend of mine had her son just sit and play his Leapster on the toilet, to help him relax.

    It will happen, but it will happen on her time, unfortunately for you.

    Hang in there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. I imagine this is one of the hardest with multiples - there is always at least one or two other children of the exact same age and developmental background to compare one with. It's difficult enough not to do it with siblings in general! Just remember their similiarities end with their birthdate, and that's how it should be.

    Breathe, love her. So much regressive behvior goes away so quickly with even the tiniest bit of "extra" TLC. (Where you can come up with the energy to provide that? I have no idea! Dreyer's?) Dig deep. Let her cling. Let her wear diapers. Let her be herself. You'll all find Grace that way. :)

    In the meantime, I'm cheering for you!

  21. If it makes you feel anybetter I have potty trained six kids, and I was reduced to tears by all of them. I thought by the time I got to the youngest ones I'd have a working technique, but they all needed different things and had thier own timetables.

    Hooray for two kids potty trained!

  22. Also a lurker. I've only been at this for 8 months with triplets, but have also had a couple of moments that I am not proud of. Sometimes we have to try things to find out they don't work, though. My little girl is our "difficult" one. I've been frustrated with her over various eating, sleeping, and crying issues. But she's also the one with the biggest smile, the biggest laugh, and the sweetest spirit. I often wonder how on earth I'm supposed to get all of this right. How on earth am I supposed to raise these babies while dealing with my own frustrations and shortcomings. No one tells you about this part of motherhood, huh?

    Here's hoping that we get at least most of it right...learn from our mistakes...and don't become alcoholics in the meantime....

  23. Hey Jenna-
    I've only heard great reviews about this!


  24. Carolyn Grace with the beautiful face. How lovingly you looked at her and was so happy with her. Do not let it get you down Jen--why don't you go to see someone who is impartial in helping you deal with this problem. I go and it is a tremendous help and another way to look at things. Think about it!

  25. The more I think about Gracie my heart aches for her. She does not want to hang on but she does not know how to let go. She needs you more than the others now. Please do not embarrass her and please, please tell her you are sorry for anything you may have done to hurt her. I am going thru this with my oldest daughter now, and I have apologized to her over and over and she is not ready to forgive me. Perhaps in my case it was toilet training to early. I am thinking of you and Gracie and sending energy.


    :) It'll be ok..

    ...and I hope this makes you laugh (not cry) that I found this as I was clicking through your old posts:

    Good luck!

  27. potty training....shudder....God bless you! I cried every day I potty trained my first born. Little did I realize how easy he was going to be compared to my last 2...
    Keeping your daughter up reminds me of the countless "good ideas" that just ended up with me being incredibly guilt ridden.

  28. I think you're doing the right thing by keeping her in diapers full time... It is THE ONLY THING that worked for my daughter.

    One day, when she was about three and a half, she decided that she didn't want to wear diapers anymore and that was that. Much to my surprise, she was fully trained within a few days.

    Hang in there, she'll come around!

  29. This post makes me think of my parents. They had twin boys when I was 11. They worked very hard to treat us kids fairly. In their minds, what that meant was treat us the same. We got the same amount of attention, the same type of discipline, the same everything. In spite of the fact that they were boys, I was a girl, they were little and I was a preteen. It was probably one of the biggest mistakes they ever made with me growing up, because I am not my brothers. I needed different attention (more and quality), I needed to be disciplined differently (not screamed at or spanked), and I needed to be communicated with differently (gentle encouragement, not patronized).

    I have seen my parents a handful of times in the last 18 years. I don't miss them. I don't really want to see them. They still have no idea why treating me the same as the twins resulted in a very different relationship now that we're adults. Yes, we're all their kids, but we're not the same.

    I'm so glad to read that you already realize that.

  30. I went through something very similar with my four year old son -I swore that he would never be potty trained. I was very frustrated with him and my self. But I realized my frustration was leading me to always point out his mistakes, his "bad attitude", etc... It was about a month into our training that I realized I had to change and decided to start recongnize all the good things he was doing, all the hugs he gave everyone, all the love he freely gave. When I started doing that a change occured in both of us and he was potty trained in less than a week.

    Good luck with your Grace - she is beautiful child who will eventually potty trained! :0)