Saturday, October 08, 2005

"...the prospect of supervising 20 deposits a day in the first busy months of infancy is daunting."

This is the NYT on early-bird toilet-training. The new parenting vogue (amongst rich folks in New York City, naturally the source of all enlightenment) is for getting kids out of diapers before they're old enough to crawl, well before the first birthday. (For those of you for whom childrearing is a foreign practice, the more typical age for toilet-training in these parts is more like 2-3 years.) Now this is coming from the parent of a 20-month-old child who has never once sat on a potty--the other side of the changing table, as it were. But this article and some of people it describes are both totally fucking meshuggah. Let's plunge in.
"It's just so simple," said Lamelle Ryman, who recently attended a support meeting at an apartment on the Upper West Side. Ms. Ryman, the mother of 7-month-old Neshama, added, "I feel like it's been such a gift in our relationship."
Words fail.
With early toilet training, there is a broad body of knowledge and experience to draw on. Parents in at least 75 countries, including India, Kenya and Greenland, embrace the practice, with Chinese babies often wearing pants with split bottoms for easy squatting (available for $1 in Chinatown, according to savvy mothers in New York).
When did "savvy" become code for "rich, white"?
From birth, the reasoning goes, infants are aware of their needs to eliminate, and although their muscles are not developed, they can soon learn to go on cue.
"The reasoning goes"? Whose reasoning? Anyone with real scientific credentials willing to go on the record that "from birth infants are aware of their needs to eliminate"? I haven't observed that kind of awareness in the time I have spent with very young children. But in NYC, who knows.
With practice, parents learn their child's rhythms; some parents sleep next to their children and keep a potty at arm's reach, or diaper their babies overnight.
Because there aren't enough interruptions during the night, now we're supposed to wake up when an infant has to pee or poop? And we're supposed to figure out that that's what's going on how?
Most important, [families who favor this practice] say, is an increased emotional bond with the baby, forged by the need for the parent to pick up on subtle signs and act on them quickly. Proponents of the practice use the phrase "elimination communication."
"It is enhancing that interaction and closeness, the intimacy between baby and mother," said Thomas Ball, a psychologist in California who is helping develop a documentary about the technique. "Here's another set of cues the child is giving that may be ignored or may be responded to."
Note the gendered language, the "mother" talk that pervades a dominant strain of the parenting-advice industry. Woe betide the mother who fails to pick up on her child's cues.
Another mother in Toys "R" Us, who offered her opinion but wanted to remain anonymous, was aghast at the notion. "Have you read Freud?" she asked, worrying about the method's long-term effects. "I imagine it's going to come out in sexual ways."
That's really dirty, especially for an article about babies. That line might be my favorite.
At two recent meetings of support groups, mothers and one father shared signals their babies gave: kicking, nose-rubbing, getting loud, getting quiet, hiccupping, feeling warm to the touch, shivering.

Ms. Boucke, the author [of "Infant Potty Training" (White-Boucke Publishing, 2002)], noted that many fathers really enjoy infant potty training. "They can't breast-feed, but they can work on the other end," she said. "Some dads get really good results."
Way to go, dads! I know I'm planning on really enjoying toddler potty training, but now I'm a bit miffed that I missed out on the enjoyment that could have been mine for a year or more already.

Now I must stop typing and head over to USA Baby to buy a potty. If you're trying to track me down over the next while, try looking for me "on the other end."


Blogger Jocelyn:McAuliflower said...

Our local weekly newspaper ran a cover story about the technique of never having diapers on your baby. I'll dig in the archives for it, as their take was quite different.

The bitterness in Eugene over the technique isn't that its for rich white folk, here, its for poor- hippies.

My memory of the article I read was that the technique is very much like training a puppy- you learn your baby's cues in their expressions, etc (hope to find the article as it went into the "etc" part quite a bit).

It came across as interesting. But then again Eugene can be a rather progressive town. It's standard here to teach our babies sign language before they can "talk".

I think it all amounts up to more challenges when you're trying to find a suitable baby sitter!!

8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Applause. Dear MZN, I am not a parent BUT I have worked in PRChina and India and indeed the children there are toilet trained at around 10 months because the kids DON'T WEAR DIAPERS. You're thinking this would be a pain in the tuchas - but as an OBSERVER, it seemed to work out just fine. You're too late for that so I'll tell you the Dutch method (at around 2yrs or 3 yrs - the important part is that it's summer). They DON'T PUT DIAPERS ON the chilluns. They let 'em run around bare-bunned and they DO buy what seems like zillions of little potties and scatter them throughout the house and garden. Every 20 minutes the kid is commanded to sit on the little pot for a few minutes and keep on doing whatever he/she is doing. Anytime there is a coincidence of pee/poo and sitting on the toilet a huge celebration is unleashed. It seems to work since most adults I know are potty-trained.

But as a non-parent I like the Chinese/Indian method better because it doesn't pollute. Just like you, your kid doesn't just go any 'ol time. You kind of time the times to be around a potty. Indian folks would be surprised if you didn't know when your kid need to go to the loo.

Sorry for commenting and not being a parent at the same time.

4:13 PM  
Blogger mzn said...

I love to see the word "tuchas" in print, Debra. I do know when my kid goes to the loo when he's shitting but never when he's peeing. If there's a way of telling when that's happening I'd be interested to know about it. I love your descriptions, by the way, of the various cultural differences in toilet training.

Now this should speak to McA's comments and Debra's too: What I found crazy about the NYT article was not just the idea itself of getting rid of diapers, but the way the author and the people described and quoted talked about the issue--making up goofy techincal terms and exaggerating the pleasures of toilet training. They seemed really wacky, and in a bad way.

10:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have never heard of a way of telling when a kid is about to pee and maybe I'm just a hippy myself, but pee isn't that 'dirty,' is it? I mean, you don't want it everywhere, but it's not going to kill the hardwood floors (although it will kill the flokati couch, the carpet, and your dress temporarily). Once a child has peeed it will take them a good 20 minutes to produce some more - so after the pee, THEN the flokati couch.

In India and PRChina they (the grammas, the village girl nannies, the aunties) really 'administer' the little ones. The babies are ALWAYS ON THE ARM = ALWAYS. Therefore they RARELY CRY. Someone is always holding the baby, and prams would be a dang waste of time considering the paving and transportation issues. The kids aren't suckin the livelong day on bottles either. They get liquids at certain times, all very regimented, they get taken on 'pee walks' in the garden (not unlike taking out the dog) and the attention is VERY MUCH on the entire process by the 'administrators'. I have never seen a Western parent blow (I mean just air - really now!) on their kid's penis to make pee come out, but I saw that a lot in India and PRChina. With little babies, not with toddlers. Every single toddler was potty trained - more or less by the same time they could walk.

AND - I'll send you a pic of the cute little open-bottomed pants the kids wear in PRChina. In India the kids just wear normal clothes from the get go - AND MAKEUP - TONS OF MAKEUP so that their eyebrows are thick with kohl making them look like Bollywood stars. Maybe that's it - more adult outfits!

Once again, sorry for the advice and being a non-parent. It's only human.

10:34 AM  

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