Tuesday, March 22, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: Risk

Choose your stone 

"Like a peddle thrown into water
The ripples will turn into waves
That go out and touch one another
With what you do and what you say.

Be you kind or be you cruel
Be a wise one or be a fool
How you win and how you lose
It's your own stone to choose

We touch others with what we say and do
That which you send out will come back to you
In the waves in the water from the stones that we throw
Someday, somehow, somewhere,
Someone will know . . . .

Whatcha going to say? Whatcha going to do?
What will they remember, when they remember you?
Whatcha going to give? Who you going to know?
How ya going to live? Where you going to go?
Which stone will you choose to throw?
Choose your stone, choose your stone . . . ."

~By Christine Tortorella for The Children's Village

Last Thursday, I bit the bullet and began potty training the Beats. Since Thanksgiving, we've abandoned the changing table and they have been getting all diaper changes done in the bathroom. But I haven't been aggressive about ditching the diapers. Between the holidays, then job stress, then Grey losing his job and all that came between, potty training has been on the back-burner. Even with their teachers.

To prepare for this transition, I had done some reading. There were the guidelines endorsed by the American Academy for Pediatrics. But I also picked up a book that resembled one of the ever-popular boot camps for potty training. Reading through this book, I found my anxiety start to rise. Though the author claims high degrees of success, there was a lot of judgment passed on parents who either waited until after her prescribed timeline to potty train and an underlying message about failure for both parent and child who failed to succeed at the program, mainly it being they weren't serious and didn't want to achieve this milestone.

After 4 days of being home, She-Beat is fully potty trained while He-Beat is still in diapers. If I believed the author for this boot camp book, I would classify He-Beat as a failure on the road of having serious behavior issues. And that I'm a failure as a parent. Instead, what I've been focusing on is what He-Beat has learned. That even though he is anxious about being on the potty, he now is curious about the process and has been learning how to control his bladder. That the few accidents we've had have actually been learning opportunities for him.

And that's not failure at all. It's actually the first steps in learning where if we continue to work with him and encourage him, will lead to success.

I've been thinking a lot about the author of this boot camp potty training book and her attitude as we've been going through this process. The judgment that she passes so easily on others. Sure, she's selling a product and part of that process means pushing this idea that if you follow her program to the T that success is guaranteed. But there's also an element there that speaks volumes about who she is as a person and how she views herself in the world. And though I was initially angry about this judgment, I found myself realizing how sad of a situation she's actually created for herself. That she's actually a pretty unhappy person. Why else would one be so cruel with regards to a milestone that should be empowering the next generation?

As educators, there's a big push to recognize that there are many modes of learning and tapping these requires using different approaches. Starting with simple differences like visual vs. auditory learning to more complex levels involving synthesis based on prior knowledge and discovery through exploration, we know that no two people learn the exact same way. Most interestingly and yet most terrifying, is the importance of learning through risk and failure. That failure in healthy doses actually is a far better teacher as overcoming that failure involves problem-solving and actually grasping key concepts surrounding a problem. Facing failure is scary, as we are forced to confront things we otherwise would chose to ignore. But so much good can come from it.

Despite knowing this, there's still this need to run others down following failure. Those who succeed can quickly pass judgment, often as an inherent flaw of the person facing the failure. You're stupid, you're lazy, you're paying for past behaviors or G_d/the Universe/name-your-deity doesn't believe you deserve this success. These judgments are damaging, creating doubt and promoting fear. And so there's a tendency to shy away from risk of trying something different or new instead of celebrate the courage that it took to even try.

On Saturday, during a hailstorm, an amazing double-rainbow appeared outside our window. So intense that you could see it end in the backyard of some houses not too far from where we live. Grey commented on how amazing it was to witness something like this, particularly during a moment where one could easily be pelted by ice. And yet if we had shied away from the windows, out of fear of the ice breaking them, we would have missed this.

So, we're moving forward. She-Beat is acting as a role model for her brother and He-Beat is finding himself surrounded by adults who are encouraging him on this milestone. Helping him even when he's still not entirely sure about it and celebrating the steps he's taking each day.

Because without risk there is no growth. And those who promote fear and hate are living in a terrible form of hell.


  1. Oh, wow. That author must have some deep-seated issues. Judgment is so harmful, and as a special education teacher, I love what you said about failure and learning from failure. Isn't there a quote, that if you haven't failed, you've never really tried? Risk-taking is such an important attribute, and I believe firmly that everyone develops at their own rate. Boys also (from what I've read having no actual experience in this arena) tend to potty-train later than girls, so it makes sense that She-Beat got in on the game first. And how lovely to phrase it that she's a role model for her brother who's just learning this skill at his own pace, and who will hit the milestone in his own time, not because he "doesn't want it bad enough." UGH. I kind of want to know which book this is so I can not buy it when the time comes... :)
    Also, loved this from the poem: "We touch others with what we say and do
    That which you send out will come back to you" So true. I see that so much with adult attitudes towards teens with challenging behavior -- how you approach the behavior makes such a difference in what comes back to you. Great post, although I feel like I am getting a preview of potty training anxiety even as that is years in the future for us! :)

  2. I work with students all the time who pass this judgment on themselves and on others ... they lack resilience, which makes them LESS successful in the long run. What you're doing is giving He-Beat the tools and the support to try, and fail, and learn, and try again. I wish more parents did.

    (You are so kind to come by ... I have been very, very absent. Miss you all.)

  3. Justine says it perfectly. It's a process. There isn't a recipe that one can follow and get the same result every single time. Any parent of twins knows that from... well... every milestone, which at least my kids have never reached the same way on the same day. They get it when they get it, and all we can do is help them learn and support them as they try.

  4. I'm glad you saw through the curtain, the one like the one the Wizard was behind. I wish I could go back to some early parenting stuff and do the same. But at least I can move forward with opener eyes now.

    "That which you send out will come back to you." Yup.

  5. I genuinely believe we put WAY too much pressure on ourselves and our kids when it comes to potty training. All kids, families, situations are different - and barring serious developmental delays, all will figure it out. The pressure on timing just seems so silly and unnecessary to me. Sounds like She-Beat was ready and He-Beat just needs a little more time. A year from now, I bet they've both got it.

    We had a generally easy time with potty training - it's been over a year now, and over 6 months of making it through the nights. But you know what? This morning, my sweet and totally potty trained daughter walked into the bathroom and, without even pulling her pants down, just started peeing all over the floor. I heard it before I saw it, and when I looked over, she was just standing there with her legs spread and pants up, eyes transfixed on the pee soaking her as she just. kept. going. When I asked her if she did it on purpose or on accident, she looked me right in the eye and said, "On purpose." So, you know... even when they are "trained" they're still liable to pee all over the floor just because.


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