Sunday, February 26, 2012

Common Potty Training Statements Offend (A True Story)

"You are going to be such a big girl when you finally learn to use the potty," said my friend as she was bringing her three year old daughter to the pot to sit on it. I was standing over at the fridge to get out a TV dinner that I would be eating for lunch. It was meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and corm. It has always been a favorite of mine. I stopped preparing the dinner and just stood there with it in my hands. I was taken aback by this statement she made to her daughter.

"Wait a minute. Why did you just say that?" I asked kind of hurt.

"I am just trying to encourage her to use the potty," said my friend.

"By lying to her?" I asked.

"I am not lying to her!" she shot back.

"Yes you are because diapers are not just for babies and being able to use the potty does not make you all grown up. I wear diapers, and I am an adult who is a professional business owner and powerful blindness advocate. And there are stupid immature adults who can use the potty who act like children and do nothing with their lives but sit on their butts and collect off other people's tax dollars. At least I am industrious and give a darn about earning my own and doing my part to contribute to society. Some baby, huh? I really am a stupid baby because I have to wear diapers? I hate the way society programs kids to think. Nobody is all grown up just because they can take a piss and a crap on the pot. Wow! Some qualifications to making one an adult! I am afraid it takes much more than that."

I did not give her a chance to answer. I dropped my TV dinner on the counter, not caring about eating anything at that point. I put on my slippers, and I stormed from the hotel room. I ran as fast as I could with tears streaming down my face. I was forgetting everything that I was taught about crying in public. I grew up knowing it was a very shameful thing to do and that one should keep the emotions in check in front of others. But this hurt too much. Fortunately, nobody was in the hall, except my friend who was completely blind (I honestly did not know she was there, until she called out to me. That was a real surprise.). She would not have known I was crying because I made no sound. The tears were the only indication of my crying.

"What's wrong," my friend asked. She was standing over at the elevators. "I know it is you, Reina, because I can hear your footsteps. Why are you running? Who or what are you running from?"

I got my voice in check and then said, "I am hurt right now. I hate the way people lie to their children to get them to use the potty. I hate it! I hate it! Saying statements, like "Diapers are for babies and using the potty is for big boys and girls." is so freaking stupid! It is stupid I tell you! It should be just as bad to say these statements, as it is to say racist comments. That crap should be considered hate speech." I was rambling on, but I just did not care. I was glad she was blind because she could not see the tears coming down my face, so I technically would not have violated what I had been taught. I did good to disguise my voice, so it would come out in an angry tone and not give any indication that I was crying. I am good to putting up that kind of front, you know?

"Do you want to talk?" she asked.

"Yes," I said, and my voice was barely audible.

We went down to her room. She was another floor below mine.

"So, what happened?" my friend asked. "Why are you all upset?"

I relayed the entire experience to her. She sat and patiently listened to me. She was a really good sport.

"I can understand how that will upset you."

"You do?" I asked.

"Absolutely," she said. "I understand that it made you feel inferior because you have a medical problem that requires you to wear diapers, and you are far from a baby. I can see how those types of statements about diapers being for babies and the potty being for big people would offend you."

Whew, I was so glad she understood. I was glad she did not judge me or write me off, thinking I was crazy because those things upset me.

"Do you want to go to the bar to eat and have a few drinks?"

"Yeah," I said. "But, I have to go back to my room to get my wallet and things. And boy, is my friend going to be happy to see me."

"I'll go with you."

"That may be a good idea," I said. "I do owe her an apology. I really did freak out on her. It was not her fault. She was only doing what society does to teach and motivate children to use the potty. She did not know any better, and she especially did not know it would offend me. Oh, I feel so bad."

We walked down the hall together to the elevators, and then we went to my room. I put the key in the door, and we both went into the room.

"Vonnie," I called to my friend. "I owe you an apology. I am so sorry I freaked out on you about the potty training thing earlier."

"Don't worry about it," she said.

"Are you sure?" I asked. "I really blew up at you. I mean, you did not know it would hurt me. After all, you were only doing what society programs parents to do to help children learn to use the potty and feel motivated about doing it. You were only following the propaganda."

"Yes, after I thought about it, I understood why you felt so bad. You know what you should do?"

"What?" I asked.

"You should go online to that support group you go on, and you should talk to them about how to deal with things like that. I think it would help you to talk to others who have to deal with the same thing and see how they handled it."

"I like that idea," I said. "Thank you so much."

"No problem. I am trying to help."

"Thanks, Vonnie," I said.

I went over to the desk where my computer sat, picked up my wallet and my bag, and I walked to the door.

"Vonnie," I said. "I am just letting you know I am going down to the bar to get some drinks. After that, I am going to hang out with some friends, eat some food, and probably go out shopping or something. If you need anything at all, call me."


We left the room. Boy was I so relieved that my friend understood. It was not like I was trying to be mean or anything. I understood she was only trying to help her daughter and was doing what she knew, but those statements send up rage inside of me. I wish they could never be used again. I find them to be dishonest and hurtful. The only way that such statements can stop being used is by not only educating the public about the condition of incontinence and how such statements make us feel, but we can also give people alternatives that will help encourage the children all the same that will not be so offensive.

Alternative Praises for Children Learning to Use the Potty

Wow! You did it! I am so proud of you!

Way to go! You are doing great! Keep up the good work!

Wow! You used the potty! Good work!

that is how you use the potty! See how good you've done! Awesome job! Let's see you keep on doing it.

If you keep using the potty and can stay dry, we will go and pick out your favorite underwear. You can pick out your favorite cartoon character or favorite color.

Do you know what all five of these alternative praises have in common? The phrases, "You will be a big boy or big girl." "Diapers are for babies and underwear is for grownups." or "You will soon be all grown up." are omitted. These alternative praises allow the child to feel encouraged and good about what he or she is doing, and it is all being done honestly without using phrases that continue to nurture the stigma of incontinence.

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