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Pottying is such sweet sorrow
- Nirupama Subramanian

It is a pleasant dream. My little Kaavya is going off to college. She's all grown up. I can't see her face clearly but I know it's her. Kaavya doesn't look very excited though. "I hope you've packed everything?" I ask. She looks around at the suitcases, bags and a large cardboard box. "Mummy, I wish I didn't have to take this big carton of DIAPERS," she sighs. I can feel her eyes looking at me, sadly, yet accusingly...

I woke up, shaking. I knew it was a sign. I had to start toilet training her soon!

Unfortunately, babies do not come with a "How To" manual. Fortunately however, there are plenty of books, websites and experienced mothers to bombard you with advice on toilet training. It shouldn't be so difficult, I thought. If Kaavya was old enough to point to the fridge and say "tothlet" she could point and say "Potty" as well.

After scouring through my trusty 'What To Expect - The Toddler Years," I felt I was ready to begin. The trick was to find out if Kaavya was ready. For three whole days, Big Mother was watching her every move. I looked hard for the 'look' that apparently indicates readiness for any bodily function. I took her to the bathroom and described its features like a broker trying to pass off a tenement as the Taj Mahal. I bought a little red potty and decorated it lovingly with a Winnie the Pooh sticker and little silver stars. In fact, it looked too pretty to be used for its designated purpose!

I still could not make out whether we should take the great leap forward. A premature initiative could leave scars on her tender young mind and put her off toilets forever.

Around the same time, I bumped into my old classmate at the supermarket. She proudly showed off her 15-month-old boy. "I potty trained Ayush when he was barely six months," she claimed. "Now, he doesn't wear diapers at all. In fact, his first words were 'Mama, soo-soo..'"

It was time. All systems said Go. I sat Kaavya on the potty for the first time and waited. Now I know what the farmers feel when they watch for the first signs of rain. I was not blessed with even a few drops! Instead, Kaavya got up after examining the Winnie Pooh sticker and wandered off. All efforts to get her back on the potty were met with strong resistance. When I threatened to take back chocolate privileges, she launched an uncivil disobedience movement.

I had to try something else. "Make her feel like an adult," suggested the book. I got a potty seat and placed it on the WC. "Now Kaavya is a big girl," I coaxed her. She will use big potty." Once she's on it, she can't run away, I thought. I plonked her down. Before I could let go, Kaavya chose to develop a sudden bout of vertigo. She shrieked and squealed as though I was torturing her, till I lifted her out and put her on terra firma.
 

"Encourage her," advised my pediatrician.  "She needs motivation. Don't push her or scold her." I complied.  Any small deed was rewarded with loud cries of "Good Girl, Yea Kaavya," accompanied with an excited clapping of hands. When she sat on the potty, I did a little jig in front of her with a big smile on my face and a musical rattle in my hands. A couple of pompoms and I could have passed off as a one-woman cheerleading squad. The other day, when my husband came home early from work, I greeted him with an effusive cry: "Good show, way to Go!"   When I patted him on the head and said "Good boy" after he helped me to clear up the table, he hinted that I might be overdoing it.  However, it had no effect on Kaavya. I am sure it is easier to teach a Royal Bengal Tiger to jump through fiery hoops.
 

"It's timing," said a helpful cousin. Kaavya was as reliable as the 
Indian Railway system. Just when I thought I could detect a pattern, she changed the timetable. " Keep her without diapers and take her to the bathroom every hour," suggested someone else. Great! I might as well pitch a tent and camp in front of the potty with Kaavya. Since her interest in sitting on the potty lasted for all of four minutes, it took all my creative talents to induce her to sit there long enough to see results. I conducted puppet shows, recited all known nursery rhymes and narrated the story of Aladdin and The Wonderful Lamp for the 20th time while waiting for Kaavya to do her job.

 "How did you spend your day?" my husband would ask in the evening." In the bathroom," I would reply glumly. " What did you do? " he would 
persist. "I read the newspaper in the bathroom. I spoke to my sister-from the bathroom. I dozed for few minutes-in the bathroom." He doesn't ask me such questions any more.

Kaavya is 22 month old now. Our house smells alternately of disinfectant and baby piss. I have bought a nice little stool and a bookshelf for the bathroom. I have made some progress as well.  Kaavya and I have opened a channel of communication.

I often ask her, "Where should you do potty?"
"Bathooom" she replies.
"Where in the bathroom?" I ask,
"Potty," she says.
"Will you tell Mummy when you want to go?" I continue.
"Yeah", comes the prompt reply.
"Does Kaavya want to do soo-soo now?" I persist.
"No" she retorts.
A small puddle forms at her feet.  It is monsoon in Mumbai now.

I have decided to be patient. She will learn on her own. Meanwhile, I have started accepting donations towards Kaavya's Diaper Fund. I have to be prepared for the expenses towards her higher education!
 
 

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