Let the Potty Training Commence

Peer pressure is a wonderful thing.

Okay, fine; most of the time it’s not. Usually peer pressure is associated with the “bad” kids in school egging on one of the “good” kids to do a “bad” thing. They’re trying to get him to cut class or drink alcohol or smoke pot or break into the teacher’s desk or a host of other “bad” things. In those cases, peer pressure is not wonderful; it’s harmful and, usually, dangerous for at least one of the people involved.

Thankfully, Eitan is only two and a half, so we don’t have to worry about that stuff just yet. Which is why, in our case, peer pressure is a wonderful thing.

Over the past few months, we have been getting together with some of the families in our neighborhood on some Friday nights for Shabbat dinner. The kids are all right around Eitan’s age, so they’ve all been hitting the same milestones around the same time. As parents, we’ve shared experiences and advice about everything from the kinds of diapers to use to the most effective methods of sleep training. The dinners have given us an opportunity to spend time together while our kids play nearby. And, since it’s all happening in one enclosed space, it also means we don’t usually have to use the same hawk-like supervision when looking after the kids, which gives us the chance to actually relax a bit.

Last week, we had dinner at the apartment of one of the other families. When we got there, I found out that most of the other parents had already started potty training their kids.1 Some of the kids were wearing Pull-Ups and some were wearing underwear but nearly all of them had been using the potty on a somewhat consistent basis for some time already. We have a potty at home for Eitan (two, in fact), and he has used it a number of times, but not with any sort of regularity. Trudy and I had been talking about how we were going to potty train Eitan and we’d set up a plan, but we hadn’t started implementing it yet. But then, at dinner, when we were talking with the other parents and the kids were playing together, Eitan suddenly came running up to us and yelled, “I have to go pee!” We laughed and asked, “Do you want to use the potty?” And he exclaimed, “Yes!”

So we took him to the bathroom, took off his (dry) diaper, and he went on the potty. Trudy and I cheered, told him how proud we were and what a good job he’d done. Eitan beamed with pride.2

Almost all the kids used the potty at some point or another during the evening, and their parents all played cheerleader at least once, as well. One of the kids even went into the bathroom while his friend was on the potty to tell him he was doing a good job. Eitan used the potty more than once during the evening and that night gave us the perfect opportunity to start potty training for real. Eitan has been using his potty at home and even went on his travel potty a few times yesterday while we were out shopping. There have only really been two accidents, but both happened at home and were cleaned pretty easily3 so things seem to be going very well. He’s gotten a reward every time he has gone and he has caught on to the concept of earning prizes fairly quickly.

I know I won’t always want Eitan to do something just because everyone else is doing it. Trust me, I’m incredibly thankful he’s still a toddler. In this case, though, I’m certainly not complaining.

(Also, Happy New Year, everybody!)

 


1. Trudy knew this already. The moms talk a lot more often than the dads do. Or maybe the moms just talk more about the kids and the dads talk more about sports. I’m not trying to be stereotypical here; I’m just thinking about the conversations Trudy usually has with the moms and the ones I usually have with the dads. That’s just how it’s happened.

2. For the record, cheering someone on while they’re doing their business is just one of the ridiculous things that parents end up doing for their kids. I’m not sure I can imagine giving someone a high five every time I pee, let alone getting a standing ovation whenever I poop.

3. The underwear was easily cleaned, but I’m not sure the same can be said for Mr. Incredible’s memory. He may never get past that trauma.

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Why Do I Do This?

Why?

Such weight for such a small word.

The other question words – who, what, where, when and how, just in case you’re a bit more removed from early elementary school grammar lessons – have their places and are important in their own rights. They are our primary avenues for obtaining information about an event. They help us find out facts by providing tangible, concrete information. They are straightforward; who was there, when did it happen, where did they go. “Why” is less obvious, though. Why deals with intent. Why is about cause and motivation and reason. Who and what and where are fairly easy; the answers may not always be readily apparent, but there is usually a way to find those answers. Why is murkier, though. While the other interrogatives exist in black and white, “why” floats through the ether in various hues of grey.

“Why” just has… more.

All the big questions start off with “why.” Why do we do the things we do? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do we idolize athletes and actors? Why do we strive for specific body types? Why do we judge each other for making different choices?

Why are we here?

I hope I haven’t scared you off. This post has a very heavy feel to it so far and that wasn’t my intent when I started it. I had one particular “why” question in mind and this is the introduction I went with. Also, I may have majored in philosophy, but that doesn’t mean I have the answers to any of the other questions I mentioned. Most people spend their entire lives and many more pages than a simple blog post trying to find those answers; far be it from me to say that I can spell out those answers in 800 words or so. In fact, starting to ask those questions can lead down an extremely deep rabbit hole, so I’m going to just leave them there and move on.

The question I had in mind1 was, “Why do I write?”

It’s a fair question. My original intention was to paint a picture of the various ways I’ve changed since Eitan was born and to document some of the things he has done that have affected Trudy and me as parents.2 Part of it is so that I can go back and see where we all came from and the ways we’ve all changed. The other part, as I’ve mentioned before, is that I’m using this blog as a way for me to communicate with my son, especially once he’s older. He’ll be able to go back and read these entries and get an idea of what it’s been like for me going through the experiences of being a first time father. He’ll be able to get a picture of what he was like as a young child and some of the things he can look forward to when he starts his own family.

But, since we’re talking about progressions, I have to also say that I feel like the blog has become so much more than just documentation. It’s still a medium for communication with an older Eitan and the future me, but it’s also become a space for me to share other ideas about how I see the world around me. If the main purpose were just documentation, I would be better off just taking videos of everything instead of processing events and putting my particular take on them. Instead, I take the time to think more in depth about the things I’ve seen and done and the process of putting my thoughts down on “paper”3 serves as a release. I no longer have to hold onto the emotions that were affecting me in the moment and the writing helps me to get a better understanding of the experience.

When Trudy first suggested to me that I should start a blog, my first reaction was, “Who wants to hear what I have to say?” 59 posts, 160 followers on Facebook and over 5000 total blog views later, it would appear that more people are interested in my take than I originally thought. I hope that my writing has helped other people work through some of their issues while also reading about the things I’m going through. If nothing else, I hope that my blog posts have provided a bit of a diversion and made people smile here and there. Thanks to all of you for taking the ride with me. I hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am.

(Also, last week’s poem notwithstanding, today is Christmas Eve, so I’d like to wish a Merry Christmas to everyone too.)

 


1. To be fair, this question was actually posed to me. I put some feelers out on Facebook looking for suggestions for writing topics and my father (another philosophy major, for the record) proposed this one.
2. Let’s be honest: everything about Eitan has affected us as parents. The blog is just a highlight reel, at best.
3. Quotation marks because I write on my phone or my tablet, usually while I’m on the subway.

A Hanukkah Poem

‘Twas the month before Hanukkah
The leaves had been turning
Though it should have been cold
The weather was burning.1

Thanksgiving had passed
Black Friday came and went
We avoided buyer’s remorse
Despite the money we spent.

But the music had started
(A bit later, to be fair)
The onslaught of Christmas
Could be felt in the air.

As the days continued passing2
The music would swell
My irritation would grow
With the chime of every bell.

I don’t mind Christmas music
And the decorations are pretty
But for a Jew in America
This time of year can be _______.3

You can’t take a step
Without seeing red and green
The same songs are always playing
And the Santa lines are obscene.

We went shopping at the mall
To buy clothes, gifts and such
But the crowds and the prices
Became a bit much.

It gets hard, here and there,
To remember the reasons
Why we put so much effort
Into celebrating the season.

But my wife, in her wisdom,
Pulled off a stunning trick
That’s made the holiday season
Feel slightly less thick.

She taught our son, Eitan,
That the decorations he’s seen
The baubles, bunting and even
The nativity scenes,

Are for Hanukkah. In fact,
At all the pretty sights,
Eitan squeals with excitement,
“Look! Hanukkah lights!”

Never mind that the colors
Are not usually blue and white;
It matters very little
Compared with his delight.

He loves our Jewish holiday
The candles, songs and food.
He’ll even sing the dreidel song
While bathing in the nude.

We’ll teach him about Christmas
When he’s grown a bit more.
The key for him, right now,
Is that he’s Jewish at his core.

And so it’s Eitan’s reactions
That help me power through
I try to see the world around me
From Eitan’s point of view.

Tonight we’ll light the first candles.
The flames will burn so bright.
And we’ll start our celebration of
The Festival of Lights.

Happy Holidays.

 

(Post-script:
It’s ironic, I suppose,
That Eitan’s message is so strong.
Jesus referred to the mouths of babes;
Maybe he was right all along.)


1. Seriously, what was up with the weather this fall? It was still in the 70s in November and alternated between the 40s and the 60s around Thanksgiving. It was like Adam Sandler was talking about Mother Nature instead of Oprah (scroll to the bottom).

2. Unlike the Bears offense, by the way, which has continued to be awful despite having a quarterback with a power arm, three receivers over 6’3″ and a fantastic running back. I’ve officially begun rooting for losses so we can get a higher draft pick.

3. Uncomfortable.

Forever Young

Dear Eitan,

This morning, when you woke up,1 you asked to watch Sesame Street on television while you ate breakfast. As I scrolled through the DVR, you suddenly changed your mind and asked for Peter Pan instead. This wasn’t the Disney cartoon movie; this was the live performance that NBC aired a week or two ago, even though their first foray into the live musical realm, The Sound of Music, was a colossal flop. Peter Pan might have been slightly better, but not significantly. You have your parents’ genes, though, which means that you’re drawn to musical performances and, since you seemed to enjoy Peter Pan, we kept it for you.

When I left, I ended up having to deal with a difficult work situation almost immediately. The details aren’t really important; the morning went on, as it always does. I found myself thinking afterward, though, about why I had been so affected by what happened. Essentially, I had expected a certain result, and things ended up happening differently because of the other people involved. This wasn’t the first time things had worked out this way, either; based on previous experience, I probably should have expected the morning to go the way it did. And yet, I got my hopes up that things might be different this time around, despite having considerable evidence to the contrary. Was I being open to the possibility of change or simply acting out the definition of insanity (doing the same action and expecting different results)?

I’m choosing to believe that I was being open to a new experience. Perhaps it was a mistake; after all, I was left feeling disappointed when the people I was depending on did not follow through. Even so, would things have really been different if I had assumed the worst? I still would have had to put in the same amount of effort and the situation would have still turned out negatively.

(You may be wondering what my work experience has to do with Peter Pan. As the great philosopher, Elle Woods, once said, “I have a point, I promise.”2)

The world in which we live is full of disappointment. You’re not always going to get the toys you want or the best grade on a test or hit the game winning home run. You’re going to expect things from your friends, your teachers and, especially, your family. Hopefully, most of the time they will come through for you. Your friends won’t forget to invite you out with them, your teachers will challenge you to think about more than just the test material and your family will always be there for you. Sometimes, though, you’re going to be let down. People aren’t perfect and they do not always live up to your expectations (and yes, unfortunately, your mom and I fall under this category too).

Here’s the thing, though: you’re not Bart Simpson and I’m not Homer. The lesson here is not “Can’t win, don’t try.” I don’t want you to grow up thinking that the right way to go through life is to constantly reminisce about how much easier it was when you were younger because you didn’t have to deal with adult problems. Things might have been easier in ’83, as it were, but I think there’s a way to grow up and still be open to new experiences. Peter Pan is beloved3 because of his ability to lead the Lost Boys and inspire people to use their imaginations, but he is a flawed character too; he’s stuck in a state of arrested development, constantly looking for someone else to take care of him (Wendy) while maintaining an ongoing mistrust of adults (Captain Hook). Never allowing himself to grow up means that he never becomes jaded, but it also means that he’s choosing willful ignorance over engaging with the world around him.4

I’m a clinical social worker. Part of my job involves helping people to change their behaviors to improve a given set of circumstances. I have to believe that people can change; if I believe otherwise, I would have to choose a different profession. My hope for you is that you will be able to view the world through an optimistic lens. I hope you’ll believe that things will actually turn out for the best and that people will live up to the expectations you set, even when all of the evidence states otherwise. As painful as it is to be disappointed, the feeling of satisfaction that you will get when you push someone to be better and they show you that they are is going to be worth the wait.

Love,

Daddy (“Da-dee!”)

 


1. At 7:30, by the way, which is late for you and was perfect for giving me time to get everything ready for you for school before I had to leave for work. Thank you!

2. Legally Blonde is a highly underrated movie (and it totally holds up today, by the way.)

3. See? I told you I’d get there.

4. Yet another concept illustrated by The Simpsons.

The Toy Takeover

Our apartment is getting smaller by the day.

I’m speaking metaphorically, of course. The walls aren’t actually closing in little by little but it feels like Eitan’s toys are occupying more space in our living room than ever before. Even when the room is clean and everything is put where it’s supposed to be, I can see that there is less and less floor space showing between the rug and the row of toys against the wall. Last night we were sitting and watching television and I could have sworn I saw Elmo smirking at me.  I could practically hear him whispering, “Don’t let Elmo’s cute face and high voice fool Aaron. Elmo wants Aaron’s apartment and Elmo will use force if necessary.”

There are just so many things. The kitchen and the trucks and the Little People. The food for the kitchen. The toolbox and all of the tools. The three-car garage from IKEA. The puzzles and the blocks and the basketball hoop. Thomas and his friends and all of their train tracks. The other day Eitan saw us transferring one of his Hanukkah presents into the car and stated, very matter-of-factly, “Eitan want that toy.” We certainly could have put our feet down and said that he couldn’t have it at that moment and tried to make him wait but we decided the tantrum was not worth it. So, now we also have the three-foot-tall City Skyway sitting in the corner, which will come in handy if King Kong ever stops by our apartment.

 

skywayGiving Eitan the toy early was worth it for this amazing shot of Eitan demonstrating pure amazement and excitement. And yes, I’m wearing heart pajama pants.

 

To Eitan’s credit, he plays with most of his toys on a fairly regular basis. He does have some preferences; more often than not, it’s either the food or the tools that get scattered all over the floor, and the collection of sports balls make frequent appearances, as well. But on any given day, Eitan will play with the cars and take out the train tracks and start building towers with the Mega Blox. Sometimes he’ll pick one toy and stick with it for an extended period of time and sometimes he’ll drift from toy to toy as it suits him. And, once in a while, he will go into his toy box and pull out toys we haven’t seen in months and assumed had gotten lost as time has gone on.1 And I really do like the fact that he still shows interest in all of his toys, even if it means that we end up with scenes like these:

mess2 mess

I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m complaining. I realize that Trudy and I are really fortunate to be able to buy toys for Eitan in the first place, as well as having friends and relatives who can do the same.2 I try to make sure that I remember that, especially since Thanksgiving just passed. It does get frustrating, though, when Trudy and I have to crawl around on our hands and knees to restore a sense of civility after it looks like the toddler section of Toys R Us has thrown up on our living room floor for the fifteenth straight night.3 That being said, Eitan usually helps clean up, which makes things somewhat easier, even if we have to ask him to “just pick up the red blocks” or just put the tools away while we do everything else. The key, obviously, is that he’s having fun when he’s playing; I’ll take cleaning up his toys over handling a tantrum every day of the week.

 


1. Trudy and I also may or may not have “lost” certain toys at the bottom of that toy box on purpose.

2. We’re also eternally grateful to Trudy’s cousins, who have given Eitan fantastic hand-me-down toys now that their sons have outgrown them.

3. I’m exaggerating. It hasn’t been more than eight.