Then When and How of Potty Training

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“Why, you still haven’t potty trained him yet? We trained you by the time you were 12 months,” I heard my mother brag more than once during her many visits with her first grandchild.  Each time she made that comment, my potty-training age got younger and younger in her memory as I gained another gray hair.  I was sure that she would soon be telling me that I was born potty trained.

I suppose cloth diapers back then were motivation enough to get your baby potty trained as soon as possible.  Diaper rashes occurred more readily, and the mothers got tired of washing dirty cloth diapers.  “It sent up a pungent smell every time I ironed them,” my mother used to tell me.  Why in the world would you bother ironing diapers? Talk about an overachiever.

Me, I thanked the Lord every time I opened up a brand new package of disposable diapers.  It always smelled fresh — no pungent smells here — and all I had to do was to wrap it around my baby’s buns and seal it closed.  Voila!  Clean baby.

Occasionally, I did feel guilty about the fact that diapers went into landfills.  I couldn’t very well recycle them, for goodness’ sake!  More than once, my baby would pee right on the clean, fresh diaper in the process of changing.  “Really?  Now?” I would lament.  Then I would stand there for about three minutes debating with myself: Well, it’s not THAT wet…no, he’s going to get a diaper rash…an extra layer of Desitin might help…oh, come on, have a heart, mother…and so it went.  When I did have to go through three diapers in about 10 minutes, I kept reminding myself that some people throw trucks and refrigerators into landfills, so what’s an extra diaper or two?

You’ve got to admit that putting off potty training has its advantages, though.  It’s great that we don’t have to sprint to public bathrooms on short notice.  I opted for the convenience of the diaper with my first child for as long as I could.  He had almost outgrown the largest diaper size before I began thinking about potty training — or Depends — and only because our preschool director sat us down for a heart-to-heart.

“Mrs. Cheng,” she said sternly.  “Your son is now over 3 years old.  He’s ready.”  I knew he wouldn’t be allowed into first grade unless he was potty trained, so we picked a holiday weekend, Memorial Day, to get ‘er done.

The preschool director suggested the all-or-nothing approach, so we started by going commando.  She thought that pull-ups only reinforced old habits so we bypassed using them except at night.  Good thing we have wood floors, because, sure enough, halfway through the morning he started to tinkle.  “Uh-oh…” he said, as he stood in a small puddle on our wood floor.  We spent the rest of the morning on the grass in our backyard.  He only had one more accident, and that was it.  “Mommy, I have to go,” he said the next time he had the urge.  What sweet music to my ears!

The real test was #2.  Surprisingly, he didn’t have an accident with that one.  After lunch, I sat him down on the little training toilet, and there he went.  That was it.  He returned to preschool on Tuesday as a changed, underwear-toting young man.  Yeah, I guess he was ready to be potty trained.  More than ready.

Could have I trained him sooner?  In hindsight, probably yes.  I wouldn’t recommend waiting until past 3 years of age for everyone (“trucks and fridges, trucks and fridges…”), but at least for my boy it was so surprisingly easy to go through the process.  Incidentally, I kept the pull-ups on him at night for another 6 months or so until I realized that I kept pulling it off dry in the morning only to reuse it again the next night.  I figured I might as well use underwear and wash them daily!

What was your potty training experience like with your babies?  Tell me here on the comments below!

The Forgotten Suitcase

At the church in Tokyo where I sang yesterday. And yes, Josh is photo-bombing.

This current trip to Japan reminded me of the time David and I took Josh to Japan with us when he was about 6 months old, and we accidentally left his suitcase at home.  Yes, we flat out forgot the huge suitcase stuffed with all his earthly belongings on his very first travel overseas.  This little baby, who at the time weighed no more than 15 pounds, had a suitcase weighing more than 50 pounds.  You already know about my penchant for covering all my possible eventualities (see my previous post on the diaper bag), so you can bet that it was stuffed full.  His suitcase was bigger than mine and David’s combined.

How could this happen, you ask? I recall that my dad gave us a ride that day, and in the chaos of all three of us loading up the trunk, we each assumed that the other had grabbed Josh’s luggage.  We discovered the ghastly mistake upon arrival at LAX, but by then it was too late to go back to retrieve it, so my dad scurried off avoiding any further responsibility.

This sign has nothing to do with the post but was amusing nonetheless.

Can you imagine, a new mom without her baby’s diapers, clothes, bottles, socks, formulas, and toys?  My knees got weak and I began convulsing.  Okay, slight exaggeration there, but you can bet that I was beside myself.

Fortunately, we called up some good friends who agreed to break into our house and drive the forgotten suitcase all the way up to LAX (thank you, Walt and Sherry!), so we were able to eventually get the bag and not miss our flight.  The bad news was that due to the delay, the luggage didn’t quite make it on our flight and was put on the next flight…the next day.

United was kind enough to deliver the bag to us in Japan, but the delivery service didn’t occur for yet another day after the bag’s arrival.  Bottom line: we were without Josh’s suitcase for 48 HOURS in Japan!  Two days without the bag filled with a year’s worth of his stuff (did I tell you the trip was only about a week and a half long?).  The horror.

If all else fails...

Okay, so here’s where being a pack rat comes in handy: We were not completely left out in the cold, because I had my (you guessed it) diaper bag!  The carry-on diaper bag probably had enough stuff to last the entire duration of our trip, so it was definitely sufficient for the two nerve-wracking days.

And guess what — they sell diapers in Japan!  Japanese babies poop and pee just like their comrades in the States.  Gee, what a revelation.  In fact, their high-tech diapers are superior in many aspects than the Huggies at home.  They keep the babies drier, and lucky for us, they seem to fit Asian baby buns more snugly.

And the Japanese jars of baby food?  The best, and in such good Asian flavors!  We also found some baby crackers that I ended up liking so much that we stocked up on them before going home.  For me.

Japan certainly isn’t third world!

This was yet another lesson in making me more Panda than Tiger.  You see, we might think that what’s familiar is the one and only way, but when we step out a bit we just might find a whole new world out there.

And it just might be even better.

Me and Meg (you'll hear more about her later) on our way to Shinjuku.

Ever been surprised by a whole new experience?  Thought you had it all figured out only to learn that something might be even better?  Share it with us in the comments below.


He Used to Be Somebody’s Baby

And to think...this guy used to be in diapers

Once I became a mom, I began to look at people differently.  It dawned on me one day – hey, everyone used to be a small, helpless baby at one time!  This had a profound effect on how I viewed, in particular, two sets of people: hunks and criminals.

Like most normal women, I used to look at good looking guys and swoon (that is, before I met David, of course!).  I wondered what it’s like to be such a chick magnet and what type of cologne he used.  Is he a model?  Does he have a girlfriend?  Does he work out?

However, after I became a mother, I began to look at such hunks much more maternally.  I wondered how cute he must have looked as a little baby in diapers. Was he colicky like my son, or was he an easy baby?  Did he start walking early?  At what age was he potty-trained?  I bet he was extremely handsome even as an infant.  Well, my baby is beautiful, so I wonder if he will some day look as good as that male model for Abercrombie & Fitch.  Oh mister, you really need to put some more clothes on or you’ll catch a cold!  How could your mom let you pose like that? Oy.

And then there are the criminals.  Back in my childless days, I would see a mugshot on the news and not give it much thought beyond “too bad this person made a bad choice and is paying for his own consequences.”

Now that I am a mother, however, no mug shot goes by me anymore without my heart breaking for his mother.  Again, I would be reminded that he used to be someone’s baby who needed diaper changes and feedings around the clock.  I bet the mom received gifts and flowers from family and friends when she gave birth to him, just as I did.  I’m certain that the mom had hopes and dreams for this guy, just as I do for my own son… hopes that he might one day become the President of the United States, a lawyer, and/or a champion bowler.  When did this guy start veering off course?  What could the mom have done differently to keep this from happening?  I better do everything right in raising my baby or I might see my his mug shot someday on the news.  What if I am one day the recipient of that 3am phone call from the county jail?  Yikes!

I am working hard right now to help our kids make the right choices as they grow up, but I can’t always control what choices they’ll make eventually in life.  Perhaps they’ll make some good ones and some bad.  Of course, I pray that they’ll mostly make good choices and will spare themselves from going down the road to destruction.

Whether they one day appear on the cover of a magazine or on the “wanted” poster, I do know one thing for sure: I will always be my kids’ mommy.

And I will never, ever stop loving them.



The Inexact Science of Child Rearing

DaddyI love cooking with a recipe, because it tells me exactly what to use, how much to put in and for how long to cook. Clear as day. Raising kids? Not so much. I’ve had to learn over the years that child rearing is anything but an exact science.

I regretfully never babysat when I was a youth; instead, I got my first job at a bakery when I was 14. I could decorate cakes and bake cookies for you, but ask me to change a diaper and I would have gotten a guide dog to do it instead. Fortunately, there are volumes of expert baby books available to rescue motherhood dummies like me. During my pregnancy, I madly studied these manuals like I was getting ready for the SAT.

A few days after we came home from the hospital, my friend Susan stopped by for a quick visit. She walked into our bedroom where our baby was wailing in the bassinet.

“Oh dear, come here sweetie,” she said as she picked him up.

“But Susan,” I protested, “the book says to not pick him up right away so that he could learn to self-sooth.”

She looked at me incredulously and said, “Well, not when they’re this small. In a little while,” as she rocked and soothed Josh who had magically stopped crying. Susan ought to know. She was a veteran mom of preteens at that time. Note to self: it’s okay to pick up my newborn right away when he’s crying, at least for “a little while.” How long, exactly, is a little while, again? The books didn’t really specify.

Later that week, I was really having a hard time sleeping with a crying baby next to my bed. I was getting eager to evict him to his own room. That’s when my other friend Lisa came by to deliver a meal. “When can I move him out of the bassinet to the crib, Lisa?” I asked desperately. Lisa laughed, “Oh, maybe in a few more months.” MONTHS? Are you kidding me? I was thinking more in terms of…either next Thursday or Friday.

There were other questions that the expert books never quite answered for me:

  • How many degrees, exactly, is “tepid”?
  • How long should I let them nap without interfering with their night time sleep?
  • Speaking of sleep, can we really let them cry it out without getting arrested?
  • Is that a real smile or just gas?
  • Which is better to suck on: pacifier or thumb?
  • How wet should the diaper be before we absolutely have to change? (“Already? Why, I JUST changed him…”)
  • Is it colic or unresolved anger issues?
  • When should we start potty training?
  • Should I stay home or get a job?
  • Public, private, or home school?
  • When do we start driver’s ed?

As it turned out, Josh stayed in the bassinet until he grew too big for it — maybe 92 days — but many other questions were answered only after much trial and error. Here’s one thing I know for sure: every child is different. No book can tell you exactly what you should do, because they don’t know your child. Eventually, I ditched the expert manuals and went mostly with mother’s intuition, but that’s after a whole lot of praying and many nights crying out to God, “Help!” In fact, there’s only one instruction manual I need for life: The Bible.

Oh, I have to tell you this: I was so amused when I caught my mom — Gasp! My Expert! — looking at a Japanese baby manual one day. I have no idea where she dug it up, but it sure looked like it was printed in the 1960′s, which might mean that she used it as a reference when we were growing up and brought it over here on the boat. All the pictures had faded to pastel, and the babies all had round, chubby cheeks. Wearing only cloth diapers, these Japanese babies looked like miniature sumo wrestlers. I was wondering why my mom was suddenly telling me how to heat up glass baby bottles and how to lay down futon for naps.

Any baby book advice work out for you? Or did you ditch the books too?