Potty Update

I know that I should have reported on progress with this earlier, but my silence in this case means that there were no more incidents. I can safely say that Robert was potty trained by the time he turned 32 months. One more milestone completed.

Potty Training Frustration

I am sure that given time I will revise this opinion, but so far potty training has been THE most difficult parenting task I had with Robbie.

First of all it was very hard to convince him to sit on the potty or do without his nappy. Second it is near impossible to get him to understand that No.2 belongs in the potty and not in the nappy, or underpants or on the couch and flo0r for that matter.

I tried various strategies, from bribery and cajolery to brute force persuasion – the latter resulted in the both of us spending a whole afternoon “stuck” in the bathroom, because we were only allowed to get out once the potty is used successfully.

Initially I tried to put him in underpants : He thought the underpants were a good substitute for a nappy and used them as such.

I tried bare bum – and I am still doing it, which resulted in the accidents I mentioned earlier on the floor and the sofa.

In the evening I used to put his sleep nappy after a bath and just before I tucked him in, but he quickly learned to time his poo for this, and sometimes filled the nappy from the horizontal position, which is a great feat in my opinion for someone who claims that doing it on the potty is “hard”.

Meanwhile the tricks of rewards have done very little to convince him: So far my child has done without chocolate, and his beloved radio, and he still hasn’t graced the potty with a substantial product – He did not have any bowel  movement for the last 48 hours and I finally resorted to a mild laxative. Hopefully I will not regret this.

What is finally working for No1 is a potty toy. A small musical wind-up box that plays a German song : Hänschen Klein. It has accompanying colorful cards, which contain a few dozen of other songs, most of which are familiar to him from the German tapes and CDs he loves. At least this worked magic for the appeal of sitting on the potty to make a wee. At the creche he also has no problems or accidents and they have their own methods of convincing the children to do what they are supposed to. Also the peer pressure (or should I say pee-er pressure) of other potty-goers probably helps. But we are still waiting for the other monumental achievement, of actually making a poo on the potty.

So exasperated I was from all of this that I actually promised my boy to tell the stories of potty-training failures one day to his girlfriend, to which he replied smugly : “Gina is my go-fend”, so it seems like I missed that one.

Another little thing he told me today while arranging his table and chair to resemble a huge speaker (have no idea how he saw they did) – he said: This is “fuss-tate-ing” – I am sure he picked it up from my up-beat vocabulary during this experience.

PS : I was interrupted while writing this by another accident of major proportions on the floor. All I can say is thank god I have no carpets in my flat. And the battle continues, this is now week three.

Toddler’s Lament

Holidays are a time when discipline and order gives way to relaxation and play. On a normal day, Robert’s free play is peaceful and non-destructive.  He spends a lot of time with the “radio” changing music tapes and sometimes CDs. The occasional quiet interval, which causes panic for any parent, usually means that Robert is playing quietly and putting together one of his favorite puzzles.

There are the times though when play means dumping a whole toy box on the ground, and it gets annoying for me to pack away several times a day. Yesterday I started putting things back in the boxes and negotiated with him to continue packing away while I made him a bowl of cereal. I took my time in the kitchen to see the result of this exercise. A few minutes later he followed me into the kitchen exhaling a tired breath and said: “Oh it is hard packing away”. I found it very funny that he realized this on his very first attempt at tidying up. He got a big hug and kiss after that and not only because he did such a good job.

Going Potty..

Yesterday was officially the first day of Easter Holiday for Robert. The creche has holiday care for about one week of the school holiday and remains closed for a week after Easter, but this time I opted for him to stay home with me because I wanted to finish his potty training.

I think I underestimated the task, and my confidence was boosted by minor successes at introducing the potty and keeping Robert’s underpants dry of pee. It is, however the big stuff that I am battling with. Robert insists on making a poo in his nappy/pants. There was even the memorable episode on Sunday when he stubbornly sat in the buggy, soiled pants and all for over half an hour.

This setback demotivated me and made me question my method. I am ashamed to admit that I even started to taste some resentment against my son.  Somehow his aloofness and refusal to communicate on the matter of using the toilet brought back memories of his father, and the way he used to behave.  I had nightmare scenarios in my mind of the son I love beyond reason turning into a carbon copy of his father. The prospect made me want to scream, run away, hide and even give Robert up to his father – Thankfully these black thoughts did not persist.

The whole situation may seem comical now, but I was definitely on the verge of depression, and I always teeter on the brink of it with the onset of PMS.  So for all of yesterday I was battling these emotions of resentment, depression and anxiety. I think my son reacted to my unbalanced state and added his own mix of naughtiness and mischief. Yesterday marked several disasters on the home front: One liter of yogurt spilled all over the table and floor; One of my two Yucca plants completely denuded of leaves and the other missing half of them; and floor tiles lifted in one section of the lounge. That, in addition to the normal set light to medium misbehavior, such as throwing toys and screeching tantrums, all of which did not contribute to enhancing my mothering instinct but made me rather more inclined to fight and/or flee this little terror.

Today things look much better. The battle for the potty has been removed to a lower priority and with the pressure off I think I will have better success. Robert is sleeping peacefully like an angel, and my feelings for him are back to normal. It is all a matter of attitude.

Apart from taking a step back and de-emphasizing the problem issue, here are some of the things that made the difference for me today: Venting off to my parents on Skype, fixing the chairs that Robert broke ages ago, and good old comfort food of Macaroni and cheese for lunch, finishing off with a cup of chococcino in the evening.

A friend of mine told me today that the difference between a good day and a bad day are only a bunch of chemicals in the brain, and I bet these small doses of comfort fixed the imbalance in my brain – You are absolutely right G !

Heartwarming Moments

On days like these when I am rushing, fighting loss of sleep and nervous at the choices and responsibilities ahead, I have to stop and appreciate what I have, and pause to take in the joys of being a mom to a small child

Sometimes I want to stop time and capture these rays of happiness and sunshine he gives my life. I want to capture every laugh and every smile, because I am so aware of their precious transience. Every time I hold him and smell his sweet innocence, I realize that one day the child’s softness will give way to the rough edges of boyhood, then the distance of manhood. And just as the smell and sound of baby Robert is now something to remember and smile about, this toddler Robert gives me at least one reason to smile every single day, and most of these smiles are worth mentioning and remembering.

Today Robert was carrying his books in one hand and his little green chair in the other and following the cat around. Mommy, I want cat he said to me. Why? I wanted to know. I want to read to cat, he said.  I tried to cajole the disinterested Pete, and I managed to get him to sit at my feet while right across Robert sat on his chair and started “reading”one of his books to cat, all about Bo-Beep who lost her sheep. The cat, being  his arrogant self, walked away quickly to the other room with Robert in tow, books in arm and chair dragged behind.  He tried time after time to sit on his chair next to Pete and read to him, until finally he got tired of the futile task.

I was amused and happy at the same time. At least my boy has learned the love of books from his mom and was trying diligently to teach this to a smaller creature.


After more than a year of taking my son to creche, I am used to the routine of settling him in for the morning which is mostly a difficult process, as I have to deal with clinging, mood change and occasional tantrums. Most days I struggle to extract myself from this, suffering guilt feelings and changes of mood myself, which leaves me emotionally exhausted before my day at work even starts.

Today was a blissfully different experience. Robert was greeted by one of his classmates, and also his favorite friend Gina. She quickly whisked him away towards the playground and they started chatting and running around cheerfully. As I left the school I glanced back at Robert; he was totally engrossed in following Gina around as she pedaled along on a scooter-bike. He was happy and unaware of me watching him.  This is the first time I see my child as a social being, interacting with friends and classmates; he is growing up.

Something for Me

Robert is staying overnight with his father today. I was trying to keep him from falling asleep before his father’s arrival so we started packing his overnight bag.

We had to choose a toy. He first said he wanted Cannuck the white teddy bear and then said that he wanted the monkey as well.  I said: “No Robert, there is no space for two toys it is either Cannuck or Monkey”. He thought for a little bit then took out Cannuck and put him back on the bedside table with the rest of the toys: “Take monkey to papa”, he said. Then on second thought he handed me the teddy bear and said:”This is for Mommy to hug”.

Sure thing my boy. You of all people will know that if it wasn’t for Cannuck I will have nobody to hug tonight. Sleep well and I will hug you tomorrow.

I love you very very much my baby.


As an antidote to yesterday’s unsettling experience with my neighbor from upstairs I had another unsavory incident with an unfriendly anonymous male person from -I assume- one of the houses next door.

I was determined today to keep my volume down and did my usual negotiations with my toddler with firm but low tones. My control, however, did not extend to his volumes and tones.

I had the usual difficulty, with him sleeping late, waking up late, and showing up late for his first day of the new school year on one of the hottest summer days.

Things continued to go wrong when he missed (or firmly resisted) his nap, and I thought that the best solution was to take him out in the late afternoon and let him walk off excess energy. I was hoping he will quickly settle to sleep after a shower and supper. But when we returned home he was in over-tired mode and started howling in the shower. I was doing my best trying to keep cool and weather the storm when someone next door shouted :  SHUT UP, SHUT YOUR CHILD UP !!!

That made me mighty angry. I had a couple of foul-mouthed retorts ready in my mind, but mostly I wanted to tell the smart-ass that I was glad he was suffering.   I was ready to let my child continue his tirade out of pure spite.  I do not know the guy, or where he lives, but I recognize him as the voice who often barks at dogs to SHUT UP as well; I do not consider this normal behavior.

Perhaps this happened to bring yesterday in perspective and protect me from placing too much blame on myself. I will still try to keep my volume down, but some people will keep complaining no matter what..


One of my neighbors knocked at my door at bedtime yesterday. Apparently she was concerned that I always shout at Robert. We were having our usual bedtime argument, because he does not want to go to bed.

This incident brought me up short and made me as usual question myself and my rearing method. Yes, some people are better off minding their own business, but if an outsider views my behavior as wrong or disturbing then perhaps I should take account and correct it if necessary.

Some background information : I come from a very vocal culture, where people are normally loud. My ex husband used to comment that when I speak on Skype with my parents it is always like we are having a fight, but in the meantime it is just an animated argument.

My son dropped a cherished toy that I received from my family in Germany down the balcony yesterday, and I was at a loss at what I should do. I was in my nightdress,  and the toy landed on the street at the back of the building where I had to walk all around the block to get it.  So I carried him down (I could not leave him alone in the apartment), and was running my mouth at him calling him an idiot… I may also have said that I hated him sometimes, I was not aware that the neighbor was watching. The truth is that I was covering my embarrassment at running in a unpresentable manner on the street, and making a little bit of a fuss for my son so that he doesn’t do this  again.  I do the same sort of thing when he runs on the street without holding my hand (even if it is a perfectly quiet street) and when he tries to make dangerous acrobatics on the railings overlooking the ocean below.. I consider a loud and angry voice an intimidating parenting tool.

Yet, there is this moment, and another one a few months back. It makes me realise that perhaps I am over-using or abusing this method.  Yes, we do live in a very close street, and I hear my neighbors flushing the toilet, and the people next door talking on the stoep. But this is all the more reason for me to be careful and respectful. And If I am ashamed to display such episodes to strangers then I should also control them in front of my son. I should not complain if he has tantrums if I frequently have my own.

I do have a wonderful little child and I do not want to be seen as anything but an appreciative and fond mother. I hate the image my loudness and my temper portrays to other outsiders.

Granted they are not there for the good times. They do not see me cuddling him every night, or telling him that I love him several times every day. They do not see us laughing and playing together,  and they do not comment on the fact that I spend more time with him than with anyone else.  I did not say any of that to my neighbor, who was perhaps brave, perhaps selfish to come and confront me. I was muted by my shame, at inadvertently showing a part of myself that I am not proud of.



Originally uploaded by momranda

Robert got hold of an onion today from my shopping bag. The following conversation took place:

Mom : Robert is the onion nice, do you like onion ?
What are you doing with the onion ?

Robert: Take the onion off the peal, take it off, take it off

Mom: And then what are you gonna do with it.

Robert (chomps up on the onion and starts chewing for an answer)

The onion is missing a little chunk and sometime after his first few bites his enthusiasm waned. I am amazed that he put up with the sharp taste of raw onion. He still smelled of onion as he went to bed.  I wonder what his teacher will think if he still reeks of it tomorrow morning.

Incidentally, this is not the first time Robert displays a liking for the strong biting taste of onion. Last year, during our holiday in Germany he happily crunched a green onion, perhaps it gave him a anesthetizing sensation on his gum as he was teething.