A “Raven”-esque Glimpse at the Saga of a Potty-Training Train Wreck (a work in progress)

Once upon a Tuesday evening,
While I watched my children, seething,
Due to excruciating hours spent perched upon the bathroom floor,
While I suffered, nearly breaking,
Suddenly with no mistaking,
I earned clarity while faking, faking as never before.
” ‘Tis a blessings,” I debated, “raising babes…” (still on the floor)
Still I yearn for something more…

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A Realistic Glimpse at the Reality of Teaching Real Students

Several months ago, a friend from high school shared a video of several teens who made a public statement of what they would like, deserve, and should be taught.  They were well spoken, honest, and forthright… and the teacher-part of my heart broke for them, got angry for myself and at the situation, and became frustrated because there is no easy solution.

I responded to her with these words:

        I’m torn. I see them, I hear them, and I believe them. I feel their frustration, and much of it is mine, but I’m also one of the ones teaching them some of these lessons. I don’t know how to fix the problem, much like I don’t know how to fix the problems that exist within my own classroom, where earning an 8% on the latest test is seen as acceptable among peers and I am the one who is expected to put in more effort to ensure student success… They [the girls in the video] are fearless, and I feel powerless.

Being an amazing woman, my friend replied, assured me of my worth, and in the first conversation we had really had in years lead me to respond with the following:

        Thanks for the words of encouragement. The video hit on a day that I was already feeling low. I am finishing a semester with some of the most unmotivated seniors I have ever seen. They are nothing like we were, and so the caliber of many of my lessons is far below where it should be.

        The most amazing feeling is when they get it, really get it. Last week, my honors kids got it. We were reading “The Highwayman,” and as I finished the room was silent. Not the silence of confusion or sleep or way too many things consumed the night before, but the silence of understanding, and awe, and sorrow. They got it… and then they went to their second period classes and were replaced by my eight percenters, who honestly don’t give a damn. And a part of me died.

        The video you shared grabbed that part, and I cried. I want to be like our great teachers were, and some days I am! Then there are the days where I struggle to get them to care at all. I’m stuck between what great education is and should be and having to justify why I have students who expect to play college ball but can’t even crawl their way through my class- all while knowing there is an even greater message to be taught.

She again replied with words that every teacher needs to hear.  She assured me that I was doing what needed to be done.  My students are receiving what I am offering them.  They may chose not to act on it, but it will impact them in some way, at some time.

Our conversation was so simple, so heartfelt, and so real that it prompted us to say things that may have never been said otherwise.  We talked about teaching and motherhood and feeling like we are failing at what we both love to do.

And I was inspired.

Maybe others need to hear that I feel frustrated a great deal of the time.  Perhaps they feel frustrated, too.

So, here’s to us who teach where our words are not often heard.  Here’s to us whose students love us, or hate us, or somewhere in between.  Here’s to us who give of ourselves and the lessons we craft, for teaching truly is a craft, a gift, and a skill.

And here’s to Devon, for helping me to remember that, to see my self worth, and to remember that my words are of value.  Here’s the blog I promised all those months ago.

Pardon me While I try to Enjoy my Meal

It’s small, crowded, and often noisy late at nights, but one tiny restaurant in my home town is unlike any other I’ve ever been to.  Filled to bursting with Hollywood memorabilia from days long gone by, it has borne witness to celebrations of personal milestones, both great and small, and overheard conversations that I can’t even remember.  Its bustling aisles were the scene a first date that turned into a marriage (I always comment when we pass the table where we ate), and my husband and I visited it at least once a week for years after our wedding.  It’s just that kind of place.

By the time our first child was born we were visiting less frequently, but it was still a great place to be.  We avoided the crowds on Halloween and St. Pats, and we knew that weekends meant longer waits for tables and we understood that the months when college kids filled the booths were also not ideal.  But the comforting familiarity and moderate noise level made us feel it was a great place to take a toddler whose table manners had not yet evolved to the point of eating in many other sit-down restaurants.

It holds a piece of my heart.

Or it did…

Several years ago progress came and change occurred.  Much of what made it a cool place to be was taken off the walls.  The pictures and artifacts were replaced with flat screen televisions, displaying the news and the action of any game occurring in real time.  It got louder.  But still we went.

There’s a table in the corner, the big, round one that used to hold all of my high school and college friends.  It’s now the site of dinners with one of my best friends and her family.  All of our kids, hers and mine, can fit around this table where we gather when our calendars allows us to meet on a Tuesday night (because that is when kids eat free).  Here we make new memories.  Even without the pictures and the autographs, we make due with the television that hangs over us, deal with the other patrons staring over our heads at the game instead of at the dates they came to eat with, and enjoy our food and conversation.  Usually…

Then came the night of great miscalculation.

Without thinking about the sports schedule that I skip over in the guide on my personal television, my family packed into our round table in the corner, under the offending flat screen, to celebrate the last night that our out-of-state friend would be staying with us.  It was a Tuedsay, and we had always made the pilgrimage to this particular sandwich shop when she was in town.  As we gathered my three children, well behaved and hungry, into their seats, I noticed that things seemed a little more unsettled that usual.  Think of it as a second mommy sense.  Something was just a little off.

We placed our orders, received our drinks, and enjoyed our conversation over the louder than normal din of other voices as we watched the kids color the jungle scene on their paper menus.  And then it happened.  Directly to my left, at the table beside us and directly behind one of my twins, a college kid with a sloshing beer stood to full height and let out an ear piercing bellow… over the head of one of my children.  She looked terrified, his date looked annoyed, and I’m sure I looked pissed.

Angrily looking for the source of his frustration, I saw in brilliant color what was the end to my enjoyable evening… The World Cup.

Admittedly, I did bring my children to eat in a restaurant, alas, that is filled with televisions on a night that I should have avoided.  However, as our meal arrived he grew louder and louder.  He moaned each time the opposing team, who even knows which one, scored a goal, and screamed in jubilation when his team made a good shot.  My six year-old attempted to join in with his behavior, for which she was quietly reprimanded.  After all, we were in a restaurant and not a sports bar (where I never would have taken my kids), or a barn for that matter.  She was upset, of course, because she wanted to act like the grown man-child was acting.  The twins grew more and more uncertain of their surroundings, this making it hard for them to eat, and the overgrown ape’s poor date slid a little farther into her seat each time his vociferous cries erupted.

I began to shoot daggers from my eyes as my husband looked around for our waiter to voice a complaint.  We found him.  He was standing beside the now purple man, who at this point was standing in the aisle beside his table, discussing the game.  (I assume it takes too much energy to continue jumping up and down every time a player does something interesting.)  This went on for fifteen minutes.

Finally the couple left.  Apparently the date had announced that she was leaving, with or without him, so he chose to go.  By that point, we were waiting for our check, which the waiter had to go find because he had forgotten we were one of his tables.

As we left, bellies full of poorly digesting food, I was left to ponder the following:  Why were my small children better behaved than an adult, and how are we, as parents, expected to teach our kids how to be respectful and kind when the people they see around them often can’t do it?  Why does becoming more modern often kill all that is good about a tradition?  And why should I have to ask to be allowed to enjoy a meal that I am paying for?  Pardon me, but I’d like to enjoy my indulgence and one of my few nights out of the house with my, for once, well behaved children, my husband, and a life-long friend.

We haven’t been back since…

How to Not Potty Train Twins

Dear World:

Just in case you mistakenly believe that I have this whole mom thing figured out, let me be completely honest.  There is one thing, one huge, smelly, icky thing, that I totally suck at: Potty Training.

Maddie took forever.  There was much attempt at patience as well as smiles, silly songs, a cute potty chair, and an extra attachment for the adult toilet.  Then came the frustration, the accidents, the crying (mainly on my part), and the utter despair.  Finally, my mother-in-law laid down the law.  Maddie was told, in no uncertain terms, that if she peed in Grammy’s floor, she was going to get a spanking.  That’s all it took!  After a year and a half of effort on my part, my mother-in-law’s voice was the answer.  There were almost no accidents from that point on!  It was like a blessing from the heavens.

With the twins, I knew it would be more difficult.  The plan was to wait until they were older than Maddie was when we started trying to house break her.  The problem with all best laid plans, however, it that my twins don’t like plans.  They don’t follow the directives given them, and they make their own rules.  At about twenty months, they began ripping off their diapers like it was the greatest game ever invented.  Imagine, or it may be more pleasant if you don’t imagine, the effects of ripping off a diaper filled with liquid and often solid toddler byproducts, often at high velocities.  Most dramatic were the times when the removal occurred before naps, and again, if you are brave of heart, imagine what that looked like by the time they woke up.

So, with a heavy heart and knowledge of what was in store, I began the journey toward civilized bathroom usage with our identical mass producers of foulness.

What I have learned follows:

  1. Never get too excited too quickly.

When I began this journey, I was so excited to see the twins happily sit on the potty, or even the full-sized toilet.  Maddie never cooperated and we had to coax her to remain in a full-upright and seated position.  I was ecstatic!  Surely this would not take as long with them as it had with her.

  1. Never assume that your positive attitude will affect the attitudes of wee small ones.

I was all smiles.  We were going to do this.  It would not only save me the time wasted in cleaning their goo-encrusted bums, but think of the money that would be saved not having to buy diapers for two!  If I kept smiling they would happily “Let it Go” and the process would be over.  (In fact, we even sang that song as they sat, time after time, on the potty seats and produced NOTHING.

  1. Never believe that buying cute products will work wonders.

When I really got down to the business of training them, necessitated again by a frenzied drive toward total nakedness on their parts (I swear no one else in the house is driven by nudist tendencies), I sent my husband to the store to buy a second potty chair that closely resembled the one left over from our trials with Maddie.  Armed with not one but two Froggy Potties, the twins and I excitedly renewed our vigor.  Now they fight over who gets which seat… fail.

  1. Never waste money on specialized butt covering devices.

While I haven’t wasted money on pull-up style training diapers this time around, we did have some left over from several years ago, so out of storage they came.  The babies do quite well putting them on themselves, but guess what else they can do…  Those suckers come off with a fluidity and a velocity far surpassing that of the previously mentioned flying diapers.  I swear!  You could do physics experiments based on the trajectory of these little pink and white missiles.

  1. Never feel bad for ingenuity.

I must admit, in my frustration, that there have been days (many of them) that I have needed a break.  Twice, so far, I have resorted to taping diapers on them.  Interestingly, the sound of the tape being unrolled sends them into panicked sceams, and I am not sure why.  In all honesty, as I type and they run around their room bare butted and threatening to flood the world, I am eyeing the packing take with great intensity.  I am attempting to resist the urge, but resistance is often futile.

In total honesty, the twins are almost no closer to being potty trained than they were when I began this journey.  I am more frustrated than I want to be, but we will continue to persevere.  If nothing else, I can always buy stock in cleaning products and hope for the marked to increase…

Yours truly,

One very tired Mommy