I notice on amazon.com that one of those familiar little black and yellow self-help manuals is titled Potty Training for Dummies. I find this entirely appropriate. Indeed, what other toddler rite of passage is as frustrating as this one? What other training process necessarily involves so many setbacks? Just when she thought it was safe to go back into the training pants, what other sharp-toothed leviathan bites a young mama right where it hurts the most?
Currently, my daughter is in the throes of potty-training Pooh. Her primary strategy is to rely on that old stand-by we all tried--positive reinforcement (Thank you, B.F. Skinner). Thus, on those sporadic occasions when he actually deposits the goods in the designated receptacle, she makes a celebration of it. "Oh, Pooh," she emotes, pouring on the praise. "You made me SO happy!" At that point, Pooh receives a piece of candy, and he is happy too.
I provide this background to give you a context for a recent episode in the potty-training saga. In it, Pooh comes scuttling to his mama, pants wrapped around his ankles. The anticipation of the joy he is about to cause dances in his big blue eyes. His little voice is fraught with excitement. "Mama, mama," Pooh says, "I made you so happy IN MY PANTS!"
Mama is beyond words. She is not quite so happy as Pooh had hoped. At this point there is nothing left for her to do except get out her credit card and log on to amazon.com.