Goodbye regret. Hello empowerment
Isn’t it the single most annoying thing to hear your parents, or friends with older children, tell you: ‘You should’ve done…’, or ‘Well, I did try to tell you..’ when it comes to the parenting choices you make which don’t quite work out? If ever there’s a time to swear and add the word you afterwards, it’s during these moments.
Parenting is like a continuous path of feeling frustrated, sad, happy, relieved and sometimes full of regret. When I hear the X-Factor contestants about how their short-lived moment on TV has been such a rollercoaster of emotions, I want to shout at them: ‘try getting pregnant, then carrying the baby to full term, then birthing the baby and then keeping said baby alive and without losing it yourself during the process!’
At The Parenting Chapter, we hear from lots of parents who struggle to move on from feelings of regret; things they wished they had and hadn’t done, said or thought when it comes to raising their child. I’m a Mama and with a long list of ‘I wish I had done this and that’ moments. I still beat myself up for not breastfeeding my son for longer, or cuddling my son to sleep which then contributed to him not sleeping through the night until he was 1. The mind is a bit of a trickster and can fog happy memories with these niggly little regret thoughts. Recently, I’ve started tackling them. How? By empowering other parents with what I know and that includes the good, the bad and the ugly, Clint Eastwood style. Are you mad, I hear you say? Why on earth would I want to share my inner secrets and risk people judging me? I hear you. I felt the same, but I eventually decided to be honest and open up to other parents about what I saw as my failings. What happened, much to my surprise, was that other parents started to be brutally honest with me about their perceived failings. Turns out, I haven’t done such a bad job after all. Quite the opposite. And the parents I spoke to then and speak to now, feel the same. Sharing in such a way creates a community-like approach to processing a parental regret and enables parents to move on from it. It’s called empowerment and it is very powerful.
So, we asked our parenting community to be really honest and open up about one of the toughest postnatal hurdles – toilet training and their moments of regret, in an attempt to empower those parents going through it right now who maybe feeling like they’re treading treacle. For parents like me, who are soon approaching toilet training, read on and remember this article! Don’t panic if it doesn’t go smoothly and return to this article to reassure yourself that you’re doing well.
JENNY, MUM OF 2. My regret was: ‘Thinking the best way to toilet train a boy, was to let him pee into the potty standing up and poop sitting down.’
‘The worst mistake we made, was to encourage our little boy to pee standing up with him aiming his willy into the potty from the word go. More went on the floor than it did in the potty and of course, when we tried to then encourage him to sit on the potty to pee and poop, he didn’t want to do that. It wasn’t as fun in his eyes! It took a while to teach him it was cool to pee sitting down. Make sure you train your little one to pee and poop sitting down first!”
MATT, DAD OF 3. My regret was: ‘Thinking our little girl was ready to get on and off the adult toilet unaided from the word go.’
‘Our little girl really took to toilet training and I admit, we got a bit cocky with it. So much so, we took the rather naïve approach of letting her go on the big toilet from the word go, but without a child’s toilet seat and just a step to get up onto it. One day, we stepped out of the bathroom for a second to get a loo roll and suddenly heard her shouting ‘mummy, mummy ouch’ and found she had fallen down the toilet, bum touching the loo water and her gripping onto the sides of the toilet for dear life. She wouldn’t go on the big toilet for a long time after that and it took ages to get her to use the potty as she had of course never used it. In a nutshell, don’t try and skip any stages and take your time. Little things are big wins when it comes to toilet training.’
VICKY, MUM OF 1. My regret was: ‘Being too busy to toilet train and forgetting to prompt my son’
‘I went back to part-time work around the same time that we started toilet training our little boy at the age of 2 ½. I employed a child-minder to care for him whilst I worked upstairs from home and naively thought that I could pick up toilet training when it suited me and do it on and off, using nappies on some days and trying with big boy pants on other days. This sent a really confusing message to him overall, but what made it worse was the fact that I was so pre-occupied with work even when I wasn’t working, I kept forgetting to take my son over to the potty after he had something to drink and lots of accidents occurred. I felt like a total failure and that I was putting work first, even though I wasn’t. Of course, looking back, I simply chose the wrong time to start toilet training. Find a clear week or two if you can and don’t try to fit toilet training into an already hectic period in your life!’
LUCY, MUM OF 2: My regret was: ‘Not preparing for toilet training and being caught short myself!’
‘I went into the toilet training experience a bit unprepared. Actually not prepared at all! I had lots of friends with positive stories about toilet training and assumed it would be a matter of days before my daughter would be dry and so, bought just enough knickers. I was totally taken aback by the amount of dirty accidents that took place on day 1 and for those who have been through the process, sometimes it’s easier just to chuck the pants away after a monumental accident! I actually ran out of pants on day 1 and had to put the nappies back on until I could get back to the shops to stock up on more knickers. This of course sent a confusing message to her. I wished I had over-stocked on pants and then kept the leftovers for the next child.’
ANDREW, DAD OF 4: My regret was: ‘Being a total perfectionist and being disappointed in my son when he wasn’t nailing toilet training like his friends.’
‘I feel terrible for writing this, but thought I’d be honest about where I and not my son, went wrong. We’d had an OK birth and leading up to the age of 2 ½, our first-born was pretty good. He slept through early on and weaning was really easy, with him eating everything he was given. I suppose we were spoilt and so, expected him to master toilet training straight away. He didn’t and I am sad to say that I got annoyed with him when he kept having accidents at night after a day of being dry. I got frustrated and my patience was tested. My partner was different (as she had done her research and realised toilet training is rarely a walk in the park). I wished I had managed my expectations and not put any pressure on my son to get it right. Toilet training is your child’s first big step towards independence and so, it shouldn’t be rushed.’
So remember, everyone has a list of ‘I wished I hads’ and ‘I should’ve dones’ and that’s just for themselves, let alone for how they chose to parent. We’re all in the same boat and some people just chose not to tell you about the bad bits. If you ever find yourself having moments of regret, ask yourself: do you let the memory of a mistake that you made at work 3 years ago, fog how you do your job now? No. Do you let a disagreement with your best friend that happened last year impact how you get on now? No. So don’t, parents, let how you parent your child and the mishaps that occur, especially with toilet training, fog your happy memories. Nothing to do with children is easy and anyone who suggests otherwise is lying.