Monday, September 15, 2008

The Master Manipulator: Potty Edition

We all know that Lilly's smarter than her parents. And she's been known to manipulate us on more than one occasion. And no one is debating who is in charge in this family.

Take that spitfire of a little lady, and give her a new weapon: the potty.

She's always been a good "go-er." We introduced it at about 18 months, and if we anticipated it, we could sit her on it at the right time and she'd do her thing. When we moved here, she got a diaper rash (a.k.a. nappy rash, in NZ terms), probably from the change in wipes, and so we decided it would help if we could put her on the potty as often as possible.

Yet we overdid it (one weekend I had her on that toilet every single hour), and she decided to revolt for a few weeks. I had to come up with an idea to get her back on the saddle again, so to speak. So by now everyone knows we give her M&M's to sit there. One to sit, one to go #1, and one for #2. Sounds easy right?

Too easy. This smart girl got to thinking. "What is mommy's currency? How can I take advantage of this situation?" In a few ways, she figured out.

First, she started asking for the M&M's in advance. We'd typically give her one when she sat down, but now she needed one before we even got the diaper off in the bathroom. And then she needed 3 more before she'd consider going. And if I'll give them to her, most of the time she followed through and "went," but the fact that she wanted them upfront - it was extortion. If she didn't get it when she wanted it, she'd try to jump off the toilet. So she had us where she wanted us.

Then she figured out - M&M's are her favorite thing - so, as we wanted it to, it encouraged her to want to go, and to want to "sign potty" (twisting a closed fist) when she had to go. Except, she figured out, she could also sign potty anytime she wanted M&M's. So she'd come up to me, sign potty, we'd go in, and she'd sit on the toilet and eat some M&M's, and then if she didn't really have to go, we'd sit for a few minutes then she'd get off. Of course, I don't want to discourage her from saying that she has to go, and more than half the time she legitimately had to go, so again, she had me right where she wanted me.

But it wasn't going to end there. You see, she had seen my excitement over her going potty one too many times. She came up with a scheme. If every time she signs potty, her mommy gets so excited, picks her up, and runs her into the bathroom, maybe it could get out of situations she doesn't want to be in. Like restaurants. So now every time we're in a restaurant, and Lilly's been sitting for too long, usually around the time the entree arrives (by the way, an entree here is an appetizer, but a main is the entree - so in this case I'm talking about the "main"), Lilly signs "potty" and off we go. It doesn't bother her that I don't have a toddler sized seat cover for her, or that we don't have M&M's. Because she's succeeded in her goal of getting out of a terribly boring experience, i.e., eating out. But typically she follows through with her end of the deal.

Which leads us to tonite. She didn't want to go to bed, didn't want to read the bedtime story or say the bedtime prayer. She was actually so sad, and then I sang "Tomorrow" to her from Annie, and she quietly let me put her down in the crib. She let me think I had won. She lay there for 15 minutes, which I thought she was spending getting really drowsy and really considering falling off to dreamland. My mistake. She was plotting. All of a sudden she pops up, and signs "potty." I say, "Really? You really have to go potty?" (Not to mention she had sat on the toilet 3 times tonite, pooping two of the times and peeing the other - I know, TMI.) But here is my darling angel, with her most sincere expression, signing potty and reaching for me. She knew where she was headed. And it wasn't to sleep.

We ran into the bathroom, where I asked her again - "are you sure you want to go potty?" "Potty, potty" she signed. I wanted to be totally sure, before I unzipped her complicated footsie pajamas (which she convinced me to take completely off), unsnapped her onesie, took off her diaper, and got her on the potty. She sat there. And sat there. Neither of us made eye contact. Finally she looked at me and signed "bed?" I said, "yes Lilly, we're going to bed after this." And she looked away again and sat. And sat. And signed "Bed?" again. And I said, "Yes, as soon as you're finished going to the potty." So she sat, and sat. Never tried to do anything productive, but just sat. Finally I said "all done, Lilly" and she looked at me, sighed, and let me put her pajamas back on. She had totally manipulated me into getting herself out of the crib, when she had no intention of "going." She had bought herself 20 extra minutes of time that she didn't have to sleep, and she was satisfied. But knew not to push it any longer. We walked back into her room, I put her in bed, and she was asleep within seconds.

(And her last thought as she drifted off to sleep was: "Sucker!")


Eric said...

Cathleen, that is just hilarious! You've got a world class mommy manipulator on your hands. I also want to say very well written and I love the inclusion of NZ cultural diffs. Keep it up!llkqvayp

Beverly Kerr said...

WoW! now I feel like the bad mommy. How great that she goes at all in the potty at her age. I am so proud of her. We haven't even thought of the potty yet! Kids are smarter than we want to give them credit for.