Tuesday, June 2, 2009


"Comparisons are odious."
Robert Burton

One of Pip's girlfriends came over to visit last week and I was impressed with how independent this little girl was in the washroom.  Her mom had gone upstairs to change her baby sister when 2 1/2 year-old Mary said, "Karen, I have to pee."  I was expecting to have to help her get settled on the toilet, wipe her bottom, and help her to wash and dry her hands, but my services were not required!  I simply showed her to the bathroom and said,
"Mary, I'll give you some privacy and you call me when you're done."  The next thing I knew, she was back in the kitchen ready to resume eating her lunch!

I asked her mom about it when she came downstairs, "Oh yhea, she's been doing that forever."  Her daughter is a few months younger than Pip, who still likes company in the bathroom and needs help wiping her bottom and washing her hands.  I decided it was time for Pip to follow Mary's example.  We were going to begin Phase II of Pip's toilet training: Washroom Independence. 

Pip resisted.  She didn't want to wipe herself, so I did it.  What really got me is when she thanked me afterward.  "Mama, thank you for helping me."
"You're welcome, Sweetie."

Way back when we started toilet-training Pip, she seemed inspired when we'd mention that some of her friends weren't wearing diapers anymore.  "Really?" she'd say, "Bella doesn't wear diapers?  Well, I'm a big girl too."  

I'm not a fan of comparisons, I'm the girl who had the Desiderata poster on my dorm wall at University with Max Erhmann's wise words, 
"If you compare yourself with others, 
you may become vain or bitter, 
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself."  

Nevertheless, I decided to use the comparison tactic at the sink: "But Mama, I like it when you wash my hands."
"I know Sweetie, but if you go to pre-school in September you'll have to be able to wash your hands by yourself like all of the other kids.  Mary washes her hands by herself."  I didn't even like the way it sounded once it was out of my mouth.  Still, I continued, "Try drying your hands by yourself, Pip."
"Mama, I can't."
"Please try."  She took the towel, wiggled her hands around a bit and dropped it on the floor.
"Mama, they're still wet."
"Well, they'll have to air-dry then."  Ouch.
"Mama!" she tearfully called.  I wasn't about to dry her hands now that she had started crying, so I walked away, but it wasn't easy.

I broached the subject later during the drive to our weekly Mother Goose session.  "Pip, you're going to have to start doing more jobs on your own like Mary does.  Do you think you'd like another chart with stickers?"
"No thanks Mama," she was not the least bit interested in Phase II.  Frankly, I was starting to question my motivation.  Was it really important for Pip to take on these responsibilities right now, or was I just reacting to Mary's progress?  

I stopped Goldie, (our car,) in front of the school where Mother Goose was held, and walked around to Pip's door, "I can get out myself, Mama," she said.
"Okay Sweetie."  I went around to the other door to get Crazybaby.  Pip proceeded to unbuckle herself, climb down from the car-seat, hop out of the car, close the door, and walk carefully over to where I was standing with Crazybaby.
"Wow!" I said, "Pip, did you just get out of your seat and close that big door all by yourself?"
"I sure did Mama."
"Good for you Pip!"
"You see Mama, there are some big girl things that Mary does by herself, and there are some big girl things that I can do by myself.  Mary dries her hands, but I can get down out of my car-seat and close the big door.  Just like that."
"You're absolutely right Pip."

It was yet another, 'Who's parenting whom?' moment.  Pip was right, kids develop at their own pace.  They each have different strengths and weaknesses.  I'm a teacher for goodness sakes!!!  I've told the very same thing to a hundred worried parents over the years!!!  

There's no mad rush for Pip to tackle Washroom Independence right now, so I'll re-visit Phase II at a later date and I'll change the language I use.  No more comparisons.  In the meantime, I'm quite happy to stand over my daughter at the bathroom-sink with her soapy little hands in mine.