Damien vs the Potty

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We began potty training Damien mid-way through November. He picked up on the pee part of potty training within a few days, but the other half was much more difficult than I expected. And it got worse for quite a while before it got better. Damien periodically dropped his nap and got sick during the process, making it so much more stressful as well.

Damien was a withholder. He became so afraid to go that he would simply refuse to go, for hours on end,until his body just wouldn’t let him hold it in any longer. This experience was very stressful for him, and for us, and tended to make him more scared, instead of less. At the time, I didn’t see how we were going to get out of it. I even considered putting him back in diapers, though it quickly became apparent that he wanted nothing to do with them anymore (and it was the wrong decision anyway!).

Thankfully, I wasn’t alone in the process. Following the advice of Dawnn Whittaker, of Cheekychops Consulting, we had laid a strong foundation in potty training and, when problems like this came up, I was able to ask for advice. And, following her advice, and giving it time, things did get better. 

While going through the crazy stressful time of a child withholding, I admit to Googling and asking around for advice, but mountains of opinions can’t help you make the right decision. If anything, they just make you more uncertain of the path to take. It is so nice to have someone you can bounce questions off of, and get honest and simple answers in return. I’ve been working with Dawnn for years, ever since Aiden was a baby, and was so happy to have the opportunity to try her Potty Training Services with Damien.

For example, during the process of potty training, I was inadvertently preferring the toilet to the potty for the more dirty business of the day (since less cleanup!), but this was probably a more scary prospect for Damien. Dawnn was able to show me how I was trying to teach him, in sleep perspectives, to sleep in a bed before learning to sleep in a crib. Just too much, too quickly. I had a lot of questions along the way, about how to deal with a child who seemed to pee more frequently just to get a reward, to the withholding, to when to drop diapers at night. Thankfully, the answers were always there and very easy to stick with. 

Ok, most of the time. I wasn’t supposed to take him out of the house as early as I did in the potty training process, but I was stir crazy and in my defence he adjusted quite quickly. Just call me a rule breaker!

So, how did the withholding resolve? First, by dealing with the resulting constipation (with pears, and prune juice and even some Lax-A-Day) as soon as it showed up. I know first-hand as a parent how many issues can come out of constipation. We are still dealing with those. And I didn’t need a repeat. Next, we focused on key phrases that Dawnn suggested if he had an accident, and focused on not putting too much pressure on him to go, even if he looked like he was going to go. Damien’s turning point seemed to be when we took the pressure of him to sit and instead focused on the word squat, which he is very proud to do. I hold him about an inch off the seat, but he retains complete muscle focus on what he’s trying to do and that makes all the difference. Squatting is a much more natural position, so who can blame him?

No more accidents. No more withholding. No more complaining. Potty training is complete! One day he’ll sit, but until then I’m completely happy with the outcome. 

Disclosure: I have worked with Cheekychops Consulting for several years, assisting in marketing. I received Dawnn’s potty training services in exchange for this post, though all opinions expressed are my own.

Damien at 2.5: A Snapshot

Damien turned 2.5 almost a month ago and I wanted to record for posterity where he’s at right now in his life. I can’t believe he’s half way to being 3 years old, and yet for sure I can say he is most definitely a 2-year-old. Since the last time I checked in almost 5 months ago, Damien has learned to assert his will and his independence… unless he doesn’t want to, of course. He’s just as much a 2 year old as Aiden was at this age.

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Damien loves to negate things, even when he readily retracts it, and is as much prone to yelling or going limp in refusal or dropping down when he wants to get his way. He has strong opinions, my little one! But at the same time, he’s still very cuddly and loving and outgoing and social. This contrariness, of extreme clinginess to extreme independence, is very common at this age. 

This last month saw a lot of these traits come out, particularly exacerbated by a week-long bout of illness and potty training. He’s completely potty trained now, but we’ve had issues with withholding that we are still working on. It’s a process. 

Where Damien is now:

  • Weighs 28lbs
  • 36” tall
  • Has only 1 of his back molars (3 to go!)
  • Favourite foods include quesadillas, bagels with cream cheese, strawberries, yogurt raisins, yogurt drinks, smoothies of all kinds, sushi, miso soup
  • Loves puzzles. Can independently complete puzzles he knows well, up to 40 pieces, and can sit with you to help do puzzles up to 100 pieces.
  • Loves board games, particularly Candyland and the Discovery Beach Game
  • Still loves to make music. Preferred instruments are drums and guitar. Is obsessed with The Wiggles. We have about a dozen of their albums
  • Starting to branch out in tv interests, including shows such as Curious George and Blues Clues in with his Wiggles time
  • Loves to read longer stories, particularly those by Robert Munsch and anything Curious George
  • Almost dropped his nap, but then got sick and that threw things off. Wakes around 5:30am and struggles to fall asleep at night. 
  • Is potty trained (ok, mostly), including for naps and night
  • Can count to 20 and sing the alphabet
  • Can recognize some letters
  • Can use scissors
  • Can be destructive or run away at the blink of an eye. That defiance thing is in full force!
  • Can speak with fluency and very few “baby” words left. Still uses “too-key” for “excuse me” and “this a for?” for “what’s this,” and “Gooes Boos” for “Blues Clues.” Says all names properly now too (I miss him saying Aidne and Gaggy!)

To My Aiden on His Fifth Birthday

Dear Aiden,

Today was your 5th birthday! It’s hard to believe how much you have changed since you turned 4, and yet at your core you are still the inquisitive, passionate and creative child. It’s hard to believe how much you have changed in the last month alone, since you started Kindergarten, and how that has translated into a new-found maturity and blossoming patience. 

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I know these next years you will continue to grow and mature, and I dearly feel the change in how much time you spend away from me. I cherish the moments we spend together, as I cherished our time today visiting the Ghost Train, playing Lego, playing with your new toys and decorating for your birthday party. I love your enthusiasm for life and cherish every smile you throw my way. 

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Though the past year was not without its challenges, particularly as you grew restless during the summer, upon reflection you have lived such a life and have changed so much. Graduating preschool and starting Kindergarten. Learning to ride a bike and a scooter. Taking long family bike rides and hikes through the forests. Drawing intricate pictures, faces and letters. Creating and inventing. Building and following instructions. Creating imaginary worlds to play in with your friends. Inviting your brother into your world to share your joys.  

You shout your joy (and your anger!), to the rooftops! You never fail to brighten a room with your enthusiasm and your chatter. Your aptitude, interest and concentration abilities for things like Lego or games like Carcassonne leaves me breathless. While you race ahead in so much that seems ‘grown up’, still you love to lay on the floor to drive around your cars in endlessly creative ways. 

Shout your joy, my Aiden. Live life passionately. Challenge yourself. These are the things that make you happy. Life will have its challenges, and its failures, but it is full of excitement for those willing to see it. I am thankful to be able to walk beside you to see the world with your excitement. 

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Every night I sing to you that “you’ll always know how much I love you, because I’ll tell you every day.” I love you, today, tomorrow and every day hereafter. Happy Birthday my special boy!!


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To My Son on the First Day of Kindergarten

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Dear Aiden,

I’ve been known to write you letters on your birthday and other special occasions. Tomorrow isn’t your birthday, but it is nonetheless momentous. I have felt all day that I am bursting with mixed emotions about the changes that begin tomorrow. There is so much that I am feeling and so much I want to say. So I’m writing you this letter. 

Tomorrow you begin Kindergarten. Tomorrow you begin walking a path that will slowly take you into your own future life. Your own independence. 

Up to now, we have walked hand in hand as you have grown up. I have been with you almost every day of your nearly 5 years. I have had the privilege to take care of you each and every day. Yes, you had preschool, but what is 4 hours really? Just a moment gone by. And now 5 years of those moments have flown by and you are here, on the precipice of all this change. This change which suddenly overwhelms me.

Tomorrow I will walk you to school. I will hold your hand and I will give you a hug and I will wave at you as you enter your new school. You’ll meet new friends, some of whom may turn out to be lifelong friends, some of whom may not. But either way, most of those kids will be with you for years to come. You will spend most of your waking hours with them. 

Tomorrow I will let go of your hand as you enter your school. Those first steps take you to a place where I cannot hold your hand, but will forever be at your side, thinking of you. Even as the years pass and you no longer want to hold my hand as we walk to school, I’ll still be there. Even as you head off to high school then graduate, I’ll still be there. Even as you forge your own life on your own, I’ll still be there. I’ll always be there. 

Tomorrow I will let go of your hand. Tomorrow your new life begins. 

I love you Aiden. I am so proud of you and so excited for you and so nervous as well. 


Damien at 26 Months

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been 2 months since Damien had his 2nd birthday. The time has been flying by. Given how much nice weather we’ve been having, our days are long and packed full of exciting activities. Damien seems like such a different boy now – truly a boy now, not my little baby. It’s funny how verbalization and independence truly change the character of our children and alter the dynamics of our lives.

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We have achieved so much freedom in our family in the last couple of months. We go hiking, we spend hours at the park, we have conversations and we create bonds that are unbreakable. The bond I see growing between Aiden and Damien is the highlight of my life. Though they struggle with rough play and boundaries as much as any other sibling set, they truly love each other’s company and are finding common ground in their play (which is great, as their interests vary quite a lot). 

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  • Weighs 27.7 lbs
  • Wears size 8-9 shoes
  • Favourite foods: yam sushi, noodle soup, hummus, bagel with cream cheese, Burgoo macaroni and cheese, corn on the cob, fancy quesadillas, quinoa, spicy fried rice, pizza, tzatziki, souvlaki chicken, butter chicken, meatballs, 
  • Experienced his first bee sting. “Damien, we don’t touch bees!” didn’t work for months, but as he put it, “Be, vvvvvv (fly), squish! Ouch”, he learned they hurt. We got the stinger out quickly and he only said “Ouchie”, then was mostly ok.
  • Is extremely loving and social. Loves many kids and adults and is extremely willing to show that affection.
  • Is learning to be more careful at playgrounds, while still being adventurous
  • Loves to swim. Can now float and kick on his own in water wings
  • Could spend his whole day listening to / playing music. If he’s not playing along with his drum(s) or guitar, he will often cock his head to the side to pick up the beat / memorize the words
  • Has created his own percussion set at home, with 2 carefully placed drums and a stainless steel water bottle for the cymbals 
  • Loves to walk around with his bells. Is very particular about which bell he takes, though. He will ring them until he finds the “right” tone. 
  • Is currently obsessed with the Lumineers and The Wiggles
  • Can sing many songs without assistance, including Twinkle Twinkle, Head and Shoulders, the Alphabet, A is for Apple, Row Row Row your Boat, Itsy Bitsy Spider and more
  • Loves to dance. The more crazy, the better
  • Can name many songs and books by name
  • Can identify most colours and shapes, though not consistently
  • Other preferred toys include the play kitchen, mega blocks, and water guns. Has little to no interest in cars, trucks or train
  • Very quickly moved to using personal pronouns, particularly “I”. He never really referred to himself in the third person more than a handful of times.
  • Is speaking in full sentences sometimes and mostly is understood by others. Has a large vocabulary. 
  • My favourite words and phrases: I do it!, right?, Aidne watch!, buy cream (ice cream), two king (excuse me), where ___ gone?, hurt a self, glapes (grapes), minish (finish), uzzer sizes (other side), thanks welcome (thanks, you’re welcome), let’s find out!, this a for? (what’s this for?), cool, this one cool!, what doing?, miss ___ (whoever he misses)