I've finally come to understand the basic connection between grandparents and tiny grandchildren: diapers. They really want to get out of them, and we fervently hope never to get into them.
Nothing made this clearer than a recent weekend when two of our grandtots were in residence. It would be accurate to say that much of the conversation revolved around the words "pee pee" and "poo poo" and who might be doing which of them when. My husband Olof and I did not escape scrutiny.
The tots' parents made sure the household's bathrooms were well stocked with mini-jelly beans as rewards for successful performance. This concerned me as Olof is inordinately fond of jelly beans and I wasn't sure I could trust him not to filch a few whether he'd gone pee pee in the potty or not.
"Olof," I said, "you had better not even think of touching those jelly beans."
He retorted, "I think there's a good reason they're not using chocolate, Inga."
The grandkids, ironically, were definitely on the honor system. It was just the grandparents who couldn't be trusted.
The older of the two grandchildren is now fully potty trained, even at night. "So," I said to her parents when we babysat one night, "do we need to take her to the bathroom before we go to bed?"
"Nope," they said. "She's good until morning."
"But that's eleven hours," we said with more than a little incredulity. Olof and I looked at each other wistfully. Those days are so over for us. Neither of us ever expected to suffer from Pre-school Bladder Envy.
Since she is a now a pro in the potty department, the 4-year-old is actively helping her two-year-old brother master the mysteries of planned performance. She is an eager dispenser of jelly beans, an accomplished clapper and an expert demonstrator of toilet flush technique. (It's all in the wrist.) Post-execution hand washing and foot stool sink placement are also in her vast repertoire. She awards herself a mini-jelly bean as an administrative fee when output goals are met.
Unlike grandma, she even knows which is the front of the Pull-Ups. While we're on the subject of Pull-Ups, these are the best invention ever. They didn't have them when my kids were toddlers. We either had either diapers or cotton training pants theoretically reinforced in key areas in an illusion of protection which didn't prevent "accidents" from turning the child's entire outfit noxiously soggy. Somewhere along the way, some brilliant parent, tired of re-attiring a squirmy 2-year-old after a training pant failure, said, "there really needs to be an intermediate step here." And voilà, Pull-Ups, a stretchy, disposable, diaper-material underpant that the kid can pull on and off himself.
Now, as with anything kid-related, there is controversy. It's no secret that there is no more competitive world than parenthood. Among the factions in this case are the anti-Pull-Up contingent who say that the feel of the disposable diaper material only confuses the child and delays potty training. If you want your kid to be pooping on his shoes until he's 10, go for the Pull-Ups. They maintain that one should go straight from diapers to the training pants, or in the case of uber-competitive parents hell-bent on giving the kid an early mindset for Harvard, right from diapers to actual superhero underpants. (One mom scarily blogged, "I used big kid underwear right from the start and told him if they peed or pooped in them the characters would be mad.")
Personally, I think the person who invented Pull-Ups should get the Nobel Prize for Laundry. With the Pull-Ups, if things don't go exactly as planned, the child's clothes aren't wet too. And the kid can theoretically take off the Pull-Up himself and even pull up a dry one. This, in my view, is the sort of ingenuity that made America great.
Anyway, the grandtots were very generous about rewarding us with mini-jelly beans if we'd performed. We weren't all that interested in an audience so they had to take our word for it. They did. They were even happy to clap for us in absentia.
Even though they've gone home, we're finding the subject of potty performance has somehow lingered. It's kind of like a song you can't get out of your head. Is it because the adult version of pull-ups could be in our future?
Then again, we could just be missing the jelly beans.