Dear Shannon, No But Thank You for Asking

Dear Shannon,

Potty training. You have been doing this pretty good since before Christmas. But our life is very full, we are on the road a lot, I have a ton of my own stuff around germs, mixed with the advice I chose to follow: “don’t bother until 3”- so we waited. But over the 2 months we have gotten more consistent and big girl underwear has made its way to part of our laundry folding- so it appeared the time had come. Still moving pretty slow, but you ask to go and have only had one accident at school since March, so it seems like progress.

Then over the last few weeks we have had a stall out of sorts. For the past week I have been seriously wondering if I need to spend time exploring why ? And if I do explore, what do I need to consider? This is an area your dad asks you about and has expressed criticism, which has been confusing for the little time and attention. The other day you told me, after a rather productive session, that “if I go in the potty, you don’t have to clean it mommy” and then the shame of my people pleasing mess making its way to your sweet little soul made me want to crawl into a hole. Or is it something else…. The combination of the situation and the amount of time I have wondered if I need to wonder about it – well it sums up the season of life I am in: my brain is on a loop.

The trip to DC in December that you did such good potty! December 2022

In so many ways progress of life in a good place has been clear. And yet, I have found a lot of junk tangling me up. My best description: I feel solid in me, yet I am walking though cement and can’t seem to get enough momentum…. And I want to know why. Grief has been the answer a few professionals have given – and it is likely correct. But I just don’t want it to be… haven’t we been doing that?!?!? So I have found myself delving into the dominio effect I am seeing: how could grief lead to feeling so bogged down and too exhausted to do the work to clear the cement. Why can’t I be honest and say no? Why can’t I set up boundaries? Why can’t I take better care of myself? And each of these same questions can be asked of all my roles.

There is only some much internal focus one person can take … so I actually found myself exploring the study of different factors that could be influencing. I have reviewed mental clarity, balancing out your hormones, what is self care, what does the church recommend … and most of these lead to the similar answer: learning to be clear on what you need to do and then how to express it. It’s the formula that comes up again and again. So now my focus has been on my self talk and then how I communicate externally. It’s been discouraging how much work it can take, while also really interesting what mastering it can do.

So what does this have to do with potty training you? Well today I finally decided to see what I could learn from you. After school I forgot to check if you were in a pull up or big girl underwear. So in the midst of groceries being put away I asked, “hey Shan- are you in underwear or a pull up?” I was careful not to say “big girl underwear” to make it sound like the better choice and did my best for my voice to sound casual- not leading or judging. You responded with “ a pull-up”- no more no less. So I gave it time, and the pressed again “did your teacher ask if you wanted to wear underwear?” And another “yes”, but nothing more. So more time and finally I said “do you want to wear underwear?” And then I got my full answer “no, but thank you for asking.” And there it was – the most clear answer. You my dear, knew what you wanted, communicated it, was stern but respectful and I was blown away.

Easter this year where we had started to hit our stride April 2023

See, I had told you if you ever didn’t want to wear big girl underwear all you have to say is “no thank you and pull up, please!” I explained this is your decision and that you can be super clear with any adult what you want to do. Because just like the rest of life: this will get worked out and nothing is forever – diapers or your aversion to underwear.

But what struck me is I remember the first time we had that specific conversation and it has been over a month. The situation that led to the coaching had left me so mad, I had to be calm and thoughtful about this being an opportunity to give you the tools. In that moment I had to really parent myself to be most helpful to you and now you were coaching me back. You showed me it’s perfectly reasonable to know what you want, communicate clearly and still be polite. Your calmness, your sweet way, and your confidence made a bigger impression then all the learning I have been trying to do in this area.

And today… celebrating you being so grown up and standing up for you May 2023

Thank you, Shannon for your example and excellent listening. It has been powerful for me and I hope it remains that way for you.

All my love,

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