At 5:50 this morning, my 4-year-old daughter came into my bathroom and announced that she “didn’t really tee the bed, but [she] did.” Great. What a way to start the day! I shouted to my husband, still in the bed, that she pottied in her bed, and we both automatically leaped into our Code Yellow protocol. Our crisis management team consists of me focusing on the child and him focusing on damage control. I stripped the kid; he stripped the bed. I bathed her; he washed the linens. I wiped the tears; he wiped the (praise God!) plastic mattress liner with a Clorox Wipe.
I was tired and annoyed and wanted to communicate that to her.
But she did the right thing in telling us, and she even tried to fix the situation by changing her own clothes. It was tempting to fuss at her, to yell, reminding her that this is why we always go potty before bed and that she didn’t really try to go last night before getting into bed, which is why we were dealing with this problem this morning. In truth, I did remind her, but it was after reassuring her that “It’s ok. Accidents happen. I appreciate that you told us. That’s being big!” (And, ok, I had to remind myself not to say these things through gritted teeth)
Actually, this was the second potty-the-bed incident we had this week. With four kids, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” and how to avoid it. Earlier this week we got in very late from a wedding, and our 7-year-old crashed hard and slept so late it set a new house record. However, his words upon waking up were, and I quote, “Mom, my pants are a little wet but not my shirt, and when I smelled my Minecraft blanket, it smelled a bit like urine.” We had been accident-free on this job site for years until this week destroyed our record.
In both circumstances, my husband and I reminded the kids of the importance of avoiding the problem but, when it happened, we focused on the solution. We both simply sprang into action. We could whine and complain in front of the kids how much work and trouble they put us through and blame them for being a burden, but what would that prove or solve?
Seriously, what? Tease out that question for a bit.
What. Would that response. Prove? Help? Solve? It would teach our kids not to communicate directly and honestly with us, even when they’re scared. They would become so fearful of our response that they’d lie or hide the truth. It would demonstrate how ill equipped you–a grown adult!–are to handle inconvenience or difficulty. And you’re the best model for how these kids you’re complaining about will handle problems in the future. You’re literally modeling and teaching to them that when life becomes challenging, the appropriate response is to whine, complain, and blame someone else. It would show that you have no foresight and/or skewed expectations. Did you think that this would never happen? Did you really expect to navigate raising children without facing potty accidents? That’s silly.
If you’ve been following the news, you may have heard of the recent, tragic loss of a 5-year-old boy who was literally beaten to death by his parents. What did he do? He pottied in his bed.
In this case, the parents are actual monsters. But let me clarify something in case you’ve considered having kids and you’re out here wondering what it’s like: PARENTING IS TOUGH. If you’re going to lose your $#!t over some universal, minor inconvenience like natural body fluid in a bed, maybe parenting isn’t for you.
If you don’t have the strength of character to withstand a 5:50 “I-pottied-in-the-bed” wake-up call without shaming, beating, or berating your kid, reconsider parenting. Because I can assure you, that’s just one of innumerable situations you will inevitably face in child-rearing. Is it frustrating? Sure. Can you still use it as a teachable moment? Please do. Can you express your annoyance? Yes. Later. Maybe over an alcoholic beverage and the musty scent of Febreze. Go ahead and lose your $#!t then, Sis! These kids are tough, man! But find some some healthy venting space. Hubby? Mom? Bestie? There are lots of parenting groups on social media. Just don’t let your kid be the object of your venting.
Parenting IS tough.
Doing it “correctly” IS IMPOSSIBLE. Parenting is hard because life itself is hard. You’re not guaranteed a sexy life. It’s going to be rocky. You’ll experience loss and betrayal and heartbreak and grief and absolute misery at some points in life. That is a guarantee. Modeling how to tackle simple problems as a parent is establishing for your kids how to later navigate these greater challenges. Urine in a bed is fixable, understandable, tolerable. Permanent damage to your kid is not.