Saturday, December 8, 2012

Tinkle Time

 (This article appears in the Christian Home Magazine, Issue 92. Check it out!) 

What's up with this photo?
     Our family has been diaper-free for exactly three weeks.

     Sort of.

     Which is a huge deal, since Nate (my oldest) is almost seven, and this is the first time since his birth that we have not had at least one child in diapers. (Yes, there was one month during which all three of our boys were in Huggies. How would you like that strain on your family budget?)

     Should I also mention that for one and half years we lived in a village so remote that disposable bootie-covers cost over a dollar? That's per diaper, by the way. Have two boys who need bottom cloths? You do the math (the boys and I have already done our multiplication practice for the day). Why didn't we just get cheaper diapers shipped to us, you might be wondering? Oh, how naive you are to think internet companies bother to ship to rural Alaskan villages like Sanford. Nope, we were on our own.

     Well, not entirely on our own. We did have each other. My friend and I made up our own little diaper co-op. If she was planning to make the four-hour drive to Walmart, I'd give her enough cash that she probably should have been driving an armored vehicle and ask her to bring back as many tinkle-poopers for my boys as she could fit in her car. When I went into town to restock, she would do the same for me. "Security," she liked to say, "is knowing that you have enough diapers to last until your next trip to town."

     Yup, that's how we do it living out in Sanford, Alaska. We program our internal calendars based on the size of our diaper stash.

     Thankfully, I now live in a real city with real roads and even a real Walmart. I don't have to plan a four-hour drive to stock up on Pampers, or else pay a dollar a pair at the local convenience store. But still, I've been looking forward to DF (Diaper-Free) Day for years. When it finally came, you could have heard me whoop for joy all the way back in Sanford, I'm pretty sure, where my poor friend is still paying a buck a shot for her family's crinkle pants.

    So three weeks ago, since I knew at least 299 of my 312 friends on Facebook were clutching their smartphones in anticipation, I made my announcement to the world: Thomas is out of diapers! 
     And then he wasn't.

     Thomas' path to regression was so subtle I never saw it coming. (If I had, do you think I would have spent twelve buckaroos for his brand-new Spiderman underwear?) It started with a leak every three or four days. No big deal, I told myself, he's still learning.

     Then he was "accidentally" soaking his friendly neighborhood hero every other day or so. I guess we are busier than normal, I figured and blamed our hectic holiday schedule. Before long a masked Pete Parker was getting rained on once or twice a day. Finally, I got so fed up with the amount of laundry I was doing that I decided to put a Pull-Up on Thomas after his first offense of the day. And what do you know? Thomas realized it was a lot easier to do his little thing (or things, as the case may be) on the run instead of walking to the bathroom, turning on the light, pulling out the stool, and so on.

     It wasn't until yesterday (call it denial) when I realized: Thomas isn't potty-trained anymore. At first, I was able to step back and look at the situation rationally. He's still only two, after all. My other boys were three (and yes, even four) before we celebrated their DF Days. And all the books say regression is quite normal for early toilet trainees. (They also say that most babies learn to sleep through the night by the time they are five months old and that some mothers experience slight discomfort the day their milk comes in, so you can bet how much I trust these "experts.")

     Anyway, there I was, changing another Pull-Up and thinking magnanimous thoughts to myself like, Thomas will let me know when he's ready to be toilet trained, and It really isn't a big deal if we keep having to buy diapers because we're so used to it. We've been doing it for nearly seven years, after all.

     Sometime after I said the word buy but before I said the word diapers, something snapped. Wait a minute! I was supposed to be celebrating my new-found freedom. The money we'd save by going completely diaperless could be enough for a date night a month if we planned things right! And I was going to just let Thomas off the hook, stick him back in Pull-Ups full time, and allow him to decide when he was good and ready to piddle on the potty like a big boy?


     Isn't that so like human nature? On the surface, we love the idea of forgiveness. We love the idea of extending grace. Until we realize that it costs us something. And don't let anyone ever fool you. Showing grace is an expensive line of business.

     How much hurt does it cost the housewife to forgive her husband for his Internet "accident" ... again? How must energy does it cost the mother of a wayward child to keep on loving and praying ... with no visible results? How much pride does it cost the church member to forgive that one person who is always making Sunday mornings so difficult ... and every other day of the week too?

     I don't know about you, but I can be a lot like Scrooge when it comes to extending grace. I was totally willing to "forgive" Thomas for his constant toiletry slip-ups ... until I thought about the cost of keeping him in forty-cents-a-pair Pull-Ups for another year. I'm totally willing to be a great friend ... until I realize how much humility it takes to keep on overlooking what I perceive to be snide remarks. And I'm in love with the idea of constantly extending grace to my family ... until their minor annoyances overdraw my patience account.

     Unfortunately, grace is never free. We shouldn't be surprised. After all, God's grace cost Him dearly. He purchased our forgiveness with the blood of His beloved Son. Think others have  overdrawn your forgiveness account? Just remember what God did for us.

     I'd like to think that in the coming weeks I'll find peace with whatever potty route Thomas chooses for himself. But if I'm stuck buying diapers by the loadful, I have to admit I'm going to have a hard time feeling magnanimous about it. I guess that's when I'll think about those poor mothers back in Sanford who are spending up to three times as much as I am for their children's bottom dumpers.

     If I'm feeling ultra generous, maybe I'll send them Thomas' leftovers once I've got him back in his fancy Spidermans.

What about you? Do you have any good potty training tips? I'm all ears! Or maybe you have a story to share about a time forgiveness cost you something. (Feel free to leave your comment below.)

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