Posted by: DD | March 7, 2007

no. 396 – When it takes 20 Miles to Pass a Milestone

There are many milestones in a child’s life. The "minor" ones that never get documented in the baby book (stacks blocks, scribbles for the first time, clapping, dresses self, etc.) and of course the major ones (first smile, rolls over, first word, first step, etc.).

With X now being 5, most milestones, whether major or minor, are behind us. It’s sad in a way that at this moment, I really can’t think of what I should be looking for. Reading on his own perhaps? We’re still working on that.

But what I’m actually looking forward to is him passing a milestone that most children do by the time they are 4, sometimes even as young as 3: (this is a little embarrassing for me to admit) being potty trained.

We started potty training around the time I got pregnant with Vivienne (Fall 2004). At first, he was great! He would tell us he had to go, even if he had already went in his diaper. He recognized the symptoms. We even bought him some underwear, which he worked hard on keeping clean and dry. However, as time went one, it became increasingly clear that this was going to be a very difficult task. While his same-aged friend was literally potty trained over the weekend, including night time, X went nearly a year with only sporadic moments of success until one day he "got it". For the most part.

During that year, most people who knew X agreed that it was his sense of focus that delayed this process. He would get so into playing that he wouldn’t let his mind be distracted by that sense of full bladder (pooping in the potty was never a problem for him since that takes a certain level of concentration in itself – thank god!). But we are coming to realize that X is one of those children who do not have all of the necessary signals working in relationship to his age because he still wears a pull-up at night.

All the advice and tips you may have will be for naught, trust me. We cut off his fluid intake by 8:00 (don’t ask us to do earlier) and he goes to the bathroom right before going to bed. We even have been getting him up every night at 2:30 a.m. for the past several months, just to empty his bladder. But still, his pull-up is wet in the morning. Sometimes it’s a lot; sometimes it’s very little. There’s no consistency to the pattern.

Being the researchy kind of girl I am, and based on family history (both his father, and one of his uncles were 8 and 10 respectively before they stopped wetting the bed at night), we are looking at the same "problem" with X, and that is enuresis.

I say problem, but it’s not. I can’t make his bladder signal his brain and then make his brain signal is subconscious to wake him up. I have to let this happen on its own. We don’t make a child walk on his own before he’s ready, why would I do anything different but encourage him when he does have that rare night he stays dry and console him when he wakes up at 4:00 a.m. crying because he’s soaked through his pull-up, pajamas, and sheets? I just don’t believe that any rewards program can alter his immature neurons.

I’m not ready yet to medicate him or hook up an alarm that wakes him when it senses urine. I’ve learned something very special about my son (and really all children), and that is while one developmental stepping stone is still out of reach, another is being accessed and perfected.

My concern will probably shift if and when he’s invited for sleep overs, as I’m sure there are some kids out there his same age that would ridicule him if they knew. 5 year olds can be surprisingly mean at such a tender age. So we wait. I know that when that switch is finally thrown in his brain, we will all celebrate, but in a weird way I’ll mourn that last major milestone. I hope by saying that, no one will think that somehow I’m subconsciously keeping a little bit of my "baby" with me, especially in light of our infertility woes.

Nothing could be further from the truth. How could one think that I would enjoy walking into the baby aisle past the diapers, formulas, rattles, bottles and sippy cups to buy pull-ups? While some of you use that to keep those baby-demons at bay, "I can so imagine myself buying this and that…", I have the opposite issues: "If I can avoid those aisles, I can convince myself that I no longer need or want those things, including the baby to use them."

I want X to develop without guilt or fear. He will more than likely have to go through this with his son, due to genetics. There’s so many wonderful things we want him to pass onto his children. Stories about being forced to sleep in wet pj’s or not being allowed to have sleep-overs are not part of that plan.



  1. Toughie.
    My son is only two, and we’re just introducing (not enforcing. I’m not in a rush) the potty. I haven’t thought to ask if Daddy was potty-trained with no problem…
    I hope those signals get themsleves all fixed up so he can go on those fun sleep-overs, because yes, kids are f-ing cruel these days.

  2. Ahhh…a subject near and dear to us. Um…trying to remember if you said you’ve had him checked by a doctor? If not, I recommend, just to rule out any problems with “the plumbing”. If not, then you’re in the boat we’re in.

    Our 10 year old wets 4-5 times a week in a good week. We had to stop using pull-ups, because she refused to have any sort of responsibility in throwing them away, and we got tired of the dogs running up to us smelling like her pee after eating one of her pull ups. Yes, you may vomit now. So, we do the standard – cover the mattress with the plastic cover, and if she wets, she’s responsible for getting her bedding into the wash and back on her bed before night time. Oh, and we’ve tried everything – the limiting liquids, getting her up, you name it. No luck. There is some family history for her as well – on her dads side and on her mom’s apparently. We are at the point of buying her one of the night time alarms, because we had an adult friend tell us, that was her life saver, as she had the same problem when she was a kid. SO – that’s next up.

    We have a similar problem with our six year old. He wasn’t potty trained until after i met Zack 3 years ago, and since then, we have had a lot of trouble with him having accidents for the same reason you described with X – he just gets so focused on playing that even if he DOES think that he needs to go, he is too late, and has an accident. That’s just taken time and patience on our part, and planning (taking an extra outfit when we go anywhere) to get over. He’s doing a lot better now, but still has the occasional accident.

    Hang in there, Lady. It gets better, but it IS frustrating to deal with. Throw in a batch of emotional problems and encopresis, and you have my daily life at home. Yeah. I take pee problems over poop problems ANYDAY.

  3. I know so many children that have had this problem. Most of them do outgrow it. I only know of one that had medication, but he had more problems than just bedwetting. I sympathize with you because I can’t imagine how hard or how disappointing it would be for the child.

  4. My son is just 4, and no sign of being dry at night. I also wet the bed for ages when I was young!

    Even Penelope Leach says not to worry till they’re 7.. like you, I’m thinking it’s only an issue if he sleeps away from home..

  5. Hm. No assvice for you, just a quick little, “Hang in there” (You can insert the picture of the kitty on the tree branch whenever ya want) He’ll get it. Mag still has “accidents” during the day. She just gets too preoccupied with playing.

  6. I have one idea maybe you have never heard of? Lactose intolerance. My sister wet the bed for a logn time and the doctor had my mother stop all dairy and use ice milk (or maybe soy milk now) instead.

    This advice was given a looong time ago but maybe it could help?

  7. I think you are doing the exact right thing by not forcing him beyond his readiness. He’ll get there.

  8. Trying to get LaLa out of her night time nappy, she still wears one to sleep in. I think it depends on the season, something about spring/summer that makes it easier so thats what we’re waiting for. Ask your Ped. about that.

    Preventing her from drinking before bed doesnt do much to make her pee less, she just ends up thirsty in the night.

    Emotionally it will be harder for ours to train because of all the losses, it plays a big part. Just have to be patient and make allowances for them.


  9. How bad is it that I have no advice to give – other than do have him checked by a physician – not to get meds, but just to make sure it’s not anything else. UTI’s can cause this as well as other reasons. So better to be safe then sorry kind of thing. Other than that – my prayer is that a) this passes, and b) that X if and when he does go to a sleepover this isn’t an issue. I too would hate for him to be teased because of it. I remember a friend of mine who did this and the only issue we had was that her parents never made her shower after an incident so she always smelled like urine. When she stayed the night with me – my parents would just do the things you’ve said and then if it happened they’d help her get up and take a shower. I still invited her to sleep overs. We never teased her – she was our friend, but I know others who did. I always felt bad and thought that made the situation a bit worse.

  10. I understand. It got much better around here for us by age 8. We had a 7pm fluid cut off (which we largely still enforce at 9.5yrs) and I got him up each night between 2 and 4. Anymore, he’ll catch himself and only his drawers get wet, but then he throws them with the dirty laundry and “gets away with it” more often than not, I fear. I know he has a great bladder size, but I think he’s lagged in the signal to wake up – just as he doesn’t realize he’s hungry until it’s too late or know his hands/ears are cold.

  11. No “advice” here. I think potty-training is very child-specific. Miss V still demands a diaper to poop (and only for her pooping business). Strange, eh? Her pediatrician has suggested to just let her. But guess who still has to change these stinky diapers…

  12. Oh boy, this is near and dear to my heart, but not in the same way that you describe… Kent is 15, but because of his paralasis, he is incontinant, so he wears adult diapers. I haven’t been able to let him attend but 3 sleepovers in the last 5 years because of the parents, not that I blame them, but they don’t want to deal with it at all. That poor kid has even stopped asking. But as far as X, I think that you are doing the right thing, hell, even as an adult I have been sleeping so hard that I wet the bed!!! (shh don’t tell anyone!!!)

  13. Oh yeah – also? The pullups for sleepovers the way they recommend on tv? I think that’s stupid. The pullups have that diapery “rustle” sound – so how is my 10 year old supposed to pull that off in a sleepover full of catty girls? Yeah…not so much.

  14. Thank you for this.

  15. Just chiming in to say my kid is nearly five and advanced in every way, but she can’t ditch the nighttime Pull-up yet, and she’s certainly tried. She has another friend who’s pushing six who’s the same way, and we know others as well. So, you’re certainly not alone.

  16. can totally sympathize with you but not for the same reasons. my little one is 7 and we have had trouble from the day she was born with going poopy. getting better, but not quite there. we go through so many pairs of panties a day that i can’t even count anymore. it got to the point were i was thorwing them away rather than washing them. dr is not quite sure why but we are working on it so hopefully soon we will figure it out.

  17. You don’t need me to tell you this, but you are doing exactly the right thing. X is so lucky to have you as a mother! I know women who are very focused on potty training to the point where I wish children could say, “Back off, Bitch!”

    Enjoy these days while they last. Pull-ups are darn cute if you ask me.

  18. Oh, sweetie, I’ve been thinking about potty training non-stop. On one hand, I obviously want it to go easy. On the other hand, I have to admit selfishly that potty training is going to suck big time. Getting up with them at all hours of the night or first thing in the morning to help them pee? The diaper is just so damn easy. And I don’t want to give up diapers because it is this tie to babyhood. I’ve been mourning all the milestones. We’re just entering the days where they tell me that they have to use the potty. I know it’s a long road until we’re out of diapers.

    Hang in there. I think it’s a smart philosophy not to push him before he’s ready. Who cares what other kids are doing?

  19. “while one developmental stepping stone is still out of reach, another is being accessed and perfected.”

    Very very true, for all kids.

  20. Dear DD, I have no advice, only sympathy. Two little boys very close to my heart had the same problem, and in one case, the monitor did the trick very quickly. In the other case, the monitor helped, but the problem only really resolved at puberty. I think you’re handling this really wisely.

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