This is my view from the toilet. Something’s been different lately, as Cesar is not often part of my bathroom view when it’s my potty time.
From when he was teeny tiny, I’d bring him with me whenever I had to go to the toilet. Overtime, we moved from bouncer, to bath seat (cause it was around lol), to simply plopping him on the floor, to him playing around with bathroom items, to him opening and closing the door for me, handing me toilet paper and managing the tap when washing my hands.
Initially I brought him with me, because I figured it would be the best way for him to see what pee and poo is all about, where and how we do it, and where he’ll eventually do it as well. Even if he couldn’t make use of the bathroom, I could show him pee, poo, where it comes from and how we clean ourselves up after, to start establishing the vocabulary for when the day comes that he sees himself able to use the potty, so that we have the vocabulary to discuss and direct this transition.
After a good while, I started going to the toilet without telling him that I was going to or asking if he wanted to come with. Once he realised I was gone he’d quickly come find me and insist to get into the bathroom. I thought that since he’d been to the toilet with me for a gazillion times, he’d be over it by now. The look on his face as he’d run after me was quite something. He was seriously upset. I looked into his eyes and the stare of dismay really got to me. I saw that I had made an assumption, where I believed that ‘he should be over it by now’, that I made a decision and assessment on his behalf of ‘who he should be’ and ‘where she should be at’ within himself. Instead of asking, instead of checking.
When I got Cesar, I had made a decision to meet all his needs to the best of my ability. Looking back at my own childhood, I realised that a lot of my beliefs about myself and my personality resulted from a lack in responsiveness to my needs. When my needs weren’t met – whatever they may have been – the tacit implication I derived from that was: that it was my fault, that I was not worthy, that there must be something wrong with me, that I’m not competent enough, that my communication doesn’t matter.
The actual walking of that decision was and is still somewhat a rocky road. On the one hand I’ll be meeting his needs, but on the other hand there’s a little voice going ‘you’re spoiling him’, ‘his never going to learn how to do things on his own’, ‘he’s just playing games with you’, ‘he’ll never be independent and forever cling on you’.
The voices of years of conditioning. My common sense tells me one thing, but my fears another.
Back to the bathroom.
So – I made a point of it again to let him know when I go, ask him if he wants to come with or not.
Then, after a while of our regular, constant potty companionship; I ask him and he just kind of looks up in recognition that I said something, but will look back just as quick and continue focusing on what he was doing. Or he’ll say ‘Stay with Gian’ – that he will stay with Gian while I go potty. Or “stay room” where he’ll stay by himself while I go to the bathroom.
Sometimes he still comes with me, courteously opening and closing doors for me, helping me every step of the way. Other times he couldn’t care less. The bathroom holds no more mysteries for him, he’s seen it all – he’s confident he’s not missing out, so now he just makes a choice in the moment based on what he’d like to do.
This little moment of me sitting in the bathroom and reflecting on the path we’ve walked in all bathroom related things, made me look at the topic of independence and dependence once again.
It’s like there’s this really weird, deep fear that if I meet his needs he will never become independent. Yet, if I look at him and my own childhood in retrospect, independence in itself is a need as well. Independence is not some ‘extracurricular’ skill that you need to carefully craft and plan because it’s not part of ‘normal development’. Doing things on your own, being on your own – these are things that naturally emerge and are part of ourselves, as a need we express as individuals.
And Cesar shows me these signs every day. How he wants to go and poo in a separate room or in the garden, while insisting we stay where we are and he will call us when he needs us. Where he insists on pouring his own cup, taking food out of a packet, help moving shopping inside. How upset he gets when we do something for him in a moment of unawareness, which we know he can do for himself but forgot to ask if he’ll do it.
Independence grows as they grow. All you have to do is meet it, just like any other need.
He now enjoys making that decision to come with or not. That he can own that decision. That he can see and realise out of his own that he is alright being on his own. Not because I told him so, but because he realised it first hand.