I knew it was trouble when three smiling moms cornered me at the office with the words, “We would like to talk to you about Tomas.” “Oh boy,” I thought. “Here comes a single parenting for dummies session.” A single parent of four young children is an attractive target for unsolicited parenting advice. I immediately regretted having brought my three and half year old to the office earlier in the week. How embarrassing it had been when Tomas decided to fill his diaper the moment we walked in the door! The stench had been overwhelming! I smiled at the trio of moms and tried to patiently listen to a lot of things every parent knows!
Common Parent Milestones
Single dads are like single moms. We work hard, fill a lot of roles and frequently can feel overwhelmed. I had already determined it was time for some serious potty training efforts with Tomas. The pristine purple and white potty-chair had been on permanent display in our downstairs bathroom long enough. It’s a bit much when your child complains when their diaper needs to be changed but won’t do anything about it.
Tomas clearly was entirely unmotivated to fix the stinky problem. My encouraging words appeared to have little impact on my forty-pound diaper-filler, as he laid in unreadable silence while I changed him. Perhaps this is where the life-long principle of taking personal responsibility for one’s actions begins. My strategy was three-pronged. First, reward desirable behavior with chocolate chips. Second, discourage undesirable behavior with disappointment. Third, set the timer for every thirty minutes and make him sit on the potty chair for five minutes whether he had to go or not. Miraculously, he was potty trained in three days.
The Parent Test
The real test came that Sunday when I loaded the kids in the car, drove away from the potty chair, and headed to the Fair. Several hot dogs, elephant ears and sodas later the moment of truth arrived. Tomas held his pants and said, “I have to go potty.” I picked him up and sprinted for a toilet. We rushed by 25 women waiting in line and charged into the men’s room. I held him up to the urinal. “No!” he screamed, “not there!” Then I rushed him into the toilet stall, held his little stiff body in each arm-horizontal to the toilet, carefully aimed him, and yelled, “Go potty Tomas!” He yelled back, “No! I can’t see!” Finally, I sat him down on the toilet. Promptly he leaned over got a view and let it go.
Dads Aren’t So Dumb
I shouting in excitement, “Tomas I am so proud of you!” We headed out the door where, to my surprise, the waiting women started enthusiastically cheering us. “Way to go Tomas,” one exclaimed. “Way to go dad,” shouted another. Tomas beamed! The thin walls had carried our every word to a delighted audience. I smiled and waved as Tomas basked in all the loud attention. I secretly wished that my office moms had been there to see our glorious victory. Tomas and I headed out into a promising new world that afternoon-one that included no diapers.