Planting the Seeds

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It’s true what they say, they grow up fast. So fast. Here I am with a three-year-old and I can barely remember what the baby stage was like.

But what I do remember is each time I’d say, she’s growing up.

It happened when we stopped nursing. It happened when she gave her pacifier up. It happened when she finished potty training.

With each of these ‘milestones’ I remember doing late night research and reading stories upon stories of other mamas and their experiences with transitioning their toddler to the next stage. There’s a lot of good sharing out there (thank you mamas) and gosh, if I learned anything from reading them, it’s that everyone’s situation is different. What works for some, fails for others. But if sharing an experience can help just one mama ease into the next stage, then it’s worth sharing.

So here I am.

With each of these ‘milestones’, I found that the common thread to our success was to plant the seed. Before you decide to stop nursing, retire the binky, or attempt to potty train, plant the seed early on and talk to your toddler about the changes that are coming.

No More Nai Nai

I decided to set a date when I wanted to stop nursing. I knew she didn’t need it anymore and it was purely a comfort thing. And I was tired of being an on-demand cow. So about three months before her 2nd birthday, I planted the seed and my daughter and I agreed that there would be “no more nai nai” (milk in Chinese) when she turned two. Seems funny to type the word agree, like this is a business transaction, but I knew she understood.

Her second birthday rolls around and as we went to bed that night, she asked me for nai nai. I reminded her about our agreement but nursed her anyway. I remember looking at my husband and thinking, welp, there goes that. But only a few days later, as we were going to bed, she reminded me “no more nai nai, mama”, and that was that. I remember feeling a little bit sad that that chapter had closed.

No More Joot Joot

In our family, we call the pacifier a “joot joot”. Don’t ask me why, I just know that’s what we did growing up with other kids, so naturally, you go with what you know. But it was easier for a tiny baby to say.

We set a date that there would be “no more joot joot” and that was her 3rd birthday. We said that joot joots are for babies and that she’s not a baby anymore — she’s turning three! There was a short few weeks where she would demand two pacifiers at once, one for her mouth and the other for her to hold and rub the nipple. Yes, likely because of no more nursing. Again, comfort. And again I wondered if we’d be able to get through this now that she’s asking for two of them.

To pull my daughter away from nursing, I told her to lay on my chest and listen to my heartbeat. I thought that might comfort her and help her to sleep. And it did. But then I became a human pillow. But that’s another story.

One night I was scrolling through Instagram Stories and I came across one from a celebrity’s wife (are you judging me yet?). She was at Disneyland. In the video, she told viewers that she was about to go inside to Mickey’s house with her three-year-old son to give Mickey his pacifier so that he can give it to other babies that need it.

Whoa, that’s a great idea.

My husband and I had tossed around the idea of maybe taking our daughter to Disneyland before she turned three (free admission), but didn’t have any plans set at the moment. However, the concept could be applied to any of her favorite characters, I thought. I tucked the idea away for a bit. But then one day, when she was being particularly whiny about her joot joot, I calmly planted the seed.

What do you think about giving your joot joot to Mickey so he can give it other babies that need it? You’re a big girl now.

She nodded in agreement and we talked about it, but I didn’t push it whatsoever. I would casually bring it up in conversation as we were laying down for naps or nighttime.

Just after Thanksgiving, my mother-in-law asked if we wanted to go to Disneyland. She said she wanted to take our daughter and thought it would be fun to go with all of the lights.

It was December 8th, about a full month before our daughter’s 3rd birthday. We didn’t tell her where we were going until the morning of and reminded her that Mickey would be there. We go on the rides and do the Disney thing. She naps with her pacifier. The afternoon rolls by and I looked at Brandon and told him that if we were going to try this Mickey thing, we needed to do it now.

I asked Tilly if she wanted to go see Mickey, and she enthusiastically said, “Yes! I have to give him my joot joot to give to other babies.” I smiled and scooped her up and we went to wait in line.

Of course, 30 minutes later, and we went into Mickey’s stage. She’s holding her joot joot and so eager to run up to Mickey, but is patiently waiting her turn. She’s up next and she runs up to him and tells him “Can you give this to other babies? I don’t need it anymore because I’m a big girl.”

At this point, I wasn’t sure what would happen because I’m pretty certain that characters aren’t supposed to take things/objects from people? But Mickey held out his hand and she put her pacifier on it. Then Mickey’s helper suggested a photo, so we turned her around and when she wasn’t looking, I grabbed the pacifier and put it in my pocket. We gave Mickey hugs, said thank you, and goodbye.

Outside, my daughter told me again, “I gave my joot joot to Mickey!” and I reminded her what that meant — that we didn’t have it anymore.

So what happened?

We wanted to stay for fireworks, but they canceled them at the last minute due to high winds. It was the week that the fires had started burning in CA. So we decided that we’d done everything we wanted to do and decided to go back to the hotel. As we’re waiting for our shuttle, I put Tilly in the Ergo carrier because I knew she was going to fall asleep. She asked for her joot joot and I reminded her that Mickey had it now. She whined a little bit and fell asleep.

I chalked it up to the fact that she was stupid tired that she didn’t have a meltdown. So I was nervous once we got back to the hotel and we had to change her before bedtime that she’d ask for it again. And she did, but again I reminded her and she went back to sleep.

And after that, it really wasn’t an issue anymore. Each time that she thought about asking for it, she’d tell me the story about how Mickey is giving it to other babies that need it.

If that doesn’t work, show them pictures of buck teeth and tell them that if they don’t give it up, they will have teeth like this and then they’ll fall out.

I might have said that once, too.

No More Diapers

Okay, potty training. This one was a little different. My daughter had expressed interest early on, around 18-20 months, and would go #1 and #2 in the potty. So we thought that when turned two, we’d start trying.

Again with the late night internets and talking with some friends, we decided to try the rapid approach to potty training, where for three days, they’re basically naked, and you’re stuck all weekend making trips to the potty.

We didn’t commit to it 100%, so it didn’t work for us. We decided to wait and try again. It was actually more convenient for us to delay it as we were traveling a lot that year and it was easier for us to put her in a diaper.

As we got closer to her third birthday, my mom started to try to potty train her. She told me that when my sister and I were little, she started training us just after two because we woke up with dry diapers. So she thought Tilly was ready. We started to plant the seed again, referencing her third birthday as the goal date. We went to Target and picked out some training undies and big girl undies, which she was very excited about. Santa also brought her some in her stocking.

We didn’t potty train in a weekend; more like a month, maybe more. After our unsuccessful attempt early on, I decided that I would follow her cues and let her tell me when she was ready. Otherwise, everyone would be frustrated all the time and that didn’t seem like fun.

It clicked for her one day and she would run to the potty all by herself and do her business. She celebrates each trip and makes sure we do, too. Yes, we’ve had a couple of accidents, but overall, she’s been great.

That said, I still put her in a pull-up or cloth diaper for bed. For naps, she’s in undies. She always wakes up dry. For longer car trips that are more than two hours, I put her in a pull-up just in case. We still take potty breaks and go as frequently as we can, but it has come in handy when you’re sitting in LA traffic with no place to go. I think she’s ready to get rid of diapers altogether, but I’ll carry on with these backup plans for a bit longer because the thought of cleaning and changing bedsheets in the middle of the night is not appealing to me.

I feel like I need to add some more about the quirks of toddler potty training. I don’t know if I’m the only one that experiences this, but it’s funny and annoying at the same time.

My daughter does not like automatic flushing toilets. She refuses to go if it’s an automatic one. I have to bend down and shield it so it senses me and not her. My daughter also does not like stinky bathrooms. Think rest stops on the I-10, the McDonald’s bathroom in Blythe, etc. She immediately will yell about how smelly it is in the bathroom and will refuse to go potty… which is why I go back to the pull-up.

Does your toddler have any funny quirks?

You’ve Got This

Preparing my daughter for the changes ahead through conversations have helped us succeed in getting through each of these stages. We apply this same strategy daily, talking through our plan for the day so she knows what she can expect, as well as when we travel, attend parties, anything really. Doing so gives these tiny humans something to think about, time to process it, and involves them in the planning process.

It’s bittersweet to look back at old pictures of us nursing, her with a pacifier, or changing a diaper. I will blink again and she’ll be off to school, which is another seed I need to plant — eating. But that’s a topic for another day.

If you got this far, thanks for reading. My hope is that at least one of these stories will help you and your flower to bloom.