One Monday morning, I awoke with the distinct feeling it was time to start serious potty training (is toilet training the proper term now?). We had passed through all the easy preparation stages: standing near the toilet, sitting on the toilet fully clothed, then sitting on the toilet — not worried about pottying at all — just to confirm it won’t suck you in if you sit down on it. We had talked about how nice it feels when your pants are clean and dry and, of course, isn’t it nice (for Mom and Dad) when you’re a big kid you don’t have to wear diapers.
Every ten minutes
That day, I woke up and knew it was time to get serious. We had planned to be low-key mostly around the house for the day (rare, in my pre-corona life), so we put on big boy pants and entered the “every ten minutes” stage of potty training, the “load ‘em up with fluids, then keep ‘em close to the bathroom” stage. At the signal of the timer, we’d scuttle our way back to the toilet again to give it a try. As many of you know, it’s a labor-intensive kind of process. Every ten minutes, that alarm signals a chance to drop everything we’re doing and listen to our bodies.
Can you imagine if mommas got to drop everything, pause, and check-in every ten minutes? We rarely take the time throughout the day to ask ourselves “What do I need?” “What is my body telling me?”, let alone every ten minutes. As the day wore on, I started asking myself those questions every time I took my kiddo to the potty.
My mouth is parched. Oh yeah – I never got around to drinking that cup of water I filled up a couple hours ago. My shoulders are so tense. A couple sun salutations will do the trick. A deep breath and a swipe of my favorite chapstick would help relax my nerves right about now.
Then, I started getting my brain involved and realized how much of the day I spend chastising myself for all the ways I think I don’t measure up and all the ways I’m failing everyone I love. What if every ten minutes, a bell reminded us instead to praise ourselves for a job well done, like praising a child learning a new skill? Or even just reminded us to stop and take a breath.
And then came the pandemic
Little did I know that a few months later I would be leading my family through a global pandemic. That stress would be through the roof. That I would be expected to show up to work meetings on video-conferencing while pretending my children aren’t burning the house down in the background. That my hour of yoga twice a week would be ripped from my hands. That I would miss sitting in traffic on I-35, which I learned was my only quiet time in life.
Not only am I allowed to have needs and actually notice them, but (gasp) I also have permission to attend to those needs in a timely manner. I still find it hard to pause in the midst of the demands of the day, but I am using a sixteenth century tool called The Daily Examen to help me reflect at the end of each day. The process of review creates self-awareness; it helps me notice patterns and commit to setting a positive intention for the coming day.
While we’re no longer potty-training in our house, I hope we always take time to check-in and listen to what our bodies are telling us, global pandemic or not.