On a parenting message board someone mentioned that her 2-year-old son had no interest in the plastic potty she’d bought for him, and preferred instead to use the regular toilet. She asked if she was alone in skipping the potty stage with her child.

I wrote a simple, factual reply. No, we didn’t use a potty either, though we owned one at one point. It just seemed like an unnecessary intermediate stage. Then I realized that we hadn’t made much use of a lot of the other “intermediate step” trappings of childhood, especially not with the younger kids … strollers, cribs, toddler beds, bottles, sippy cups and the like.

Upon thinking it through, I realized that this is a common thread in my parenting approach. I let the kids be little and dependent as long as they want, until they’re truly ready to be more grown up. As a result they don’t seem to need the intermediate step, nor do they then get ‘stuck’ at the halfway stage.

This is how I’m approaching adolescence too. I’m the mom who kept her shy 5-year-old home and homeschooled her, rather than push her to adjust to half-day kindergarten. But I’m also the mom who gave her 12yo her own cabin to live in and lets her hike in the wilderness alone. When my kids were 8 and under they were almost never out of my sight, even in group situations, something that other parents probably felt was over-protective. But by the time the eldest was 10 I was happily leaving them home alone for significant periods of time, something that many other parents feel is downright negligent. I’m trying to help the important aspects of childhood to last as long as I can, and then allow the kids to grow into all the independence they want as soon as they want it, thus shrinking the awkward middle ground of adolescence into as brief a transition as possible.

I suppose time will tell whether this is a successful strategy for the teen years. It was certainly very successful for helping the kids attain toileting independence!

On potties and adolescence