Not that long ago, I was eyeball deep in an international page-turner about a Swedish journalist, a man-hating hacker and a missing heiress.
These days, I'm reading a book about entirely more mundane matters: potty training.
The book by well-known potty pro Teri Crane, Potty Train Your Child in Just One Day, seemed an obvious choice. One day to master the complexities of bodily functions? This, I gotta read.
The 285-page paperback (you can skim through a lot of it) gives step-by-step instructions on how to toilet train a child, starting with a quiz to determine if a child is, in fact, ready. Be prepared, because often they aren't, as was the case with my daughter who turned 2 in December.
Crane's technique focuses on potty parties in which a parent — mom, you're up — devotes an entire day to fun activities associated with going pee and poop.
Sound strange? I'd have to agree. Crane recommends creating elaborately themed parties with decorations, progress charts, books, videos and snacks. In the morning, you and your child teach a doll the ins and outs of going to the bathroom using lemonade, Tootsie Rolls and whatever else you dream up. After nap time, your child tries the real thing.
It's a little complicated, but Crane and her legion of fans swear her technique works, if not in a day, then eventually. The key is to make potty training fun, not a chore. Create magic, she said, and kids won't know what's really happening.
Crane, 42, was in Tampa recently, speaking to parents about her book, which was inspired by her son. Spencer fell behind in preschool because he refused to ditch the diapers. Back at her home in Ohio, I recently spoke with Crane about common potty-training myths and the special traits of corn.
I feel like a loser telling people my daughter isn't potty trained or even close to it. Why is there so much pressure to potty train early?
Subconsciously or not, it's kind of like earning our first mommy badge. I'm up with the other moms.
What can parents do to get their child ready for potty training?
You want to help the child make the connection about the elimination cycle, that what they eat and drink is coming out the other end. If you've ever eaten corn, you know where I'm going with this. Tell them, "Our food becomes our poop." Kids have no idea what it is. Then show them. Look! Be really excited. Be like you just found the winning lottery ticket in their diaper. You want the ah-ha.
Is there any connection between being potty trained early and being smart later in life?
No. I think it just has to do with readiness. The goal of the book isn't necessarily to do it in one day, it's about making it fun. Toilet training for most parents and children isn't fun.
How do you adapt your potty training if your child goes to day care?
I sent Spencer to school with a bag of mini M&M's, and I said, "Give him one M&M if he goes No. 1 and two M&M's if he goes No. 2." Trust me, other people don't want to change your kids' diapers. It's in their best interest to get kids potty trained.
Is it myth or fact that girls learn to use the toilet earlier than boys?
I did a lot of research and there isn't any hard, fast research that proves that yes, boys take longer. People say it all the time, but in talking to parents, many said their son was potty trained earlier than their girl.
How do you respond to people who brag about their child using the toilet at such a young age?
Ask them, what's your version of potty training? My idea of potty trained is they can almost do it on their own. Obviously mom should still be wiping or inspecting at least for years. I mean my son is 8, and I'll still inspect.
Susan Thurston can be reached at (813) 225-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Potty Train Your Child in Just One Day
Simon & Schuster, $12.95