radical potty unschooling

unschooling at its core is the recognition that learning happens through living- all the time, everywhere.

i’ve heard unschooling explained by some who describe the way a child learns to walk, and how a child doesn’t ever really need a lesson in walking- it just happens. a child can’t help but learn to walk, given a body that is physically intact. the desire is certainly intact. it’s a train you would be hard put to stop, if you tried! i don’t think the learning-to-walk example is the best explanatory analogy for unschooling, most importantly because many mainstream parents actually do put effort into teaching their kids to walk, and therefore they may not be aware that this is a natural skill that kids don’t need to be taught. i do, however, value what happened for us as quinn learned to walk, because it taught me so much and was a lesson i have been able to apply elsewhere in our unschooling journey. quinn has a particular way of acquiring many of his life skills that is so inherent to his personality and nature. the way he learned to walk exemplifies it, and i’ve seen him repeat the pattern numerous times now. when he decided, at 15.5 months (late! by conventional standards), that he was ready to walk, he got up one day and took- not one- but ten steps. then got up again and took seventeen more. without falling! he is a guy who observes, observes, observes…. waits…. observes some more… and then when he is sure, he goes for it.

as i’ve been learning right along with him (i don’t ever pretend to be the learned one teaching him, just his partner in learning together!) i’ve been thankful to be able to see this part of his learning personality, since it makes it so easy to have a deep faith in his inherent ability to pick things up without me needing to contrive anything. sure, i’ve had the usual helping of doubts and concerns (like “omg! maybe i wore him too much in the sling and deformed him so he can’t walk!” and the like) but i’m pretty mindful to ignore most of that and just enjoy the ride.

with the potty topic, i have had another considerable helping of worries, but again, i’ve been confident all along that this is another skill that every child cannot help but pick up. kids (and all of us) have innate sociality. (thank you jean liedloff! rest in peace…) they want to do what their fellow humans are doing! it can be really hard to maintain the “trusting in it” attitude, when everyone else’s kids seem to be potty trained long before your own, and yet, i’ve watched friends one by one, complain of “regressing” potty learners, and wondered if maybe children get rushed into this stuff.

another facet of this particular topic for us, is that during quinn’s short 4 months in daycare, i learned that the childrens’ bodily functions were treated as “yucky,” a term quinn had never even heard before he went there, and that their diaper changes happened with latex gloved hands. i truly believe this harmed my child. sensitive guy that he is, i believe he internalized a message about his poop and pee that they were somehow not okay, and i have been doing my damnedest ever since to convince him they are in fact good and right and it’s great to poop and awesome to pee! we have talked about it a lot, and struggled through many resistant diaper changes (which i came to think of as outward manifestations of his inner struggle about bodily functions) and for the past several months he has had a pretty positive attitude about peeing and pooping in his diaper, and has been really helpful with getting them changed (whereas a few months before we were having a really hard time!) and the dialogue towards learning to pee and poop in the potty has been ongoing.

still, it was hard not to rush it- seeing his readiness to talk about it, though, was just an early sign. he needed more time to try on the idea. i did what felt right to me: nothing. i waited. i trusted.

and about two weeks ago, he decided to stop wearing diapers, and using the potty consistently.

100% consistently.

he’s not trained, he’s radical.

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