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Picking Your Daycare Battles

Picking Your Daycare Battles

By Amalah

Hi Amalah,

I’ve been reading your column for a long time and appreciate your advice!  I currently have a daycare problem that maybe (?) can’t be solved, but I was hoping you could give me some perspective….My daughter is 14 months.  She currently attends full time daycare, but we usually pick her up early so she is not there a full 8 hours (usually 6 depending on the day’s schedule).  Anyway, we have had some problems with the daycare setting being really rigid, which I guess is true of all daycares.  We picked a place that is very close to our jobs and she really seems to like it. They have encouraged my daughter to paint and draw and offer lots of sensory experiences, which is great!  However, she has a food allergy that I feel like I really had to fight them on to get them to listen. Partly, I feel that like was due to some terrible communication on their part, which has been kind of an ongoing issue we are trying to deal with and I think the director is aware of.  Now we just bring all her food for her, because it was too much trouble for them (which I am actually very happy with). 
But, we’ve hit another road block.  My daughter has been “telling” us when she has to poop, so we have started the process of having her use the potty at home. We got her a potty chair and some books about using the potty.  It’s not a consistent thing by any means, mostly we try about 20 minutes after each meal at home and anytime she tells us she has to go. She is actually getting pretty good about letting us know (mostly poop though, not really pee) and making it to the potty a few times a day.  I know this is VERY early, so we are being very encouraging, but not removing the diapers or trying underwear or really “training”.  However, I am pregnant again and due before she turns two, so when she hits 18 months, I  think we’ll be making more of an effort.  But, at this point she is really leading the charge.
Anyway, the daycare thing.  I talked to her teachers and they are telling me that she can’t potty train in their room because there is no toilet attached to the room.  It is a mixed infant room and there are some small infants in the room as well as older kids.  But she is one of the oldest kids in the room and there is one older child as well.  Because of their “rule”, my daughter and the other older child won’t be given the opportunity to use the potty at school until they move rooms after the older one is 2, and mine would be almost 2.  I feel like anything we do at home will be undone at school if she is forced to be in a diaper all day.  
That said, we mostly like her school.  She really bonded with one of her teachers and we like that they do a lot of educational activities.  She seems happy when we drop her off in the morning to play with her pals and seems happy when we come to get her.  I really don’t want to move her out of her school since so many things in her life are about to change soon!
Any advice for dealing with the daycare tyranny without being “that Mom”?

So I’m actually gonna break this question down into two separate problems. First, there’s the overarching issue (that many of us have dealt with, fist bumps to da club) of having an unaccommodating preschool or daycare. Second, there’s the early potty-training issue.

I’m going to actually deal with the second issue first, since it’s the one I’m thinking I’m going to come across as a little mean about. So blah blah every kid is different and some kids do train very early and girls are easier and ALL THAT JAZZ.

Potty Training

But all of my children actually went through an early false-alarm potty phase, particularly for going number two. They would act very interested and open to the potty. They would give me a warning — sometimes actual pointing or words, sometimes just that telltale expression on their face — and would happily trot off to the potty with me to go through the motions of sitting/wiping/flushing. And yes, a lot of times there would be actual, bona fide deposits made (especially since the timing was fairly predictable) and cause for celebration.

And every time, I was like, “Yep, this kid is gonna be out of diapers by two years old without me having to do a thing. POTTY PHENOM IN THE HOUSE!”

And every freaking time, this early success would vanish and any attempts to “get serious” about it became laughable, messy failures. Bladder control remained non-existent. My kid shrieked NO POTTY at me, and then ran off to hide behind the couch to poop in peace. I could never explain it, since I thought we were doing everything “right” — not pushing, just encouraging, making the potty a regular thing with nothing but positive experiences — and yet…I don’t know. They suddenly realized the scope of what they were possibly agreeing to, or had an unfortunate bout of constipation, or just entered a naturally contrary phase of toddlerhood. None of them ever “really” trained before 2.5 or 3 years old, and the early stretch of potty interest turned out to be more of weird, unrelated fluke.

Anyway, this might not happen to your daughter! Don’t let me rain on your parade with my stubborn kids! Anecdotal data for the loss! I have heard time and time and again that girls ARE just easier and more likely to just figure it out and train themselves. I’m sure the comments section is going to fill up with parents of trained-before-two toddlers. But I just want to caution you not to count all your poops before they’ve flushed, I guess, and to assume that your daughter will be ready to fully train at 1.5, to the point where you’re preemptively stressing out about her daycare arrangements. This could still go a lot of different ways. She might be super aware that a poopy diaper is uncomfortable and naturally later extend that to being wet. Or she might lose interest completely or regress (particularly after a new baby is born). Or she might poop-train early but still wet herself for a year after that simply because her bladder is a completely different system that matures at its own pace. (It’s very common for kids to train for one thing but lag on the other.)

The point is: There are a million different scenarios that might come to be. You just don’t know yet. Keep doing what you’re doing and all, but at 14 months, I’d say it’s a little early to start fighting the daycare room/age system over it.

I’m guessing that’s why your daycare gave you a kind of dismissive answer when you talked to them about it. They’ve seen a bajillion toddlers and have probably seen toddlers who were JUST LIKE MINE, who went through the false alarm pre-potty training phase and thus think they “know” that your daughter will likely train in the 2-year-old room like everybody else. They could be right, they could be wrong. I remember smugly telling Ike’s preschool teacher (who is known as the Potty Training Whisperer) last year — when he was 22 months old — about his fascination with the potty and how much he liked to go through the motions at home. She smiled and told me that was nice and a very encouraging sign, but no, Ike was not ready for potty training. I spent a long weekend trying to “get serious” and prove that he was ready. She was right. Alas.

Now, your daycare could be wrong! And that’s when it’s time to put a lot of thought into this, if they continue to refuse to accommodate your daughter and move her up to the next room a little early. (Ike’s in a 2-year-old program but they will take kids at 21/22 months.) If they insist on making you send a potty-trained child to school in diapers, that’s a problem. Feel free to continue with your plans. Use a long weekend or break to see if she gets it, and then send her into daycare wearing underwear all, “Sorry. This happened. Figure it out.” Asking for an accommodation/compromise that you ACTUALLY NEED doesn’t make you “That Mom,” at all, ever.

Telling you now (when your daughter isn’t trained) that their facility and program aren’t designed for in-center potty training before age two isn’t really that unusual, especially for structured center-type care. (If there is no toilet in the baby room, a teacher cannot leave the room with your daughter because that would violate the ratio laws, and bringing in a free-standing toilet seat might be a concern from a sanitation/cleanliness perspective.) A mixed-age or in-home program would be more flexible, I’d imagine. Yet another of the endless pros and cons we all have to sort through when choosing care — you might not love the idea of your infant being in the same room as older toddlers, for example, but then once your child is older you might find some benefits to a less school-like arrangement that didn’t occur to you before.

So yeah, I don’t have anything really earth-breaking to tell you here. For now, I would not personally fight this battle or make a big stink about it. I would not also change my personal potty training plans because of it, however. I would just kinda…cross that bridge when you actually come to it, rather than worrying about it four or five or six months ahead of time, because ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN in the crapshoot timeline of potty training.

Unaccommodating Daycare Center

If your daughter fully trains early and is really ready to stop wearing daytime diapers before she is two, I think it’s reasonable to ask that she graduate to the next room that can accommodate her needs. If the center won’t do that and is unwilling to come to another compromise other than “send her wearing diapers because we’re not going to deal with it”, then yeah. I’d probably tell them I needed to find another arrangement. They’d be dumb to let it come to that (hello! second baby/tuition on the way!) but I guess if they refuse to take FOOD ALLERGIES seriously, I wouldn’t put it past them. (Seriously, what year is this? Food allergies are a thing. Deal with it!) Changing daycares is not ideal, obviously, but kids that young are remarkably resilient and adapt way faster than we give them credit for, I think.

And look: If you’re still unhappy with your daycare because of the allergy thing, or because of other communication problems or whatever, and it’s possible you’re now subconsciously LOOKING for battles to fight and EVERYTHING is becoming an example of them not taking you seriously…it’s okay to admit that your daughter likes the center but YOU DON’T, and that you’d maybe like to look around at some other options. Trust your gut.

That said, I know you’re trapped with your pregnancy brain working through every worst-case scenario right now, because that is how pregnancy brain works: Changing daycares right when the baby is born! Daycare waitlists! So much change and stress all at once! Potty training being ruined forever! But again, you’re worrying about things that haven’t happened yet, might not happen at all, and are all things that WILL work out, one way or another. Your daughter will train spectacularly early and your center will actually accommodate her once there’s actually something to accommodate, rather than dealing with a hypothetical. Or your daughter will train spectacularly early and transition to a new center or less-structured program — maybe after some downtime at home during your maternity leave to slow the flow of changes. Or your daughter will lose interest in the potty or not really progress beyond what she’s doing now, and be just fine wearing diapers until she’s moved to the toddler room.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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