■ Success through practice
■ Confidence in abilities
■ Practical strategies for change
Andy was a boy I knew who felt embarrassed to talk about his problem. You see, he didn't know anyone else who wet the bed, or not that they had told him, anyway. It felt uncomfortable to wake up in a cold, wet bed every morning. He hated having plastic liners on his bed when his sister didn't. At times she teased him. He couldn't sleep over at his friends' homes when other kids did and was embarrassed at making excuses or having his mom do it in hushed tones to the other kids' moms. He feared that if they knew they would tease him like his sister did.
His parents had told him it was time he grew out of it. Heck, it wasn't like he wanted to be doing it. They said they would put sticky stars on the calendar in his bedroom for each night he was dry . . . but he never got any. They offered him extra pocket money for dry nights but, despite his trying to do everything he could, he didn't get any extra money. He felt bad, as though it were his fault. He wanted to please them but nothing seemed to work and he didn't know what else he could do.
One day what Andy dreaded the most happened. His best friend, Ben, invited him to a sleep-over for Ben's birthday party. Andy desperately wanted to go but he couldn't help thinking about what would happen if he wet his bed with all his friends there. The thought was horrifying. He would have to say no ... but then he didn't want to upset Ben. What if Ben thought Andy wasn't going to the party because he didn't like him?
Andy was surprised—and pleased—when Ben didn't seem upset. He just said, "That's cool, how about you come around this Saturday instead and we'll have the afternoon to play by ourselves?" Andy readily accepted. He liked going to Ben's house. He'd been there before and was always fascinated. You see, Ben's father owned a circus, and so the house was always full of all sorts of exciting things. There were costumes to dress up in and pretend you were a lion tamer, trapeze artist, ringmaster, or magician. There were hats to pull rabbits out of(if only you knew how), big clowns' shoes that you couldn't wear without tripping over them in bursts of laughter, one-wheeled cycles on which you could hardly ride for three seconds before falling off, juggling batons that always seemed to want to fall on your head when you tossed them in the air, and whips that Ben's dad could crack really loud but from which Andy—and even Ben—could not raise a sound.
Often when Andy visited, Ben's dad was away working ("on the road" as Ben called it), but this Saturday he happened to be at home. "Hi, Andy," he shouted jovially, when Andy arrived. "Good to see you. I was just teaching Ben to juggle. Would you like some lessons, too?"
With that, he threw Andy two hand-sized balls filled with beans. At first Andy kept dropping them, but as he listened to Ben's dad's instructions he began to get better and better. At the end of the afternoon, Ben's dad said, "You are a fast learner, Andy. You've got the two-ball cascade perfect in just an afternoon. Take them home to practice ifyou want. Show me what you can do next time you come visiting."
Well, Andy practiced and practiced all week. He was so interested in learning to juggle that he almost forgot about his bed-wetting. He didn't have any more dry nights but he did think about it less. Whereas before, he would drift off to sleep worrying about whether he would wet the bed again, now he found himself dreaming about being in a circus like Ben's dad.
Next Saturday Andy was back at Ben's and when he showed Ben's dad what he could do, he was heaped with praise. "Fantastic!" shouted Ben's dad. His voice was always loud but jovial and hearty, like he was still in the circus arena addressing a crowd. "Hey, you certainly are one of the fastest learners I have ever taught to juggle. Just one week and you're ready for the three-ball cascade and shower."
With that, he tossed Andy another ball, showing him how to keep it in the air with the first two. At the end of the afternoon, Ben's dad said, "You're great. But as every true circus performer knows, to be the best you have to practice, practice, and practice some more. Take them home. They're yours to keep."
Andy couldn't have been more delighted if he had won a million dollars. He took the juggling balls home and practiced, and practiced, and practiced some more. At times he dropped them. At times they collided in midair. "That doesn't matter," he heard Ben's dad's voice assuring him in his head. "Learn from what you do. Each slip-up just helps make you better next time you try, ifyou are willing to persist."
Andy would pick them up again and practice once more, getting better and better by the day. Within a few weeks Ben's dad started him juggling with real circus clubs instead of beginners' balls.
Nonetheless, Andy couldn't deny a growing feeling of uneasiness. He liked Ben and his dad but was feeling pretty bad about not going to Ben's sleepover. He hadn't even offered a decent excuse. He had to do it, he thought to himself. Tough as it may be, he would have to explain to Ben.
"I am really sorry I didn't make it to your party," Andy said when he and Ben were alone.
"That's okay," answered Ben. "I know why you didn't come."
Suddenly Andy wished the earth would open up and swallow him in a great big hole. His mom must have told Ben's mom, and she must have told Ben. Who had he told? His secret would be out.
"Don't worry," said Ben, reassuring him. "I won't tell anyone. I used to wet the bed, too." This was a surprise to Andy, who had never even thought that some of his friends might have had the same problem. "It's a bit like learning to juggle," continued Ben. "You can't expect to get it right at first, but the more you practice—step by step—the more you're likely to succeed. You see, my dad told me some things to do. He wet the bed when he was a boy, too."
If Andy was surprised to learn his secret was out and then to find out that Ben had wet the bed, the news about Ben's dad floored him.
Ben kept talking. "Dad said he'd read where some professor dude at one stage had said that learning to control the bladder was so difficult that he was surprised lots more kids didn't have a problem. What you have to do, he told me, was to train your bladder in just the same ways that you train your eyes and hands to juggle. You train it by not having anything to drink for a couple of hours before you go to bed at night. You train it by making sure that you go to the toilet and work hard at emptying your bladder. You train it by going straight to the toilet if you wake up through the night or early in the morning rather than just thinking you want to have a pee and rolling over and going back to sleep.
"He also taught me a game that he used to play as a boy. He said that the game was to go for as long as possible between having pees during the day. He said that rather than just going to the toilet out of habit, he'd wait and wait almost until he could wait no longer. That way, he said, he was training his bladder to hold on. You know, ifyou can learn to juggle, you can learn to do other things, too."
Andy committed himself to training his bladder as much as he'd committed himself to learning to juggle. He practiced and practiced and practiced some more. He didn't always get it right—at least at the beginning. As Ben had said, it didn't happen straight away. Like learning to juggle, you might drop the clubs or make a mistake now and then. That's okay. By learning from the mistakes Andy began to get better and better.
One Saturday, when Andy arrived at Ben's house, Ben's dad asked, "How has your week been, Andy?"
"Perfect," answered Andy. "I didn't have a single mistake."
"Ah," said Ben's dad wisely, "the more you practice your juggling, the better you become."
Andy didn't say it out loud, but he'd been talking about more than just his juggling.
"If you keep this up," said Ben's dad, "You'll be good enough to get a job in a circus."
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