...that IS the question!
For those interested in the potty training progress, here is an update (Warning: more talk of bodily functions, elimination, and the like is about to follow).
Zoe did very well for a couple days, producing a "pee pee" or a "poo poo" practically every time she was offered the chance to sit on her mini "throne." She loved the sticker incentive, and each time she earned one she couldn't wait to go find Daddy and show him her new award for good "achievment." Then, for whatever reason, she began to lose interest, refusing to use the potty or saying "no" to my suggestion of using it only to grunt out a "poo poo" or wet her diaper minutes later. Just as I was at the decision to wait awhile longer before continuing the training process, Zoe marched up to me, grinned widely, and innocently said "Pee pee!?" as if both announcing and asking the question at the same time. Of course, I was excited, as this was the first time she actually let me know ahead of time that she needed to go. I immediately dropped everything I was involved in (preparing dinner), snatched her up, and raced up the stairs to her potty chair, tearing off her clothing as we went. Upon sitting her on the throne, she quickly relieved her little bladder, and I thought she must be ready for this after all.
Then another regression into non-interest. I would sit her on the chair where she would perch and grin at me for a couple minutes. Then she would shake her head and say "No" and get up and wander about, naked buns and all. I would diaper her back up only to have her fill her pants a couple minutes later. So I again decided she just isn't ready for this step yet. Later, she would excitedly say "Chair! Chair!" (which is one way she has begun to let me know she needs to use her potty chair) and I would race her there only to find it was too late. Even still, I thought her ability to make this connection suggested she could be ready.
Currently, however, I have decided she is just not quite ready. We've had an entire day or two of not wanting to use the potty, with one episode in which I suggested she could earn a sticker if she pottied in her chair--at which she appeared to intentionally produce a stream into her chair as if no big deal and well worth the impending sticker. (...well...perhaps ready after all?)
Nevertheless, the majority of the time the past couple of days she sits on the chair long enough to insist that I remove every stitch of clothing from her waist down, including her socks. Try to reason with an 18 month old that it is not necessary for one to remove one's socks in order to take a whiz. Though I actually have managed to distract her enough to avoid having to remove her socks every time, she definitely does not like having her little ankles encumbered by wadded up clothing. So, for the sake of not losing the true focus of producing a tinkle, off the britches come. I think lately she wants to use the potty only because she has learned that if she bolts fast enough after getting re-diapered she can run around without pants for awhile, which she seems to greatly enjoy. Recently she has taken to running around in her diaper and pulling all the clothes out of her dresser drawers while dancing around with them, doing a funny little wiggle two-step sort of dance, while the clothing she is grasping brushes against her naked legs. I guess she likes how that feels. She has even requested that I remove her pants when not in the midst of a potty chair episode so she can enjoy engaging in this semi-naked sort of jig.
I could push her more towards becoming potty trained...try using training pants, those "wet sensation" pull ups, or some other such thing, but what's the big hurry? She's only 18 months old. I really didn't intend for it to happen this soon anyway. I just thought I would put her on the chair and see what happened, and well, it didn't take much for her to figure out the mechanisms of the whole deal. It was reminiscent of the first time I put her to bed in her crib instead of her bassinet while secretly hoping she wouldn't allow it. I confess, I want to keep her tied tightly to my apron strings, yet I never want to hold her back from any adventure she is ready for. I want to let her take the lead in letting me know what she is ready for next, yet I also want to gently push her to reach her full potential. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know we're only talking about potty training here, and she IS only 18 months old, but this must be some of that "bittersweet" feeling that parents rxperience as they watch their kids grow up too fast. I've a feeling that potty training is only the start and there will be much more of this as the years fly by.