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Adventures in Potty Training

Ahhh potty training. Something every new parent looks forward to. Wait what? No? Ok, you got me. If there is anyone that actually looks forward to potty training, I probably don’t want to be their friend. But the world is such a dumpster fire right now that I decided I might as well add one more stressor to this completely wack-a-doo period of life. At the very least figured it might bring some welcome variety to the Groundhog’s Day scenario we are currently living in.

I had first started thinking about potty training a few months ago…mostly with dread. But I had a couple of friends who had recently done it and raved about a diaper-free existence, which piqued my interest. I wasn’t quite ready to dive in, but as a baby step I bought a book called A Potty for Me! and a standard issue potty chair and introduced them to my son.

Then things got a little weird. My son was undeniably PUMPED about the potty. He requested that we read the potty book no less that ten times a day (nine times too many) for a span of two weeks. He practiced sitting on his potty on a regular basis. And he ran around shrieking “POTTY! ME!” and “POO POTTY!” In both cases he pronounced “potty” like “pie,” thus making the whole thing even funnier. Much to the surprise of my husband and I, he went on to drop a few deuces in the potty with little encouragement beyond simply taking off his diaper. Did this mean it time to train? Or was I already doing it but in a decidedly uninformed way?

Seeking to play catch up and get some expert input, I ordered up a copy of the potty training manual that everyone seems to be using these days. I read the first several chapters and was slightly intimidated. It sounded nerve-wracking and I wasn’t quite ready to give up an entire three days of my life watching my kid like a hawk while he hosed down the kitchen. I chatted up my mom friends and some cautioned that my 22-month-old son was probably too young for it.

My hemming and hawing went on for a few weeks before I decided to quit being a weenie. Was my life really so busy during FREAKING COVID that I couldn’t make time to do this? And was he really too young if the potty was one of his top five interests for several consecutive weeks? That is serious longevity for a toddler! I eventually came to the conclusion that there was never going to be a convenient time to potty train, and given that I would need to do it at some point I may as well bite the bullet, try to capitalize on his enthusiasm, and save our landfills from another 6-12 months of diapers.

Day 1 of potty training was decidedly not good. My stoic son held it all morning and despite announcing “POO PIE!” on a regular basis, he mostly refused to sit on the potty chair for more than two seconds. After several hours he started dribbling everywhere. He still ran around saying “POO PIE!” but there was seemingly a negative correlation between that and when he dribbled. It was enough to make my head explode.

We hit a real low point after his nap when he really started leaking all over and I just wanted to throw in the towel and open up the wine. I was already contemplating not continuing with the training the next day. Thankfully my mom suggested we download a classic Winnie the Pooh video for him to watch while he sat on the p-p-p-p-pot. My son has had very little screen time in his life and despite that, I was 100% not opposed to opening up Pandora’s Box in this particular moment. It turned out to be pure gold. We got some small tinkles in the potty before dinner and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Day 2 went much better as he started to get the hang of things a bit. Much to our chagrin however, he was still very much the Boy Who Cried Poo, which left us scrambling for all sorts of false alarms. He also had clearly figured out that he could use a “POO PIE!” proclamation to get out of his highchair during a meal. Well played, conniving toddler. And there was still dribbling when he got tired, lost focus, or perhaps flat out just refused to humor us anymore.

The next several days can only be described as two steps forward, one step back. There would be a few successful pees followed by an accident with no warning. I just tried to focus on our batting average – I chalked up any day over .500 as a win. We also developed a better sense for when he was faking versus when he actually had to go, and we started experimenting with various forms of prompting.

And then…magical Day 8. No accidents. Perfect execution every time. Same with Day 9. And Day 10. And suffice to say I now feel like a potty training goddess, which likely means our success is sure to blow up in my face at any moment.

But while I still have street cred, here are my major potty training takeaways for the other toddler parents out there:

Don’t submit to peer pressure on timing. The Oh Crap! book says that 20-30 months is the ideal time, and the earlier the better. I truly felt that my son was ready, but I realize not everyone’s child will have the same level of interest. I would just say that once YOU are in the right headspace to take the leap, just do it regardless of what anyone says. The book is not the Bible. I found that it provided some helpful tips and insights, but potty training is not a one-size-fits-all exercise and many things did not apply. For example, the book said that under no circumstances was I to put the potty out before committing to training, it made no mention of a kid who had already pooped in the potty on his own volition, and it also said that most kids would not tell you when they had to go. Needless to say, I just had to take the high-level guidance and improvise based on my particular situation.

Embrace the shame. You want to leave the house at some point, right? My dad suggested that my son could just pee on the street when they were out and about. (No). My husband asked if he could use a diaper for their walk. (No again). If you’re going to go somewhere, just take the potty chair. Yes, it’s embarrassing -- we took it to a freaking private aircraft hanger at the airport on Day 5 -- but I wanted my son to understand that there was no other option besides the potty, regardless of where we happened to be. (Besides that, he's been cruising around in a hand-me-down pink BoB since we fled San Francisco in March, so he's already embarassed as it is).

Don’t half-ass it. An extension of the previous point. Personally, I’m hoping to potty train for one month rather than for twelve (we’ll see how it pans out). I’m thankful we didn’t give up after Day 1 as I had briefly considered, and I think that setting clear expectations and allowing little flexibility helped my son progress much faster than he otherwise would have.

Directives have served us well. Sometimes my son says he has to go and he actually does. Awesome! But my husband and I really hit our stride when we started explicitly saying it was potty time before we left the house or before a meal. Not a demand per se, as pressuring seems to backfire with potty training, but just a factual statement that it is time to go. More often than not, he complies and then we don’t have to worry about it later on.

The last ten days have been a trip and I have no idea what the next ten are going to bring, but I feel that we’ve built a solid foundation. May the adventures in potty training continue -- and preferably not land on the floor.


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