Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I hate potty training

You would think that after potty training four children, it would have gotten easier. Sorry to disappoint any of you who are going through it and would like to think that it will get easier. It won't. Why won't it? Because every child, no matter if they come from the same gene pool and are raised in the same household, is completely unique and different. Each comes to Earth with his or her own personality, strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and yes, potty learning time table.

One of my children was ready to go at 18 months. Smart enough, interested in the potty, excited about the grown-up-ness of it all... textbook case of readiness. Which is why I hate books about potty training. No one book could possibly cover all the personality types of all the children and prepare you for every eventuality. The only thing helpful about those books is 1) knowing the signs of readiness and 2)dealing with the inevitable setbacks and accidents. Then take everything they say and use it as a guideline, because there will never be any hard fast rules for getting it right. I know of one book in particular whose title is something along the lines of "Potty Train your Child over the Weekend". It should be burned. It does give some good suggestions, but the only way that method is going to work is if your kid was ready in the first place. If he's not, then you are wasting your time, and annoying the pig. Er, kid. Sorry, I sometimes assume everyone is familiar with the expression "Never try and teach a pig to sing. It's a waste of time and it annoys the pig." The only potty book I know to be 100% accurate is Everybody Poops.

Back to the child to whom I was referring: she was ready, according to all the lists I'd read. She was sleeping in a diaper but waking up dry. She was telling me every time her diaper was the least bit wet or dirty. She would ask to sit on the potty. She was enticed by the bribe of 'big girl underwear' (Don't tell my nieces that, they only refer to girl's undergarments as panties. Underwear is for boys.). I would wake her up every morning at the same time, and sit her on the potty. And wait. I was a corporate drone at the time, so the the mission was to get her bathed, dressed, fed and to the baby sitter's by 7:15. There was not a lot of time for waiting in this scenario. I would usually give up after about 5 minutes and put her in the bath. Where she would promptly poop. Yes, you read that right. Regardless of what happened ON the potty in the 5 minute window, I was inevitably, for about 15 days straight, cleaning poop out of the bathtub. It was so bad for awhile that I had a plastic cup nearby for just such an eventuality. The trick was keeping it hidden form her so she wouldn't think it was for drinking.

She did eventually get through that phase; and so did I, but it felt like the edge of insanity when it was happening. Which is what all kid problems feel like: the edge of insanity. Just keep a little perspective and remember all that garbage none of us want to hear when we are going through something that feels like the edge of insanity. "This too shall pass..." (I think I might step really hard on my Mother In Law's toes if she ever says that to me again). And my other favorite: "Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems." Oh ya, if you think the problems are so little why don't you deal with them! "No, I'm past that stage, I've earned the right to point and snicker and give snarky advice to people who are just starting out."

I often have these little conversations in my head in order to avoid having them out loud.

Then there was the kid that wasn't interested in potty training at all, but would ask to wear underwear just because she knew that I would get suckered in by that; and then I would have to take her to every public restroom in the entire city.

I learned to be patient with my second child. He was not interested, and not ready, but I was tired of going in to check on him at nap time and finding him sitting in a puddle... or worse. It made sense to me that if the kid didn't want to wear a diaper, I shouldn't have to buy them any more. So we struggled back and forth for weeks on end. It was a classic case of my own stubbornness and unwillingness to give up coupled with the fact that if the kid is not ready, there is no power on Earth or in Heaven that will make him ready.

I am writing this partially as an affirmation to myself : I will not try to potty train my child before he is ready. Never mind that he is smart and has enough dexterity to build a 3 foot high pyramid out of paper cups. Never mind that he is plenty old enough, and I have a baby coming in 3 months. Never mind that he loves his "Incredible Underwears" and is perfectly happy (most of the time) to put it on and pee in it. The first day I tried to make it work, he had soaked through about 4 pairs of his 5 pack of underwear I asked him if he wanted to put the last pair on and he said, "No, I will just pee in it." Is it possible for a three year old to be simultaneously lazy and hyperactive?

So the only thing that gets easier is that you learn to expect messes and accidents. And you also learn to expect your kid to deliberately pee on something at some point. And even if you open the bathroom door and find, despite all of your preparedness, that your son has covered the walls and the floor and, yes, somehow, his face in pee, you will be prepared to calmly get a towel, some hand sanitizer, bleach, carpet cleaner, and something for the floor too; all the while reassuring said child that it's ok, and we will try again. Your mothering (or fathering) instincts will take over, if you let them, and someday your kids will actually use the toilet like a grown up. Which hopefully does not mean that they will use the toilet and leave the bathroom without even glancing at the sink. But that's a blog for another time.


  1. I'm not sure that this blog is good for me to read. While hilarious, I'm not sure if I'll ever be prepared to scoop poop out of a tub with a cup. When that happens for the first time, I'll make sure to call you.

  2. Haha Adi, I look forward to getting that call >)

  3. Eww... I had to do the pooper scooper out of the bath too w/ one of my girls. That was like, the ONLY way to get them to poop at the time!

  4. Love it. We're potty training this week ... stay tuned.