Reflections on Potty Training – Some Things You’re Grateful to Forget

If only there were a potty training boot camp.

If only there were a potty training boot camp.


There are things in life that are so traumatic and stressful that you really don’t need to ever remember them again. Like the pain of child-birth, breaking up with your first love; or going to Starbucks and finding out that the espresso machine is broken.  Then there’s potty training. Potty training definitely falls into this category.  In fact, until recently I hadn’t thought about that stage in my kid’s lives in like…well, I can’t tell you when because I prefer never to think about it.  Truthfully, it is my least favorite aspect of child rearing.  I promise that I would rather handle teenagers and sex,drugs and rock and roll than potty training. For real.

While waiting to go into church on Mother’s Day,  I was standing next to 2 young moms comparing notes about the best way to potty train their little ones.  Oh, the memories that conversation conjured up for me. I was amused and laughed along with their stories. Mostly, I was grateful that I will not be partaking in that particular activity ever again.  I know what you’re thinking – you’re thinking that I will one day have grandchildren and I may need to help out in that area.  I’ve already thought of that and decided that I will tell their parents (my kids) to keep them at home until that whole potty training thing is over.  You think that sounds mean but, trust me, I know my limitations.

When my son was approaching his first birthday my mother insisted that I begin potty training because ALL of her children were potty trained by 18 – months old.  I refused, much to her irritation, and later found out that, in fact, all of her kids were not potty trained by 18 months. So either this was a figment of her imagination or  it was she who was trained to get the kid to the potty on time.  Finally I gave in and started potty training him around 18 months.  This turned out to be a colossal fail because he wanted no part of this whole process and only really enjoyed sitting on his potty to listen to me read a story. He never did his business there, but as soon as the story was over, he’d get up and streak across the house butt naked and giggle until he was breathless.  I have no idea when or how he was actually potty trained.  All I can say is thank goodness for his day care, because who knows how long that could have gone on.

Are girls easier to train than boys, they wondered?  I know the answer to that – no, not really.  Both of my girls turned it into a mind game and for a minute, I really thought they had a good chance at winning. Thing 1 wanted the pretty, big girl underwear, but she just didn’t want to commit to actually peeing on the potty.  We bought her a cute little miniature (pink) potty to sit next to the big one in our bathroom. She would saunter in and look at it with, at best, mild interest and at worst, disdain.  I had a new baby to look after (Thing 2); I was tired and didn’t have much fight in me. Thing 1 would want to put on her pretty underwear and promise me that she wouldn’t pee her pants.  Lies.  Finally I couldn’t take it anymore.  I said to her that she wasn’t even trying and I wasn’t going to allow her to put the big girl undies on anymore if she insisted on doing her business in her pants.  She turned to me with a look of pity and said. “Come on, Lisa. Be happy don’t be mean.”  No. Joke. My 2 and a half-year old called me Lisa.  What she didn’t realize was that she had just thrown down the gauntlet.  It was about to go down!  First of all I told her that I was Mommy, not Lisa.  Then, I took her pants away and told her that she would be without bottoms until she figured out how to use the bathroom.  She was confused and a little frustrated, but two days later, she was potty trained.  Mommy for the win!

After that, I thought I had it all figured out. I didn’t. Thing 2 should have been a breeze. She wasn’t.  Well, actually, initially she was.  She potty trained very quickly, but then out of nowhere she decided that she preferred the diaper.  Total regression except, as soon as she peed or pooped in her diaper, she would remove it and bring a new one for me to put on her.  That was a little much for me to handle.  Seriously, if she could do all of that she might as well have changed her own diaper.   I tried getting her the pretty,  big girl underwear, but she didn’t care. Then I took away her pants and left her bottom naked, but she just screamed then went upstairs to her room, got her own pull-up and pants and put them on.  I gave in and let her do her own thing.  I just didn’t have the strength or patience to fight any longer.  I bought pull-ups big enough to fit her (I honestly didn’t know that they made them in that size) and just followed her lead.  Then one day, I stopped off to pick up a new box of pull-ups and I just couldn’t do it.  They’re expensive, take up too much room in the closet and messy; and I was just done! DONE! This girl could carry on a better conversation than most grown people I knew.  Therefore, I could see no real reason for us to be in this situation.  I wheeled her out of the store, back to the car and strapped her into the seat.  Then I looked into those beautiful brown eyes and said “Sweetie, I’m not buying anymore pull-ups.  You have to wear big girl underwear and use the big potty from now on.  Okay?”

“Okay, Mommy.”

And that was that.  From that moment on she used the potty, which let me know that the past few months were really just a test to see how far she could push me. Thing 2 for the win!

Now, looking back, this all sounds like good times, but then not so much.  I really don’t know how anyone ever survives those potty training days.  One of the women talking saw me laughing and asked if I have children and if I had been through this already.  I replied that indeed I have and all of my kids are well past that stage. Then she asked if I had any tips on what works.  I thought about it carefully, replaying my adventures in my head.  Finally, I replied “I got nothing.”



3 responses »

  1. Its funny the things that get us as parents. I didn’t have a hard time with the whole potty training (and yes, my first born son went a whole lot faster than my second one daughter). But then again, I waited a lot longer than you. My undoing was throw up. That undid me, and still does. I can’t deal with it. I gag from the smell, site and even sound. I guess we all have our own kryptonite!

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