Stories

Learning Potty Training Patience

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We learned long ago not to rip our hair out about potty training. Obviously it’s a major goal and a huge milestone for every child (and parent) but Charlie taught us years ago that if your kid isn’t developmentaly prepared to be potty trainined you’ll spend countless days and nights stressing… and cleaning… and crying… for nothing. By the time our oldest child was 4-years-old, we had invested a small fortune in potty chairs, toilet accessories, plastic sheets and pull-ups… to no avail. The pediatrician laughed at our plees for help and simply said “He’s just not ready yet. Be patient.”

At the time, we had seriously considered finding a new pediatrician. But after extensive research and a few convincing conversations on parenting message boards, Ryan and I collectively decided to first test the “just be patient” suggestion. We set a goal of six months before we would resume our previous methods and re-embrace the potty break timers, extra laundry, carpet scrubbing and inward swearing.

Those six months felt like a vacation. No more getting up to change sheets and PJ’s in the middle of the night (sometimes twice a night). No more being a slave to the “potty break timer” that tore us away from whatever we were trying to accomplish every couple minutes (not to mention forcing us to drag Charlie away from whatever he was playing with at the moment, kicking and screaming sometimes). The amount of laundry I had to wash and hang dry on a daily basis was cut in half. And do you know how much cheaper regular diapers are? Pull-ups are expensive!

So yeah, being a negligent parent felt great! Okay, so maybe we weren’t “negligent” but we sure got a lot of dirty looks, rude comments and unhelpful advice. “Isn’t he a little big to be wearing diapers?” “So you guys just GAVE UP?!” “Maybe you should try setting a Potty Break timer.” To which we always responded that we were following our pediatrician’s advice. “…Then maybe you should get a new pediatrician.”
:::Sigh:::

But when push came to shove, we were happier as a family without the added stress and pressure. We suddenly had the freedom to focus on helping our child embrace his natural developments instead of trying to force him into one prematurely for our convenience. We had a little extra spending money thanks to the reduced laundry, reduced cleaner purchases and cheaper diapers. We had more free time since we weren’t being haunted by the Potty Break Timer and constantly cleaning up after accidents. We had more rest since we got to sleep through the night. We were better parents.

And just four months into our six month experiment Charlie woke up one morning and said “Me go potty!” He ran to the bathroom and sure enough, used the toilet. After that, he never wore a diaper again (other than at night) and never had an accident. He was ready.

Fast forward two years. Charlie is now six and his little brother JD is a week away from turning four. This time we chose not to potty train by force. Instead, we made an effort to expose him to the concept of using the potty by frequently reading books and occasionally watching children’s TV shows that tackled the subject. We praised any and all interest he showed in the potty. We kept the bathroom prepped with a potty chair, a stepping stool and a potty seat so everything was accessible… but we never enforced their use. Still, something must’ve clicked.

Last Wednesday we returned home from a family function out of town, had just barely walked in the door and JD announced “Me poop!” I thought he meant he needed a diaper change but instead he walked into the bedroom, came out with a book, then walked directly into the bathroom with it. A few minutes later, he announced again “ME POOP!” Sure enough he had pooped and peed in the potty chair! We made a big hurrah about his accomplishment then Ryan and I ran to the kitchen to find him a celebratory treat (we settled on ice cream for dessert that night, with JD getting a sundae). When we returned to the bathroom, we were greeted by another surprise.

The potty chair was empty and spotlessly clean.

Charlie very proudly announced that he had wanted to help, so he cleaned the potty chair for us. Maybe he was feeling left out and wanted some praise of his own but his helpful gesture left a lot of unanswered questions.

ME: “Thank you Charlie, buuuuuuut… Where’d the pee and poop go?”

CHARLIE: “I dumped it in the toilet!”

ME: “Okaaaaaaaay… but what did you use to wipe it out?”

CHARLIE (beaming with pride): “I put it in the bathroom sink and filled it with water, then dumped it down the shower drain then filled it with water then wiped it out and dried it with some of the towels… all by myself!”

I felt like I was living in one of those Clorox Disinfectant Wipes commercials. The ones about all the things that happen on your surfaces and germs being one of them… Ugh.

So yeah, JD is officially potty-training now. I’ll try to ignore the fact that he messed himself the very next morning. Instead, I’ll try my best to encourage his sporadic and seemingly random potty use and pray that the occurrence becomes more common. Every child has their own unique pattern of development after all. So I don’t expect this to go without a hitch just because Charlie jumped into toilet use headfirst (figuratively speaking). My fingers are crossed though.

In the mean time, if anyone needs me I’ll be disinfecting the potty chair… and the bathroom sink… and the shower… and the entire bathroom… and washing all of the towels… after I scrub Charlie down. ::::sigh::::

UPDATE:

Soooo… a lot has changed on the potty training front in recent weeks. Firstly, JD quickly lost the spark of interest I had mentioned in this post previously and returned to full-fledged diaper use. We were understandably dissapointed but tried to remind ourselves that he just wasn’t ready yet. Charlie didn’t have his “potty training epiphany” until he was 4-1/2 after all. But then one morning it happened… just two weeks shy of JD turning 4-1/2!… He woke up and (without bribing, enticing, timing or negotiating) took his diaper off all by himself and used the toilet. He never wore another diaper after that! So He’s officially a “big boy” now! We’re extremely proud of him and after a week of successful toilet use we took him out for dinner to celebrate…something we usually only reserve for birthdays. To say he was glowing is an understatement.

Evie, meanwhile, must be a little jealous of JD’s newly earned extra attention because she suddenly showed a little spark of interest in the potty too:

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At only 2-years-old, our expectations for her continued toilet use are reasonably doubtful… but here’s hoping! Obviously we’ll do our best to encourage her. Fingers crossed!

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