My thoughts on potty training

I have this funny habit of mixing up punchlines, forgetting jokes, and getting quotes just plain wrong. It even applies to how I think about my children.

Lately, my thoughts have been on potty training. Actually, I think too much of my past nine years of being a mother has been spent on worrying about my children’s bowel habits. I have worried if my kids poop too much, if that poop looks right, if they are pooping enough, when should they poop on the potty, etc. My latest concern has been that my 4 year old son will never potty train. I’ve been trying not to worry too much. I’ve kept telling myself, “All children bloom in their own time.”

What surprised me the most about motherhood was that it seemed like a competitive sport right from the start. I had no idea! I had no idea that my desires to have a natural birth and breastfeed were downright offensive to a lot of people. I hadn’t even done it yet, and people told me that I wouldn’t be able to do it.

When my first child started walking, it was time for me to start worrying about potty training her- or so I thought. I heard, “I had all my children potty trained by the time they were 18 months old.” I felt like I was barely learning the ropes of just getting through a day with a toddler. Now I had to worry about getting another human to produce their waste products on command.

We tried to start potty training when she first showed interest. We had no idea what to do. Of course, everyone else knew exactly what to do, except, somehow, all their advice conflicted. But we brought out the little potty that was given to us at the baby shower. And we acted excited. And showed her how cool it was and all the cool sounds it made when you peed in it, etc etc. Super fun.

We tried filling her full of her favorite juices, set timers, used cool apps, said bye bye to the diapers and let her run around in panties. Her panties became a new, fun place to poo. So we decided to let her run around naked for awhile. That seemed to work.

One day, it dawned on me that I hadn’t had to change poopy panties in awhile or remind her to use the potty. That was the moment that I realized that I hadn’t been emptying a little potty in awhile either!

I ran to the bathroom where we kept her little potty (she had her own bathroom) and saw that her little potty was so full of….stuff….that it couldn’t contain one more drop. She had been using that nasty thing for who knows how long and I felt like the worst mother in the world.

It was easy to introduce her to the big potty and the concept of flushing after that. I just decided to get rid of that little potty altogether. It was awful.

We had setbacks during the potty training time. Sometimes she just didn’t want to cooperate. Sometimes there were tears. Sometimes I pushed too hard. Sometimes I felt bad and let it go for awhile. But eventually, she got the hang of it. I am happy to report that she is 9 years old and going strong. I don’t know exactly when she officially potty trained, but it was definitely before Kindergarten.

Child number 2 came out with a personality that said, “If you try to potty train me, you will regret it.” Seriously. If you’ve met my middle child, you know she has a mind of her own. No amount of pushing her will yield the results that you are hoping for. I flat out told my  husband, “I’m not potty training her. She’s just going to have to be one of those kids that decides they are ready and does it on their own.”

And that’s pretty much what happened. We bought her a little potty for Christmas one year because she seemed to be interested. Nope. She never used it. She decided one day that she was going to use the big potty and that was that.

There have been a few incidences with her, but it hasn’t been much of a struggle to help her understand where poops and pees ACTUALLY belong. She knows exactly where they belong. But sometimes, she acts like a cat. If you tick her off, well, you know what cats can do sometimes. Good thing it has only happened in her own dirty clothes piles….so….yeah….

Child number 3. Dear child number 3. This is the child that I’ve had to repeat, “All children bloom in their own time” about a million times. This is the child that I finally read a potty training book for. (I didn’t finish it.) By the time this child came along, I knew there were certain things that you just can’t make another human being do: eat, sleep, use the bathroom. You can set them up for success, but you can’t make it happen. You can present food to a child, but you can’t force them to swallow it. You can make the environment nice and cozy, but you can’t make them fall asleep. Sleep has to overtake them. You can plop their little behinds on a potty, but you can’t force them to produce anything. Sure, maybe you can bribe, incentivize, persuade, or punish them into complying, but that is another discussion for another day. No matter the method, at some point, the child has to make the choice to comply with what is being asked.

So I tried bribery. It worked for a little while to at least convince him to try sitting on the potty. We tried timers. We tried books. We tried letting him run around in underwear, and I even tried to convince him that peeing outside on the plants is super fun.

We only learned that neither of us was really into this whole potty training idea.

I tried to remind myself, “All children bloom in their own time.”

I began to lose hope as he approached his 4th birthday. I wasn’t sure he’d ever really learn, and I felt like a complete amature as a mom. But I was just too tired and uninterested in trying to make him do something that he just didn’t seem to be interested in doing. After all, “All children bloom in their own time.” Right? RIGHT? When is HIS time?

So finally, the most genius idea popped into my head. Shortly after his 4th birthday and right before school started, I decided that his stuffed Mario and Luigi toys “needed to go pee pee on the potty.” Boy, was my little guy into that idea. After all 5 of his little Mario stuffies AND Mommy took a turn on the potty, Andy wanted a turn on the potty. I told him to “push with his penis” and he totally peed on the potty! It was a big celebration. He was happy. I was happy. We were all so happy.

We continued with that method for about two weeks, and it worked! Now he can go without the whole parade beforehand, and we feel confident that he will be able to go to Kindergarten knowing how to use the potty.

I don’t know what the secret was. He just decided it was time and that he was ready. This journey really affirmed to me that children really do bloom in their own time.

And by the way, the saying is actually supposed to be, “Every flower blooms in its own time.”

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