When potty-training isn't what you expectedWritten by Laura Polk
What's inside this article
Potty training my daughter was a breeze. When she turned 18-months-old, we bought a potty, starting reading books about the potty and let her pretend to use it. When she was two, we told her it was potty time.
She was excited; she was eager. Three months later, she was completely trained – never to wear a diaper again. And she never once had an accident. Honest.
I was proud of myself, bragging about my "Super Bowl victory" at strategic moments during mommy conversations. I was the envy, and secret annoyance, of my friends. Truly, I was gifted at toilet training. I offered my advice to anyone who would listen and pretended to be concerned for those less skilled than myself.
A new game plan
When my son came along a few years later, of course I was ready. At 18 months, the potty came out, and we starting reading potty books. When he refused to pretend to go potty, I simply bought a Baby Elmo that would show him how much fun it was going to be. I knew it would only be a matter of time.
As a family, we created our own potty song and dance that looked and sounded much like the cha-cha. To his annoyance, we would sing it whenever he went near the potty. Eventually, he would yell at us, "Stop the potty song!"
When he hit two, we would regularly visit the big-boy underwear aisle at the department store. Talking about big-boy underwear, looking at Daddy’s big-boy underwear and encouraging big-boy underwear envy did nothing. Zilch. Zippo.
At the two-and-a-half-year mark, we starting praising his friends who were potty-trained, hoping his competitiveness might kick in and get him motivated. It didn’t.
At three years, when his preschool announced that Pull-Ups were no longer allowed, he and I began a daily battle as I held him down and attempted to put Nemo underwear on him. Though he quickly mastered peeing in the potty because he didn’t like Nemo getting wet, he didn’t seem at all bothered by Nemo getting soiled.
We promised toys and favourite movies if he could accomplish the goal. He did so, long enough to get the reward, then went back to his old ways.
Losing to a preschooler
When he was three-and-a-half, we began to turn to methods discouraged by everyone. We made him feel guilty. We put him in time out. Nothing. Nothing. NOTHING.
I was told by my pediatrician that I had lost my opportunity. It was now up to my son. It had become about control, and he would certainly win. Clearly, he was winning.
I began to grow more annoyed by mothers of other boys who were potty trained. They didn’t even have to say anything to me. If, upon picking up my daily plastic baggie of toilet-training-failed clothing, I saw another boy’s cubby gleaming from lack of said baggie, I grew jealous. What was wrong with my son?
As four years approached, I began to wonder if my child had some kind of mental impairment that kept him from reaching this milestone. Was he afraid of the potty? Did he think there was something in there that might grab him?
Then, two weeks before his fourth birthday . . . SUCCESS! Hallelujahs abounded through the house. Two months later, he mastered the task. Not only did he master it, but he also loved to talk about it, share it with others and shout it out in public places.
As it turned out, like many things in life, my child’s success had nothing to do with me. It was not something I could rush. Nor was it something I ought to compare to the annoying early success of other boys. Payback, I know. The joy after a long road to success was a joy just the same.
Laura Polk is married with three children.
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