Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Confessions of Potty Training

Motherhood is wonderful, but it isn’t all fun and games. I deluded myself for the first two years of motherhood into believing I was in control. These thoughts were soon dashed when I delved into the world of potty training, which has been bringing parents to their knees since the beginning of time.

She had such a promising start, showing interest in the potty very early.
I confess:  my potty training challenges were 90 percent mental. I’d entered in thinking that she would master the task with the same genius that she’d mastered everything else to that point.  She walked at 9 months, she was speaking in full sentences by 13 months, she not only knew the alphabet song, but she could identify letters phonetically and visually by the time she was 19 months, heck she even climbed out of her crib, onto her dresser which required her to clear about 18 inches of space at 15 months. With that kind of ambition and dexterity, how could I NOT have high hopes for her potty training? She would master the potty in record time and those people from the secret baby Olympics would once again hand me a medal and say “well done, your child is extremely ahead of the curve.”

Watching me go through several unpleasant months of morning sickness was confusing , and this is how she reacted when I gifted her with her own personal throne.
I confess that I expected too much out of a person who was still trying to get a grasp on personhood. Did my genius child get it right away? Yes and no. We followed the potty training bible faithfully in hopes that in three days she’d be a pro. Those were the darkest three days of my parenthood to that point. Have you ever spent three days glued to another human in anticipation for their bodily need? No phone, no internet, no venturing into the outside world? I don’t know how I even managed to care for my other child, who was a month old at the time. After three days of frustration, exhaustion, and fading hope (on both sides), she mastered potty training just as the manual said she would! Huzzah! Wait, nope…I’m forgetting something. Oh yes, after three days FOUR MONTHS OF TORTURE FOLLOWED.

I confess I broke the cardinal rule of the potty training bible. The potty training bible dictates that you must never become frustrated, no matter how long it takes, no matter how many accidents you clean up, even if they are five minutes apart and you’ve just pontificated the virtues of the toilet for the millionth time.  Don’t ever show frustration, AKA don’t show them any sign of weakness. I cracked.
At least she had good literary taste? 
At the first sign of weakness, I’d given her leverage. Suddenly, the two year old was in charge. She realized that she held the trump card. Every time I had the audacity to suggest a nap, or put her in time out, or scold her in any way about anything she would immediately have an accident. “Don’t hit your friends.” Accident. “It’s time to leave the park.” Accident. “You can’t watch TV today.” Accident. If you think I’m kidding, you should have seen the smug look on her face pre “accident.” We should have started calling them purposes. Clearly, anyone who uses their bladder for emotional warfare is in need of a communication outlet. 

I confess that potty training took over my life, seizing the corners of my brain and disrupting every process of thought. This might seem dramatic, but it’s totally true. I’d be watching a movie and think to myself “Julia Roberts totally learned how to use the potty. My kid can too.”  As irrational as it sounds, those thoughts comforted me. Every single person I came into contact with I was silently admiring their parent for successfully training them to use a bathroom.  This was also evidenced by the fact that when I’d look at my darling newborn baby I’d silently resent her future toddling self for needing me to teach her how to use the potty.  

I confess that after four months, I gave up. One day while cleaning her up and trying to control my anger/frustration a voice came into my head that said “Put her in a diaper. It’s not worth it.” I’d had friends, parents, people I’d met on the street and their dogs tell me this relentlessly for months, but this voice in my head made me stop. It came again “Your relationship is not worth it.” So I put the diaper on, sobbing. She cried too (of course she did, I’d taken the trump card away).  It was a turning point for me.

I confess that every time people would say “It’s easier to train girls than boys,” I had to resist the urge to assault them. Because you know what, every kid has their struggles, no matter age, gender, and disposition.  Every parent has their struggle as well.

I confess that in spite of all my efforts, doubts, hair pulling, and sob sessions, she finally got it. A few months after taking a break, I told my daughter she would be going back to panties. She was very excited, and I think she was just ready to embrace the responsibility. We put her in panties, and never struggled again. Sure she’d have the occasional accident, but it was very rare and not frustrating in the least.

I confess that in spite of my potty training horror story (start to finish—it took nine months, people) I have high hopes for daughter number two (no pun intended). Like I said, every child is different. It may be better, it may be worse…the one thing I’ve learned is that every person is different, and even though you think you may be in control you can never force a person to sleep, eat, or go potty, so going into this knowing that SHE’S in control and most of it will be up to her helps me to relax a lot more. 


Meg said...

This is simultaneously terrifying and comforting to me. I have no idea how potty training is going to go, but knowing that no matter how awful it is, you still somehow come out on the other side of it with a kid who is more independent gives me hope.

Brandee Evarts said...

Great post! Potty training is not for the faint of heart!

jimmy jam said...

Those were the darkest three days of my parenthood to that point. Have you ever spent three days glued to another human in anticipation for their bodily need? No phone, no internet, no venturing into the outside world? start potty training carol cline revie