I had a lot of misconceptions about motherhood. I thought I would never hand a smart phone to a 2-year-old and tell him to get lost. I never expected that the soundtrack of my home life would be an intermittent chorus of screams on par with what I imagine would rival the collapse of a crowded building or maybe the Zombie Apocalypse.
I ignorantly believed our children would eat whatever they were served; and I never once imagined one day I would find myself preparing my four-year-old his 12th peanut butter-cheese stick roll-up of the week.
As the realities of parenthood quickly set in, I realized that guiding a very small human to appreciate the joys of bowel and bladder control would likely be nothing short of a total nightmare. Having already been tasked with the unpleasant burden of welcoming two younger siblings into his home, our oldest was well past his 3rd birthday before we sat down and studied him carefully for any small signs of 'readiness' to use the toilet.
There were none.
He happily traipsed about in poopy diapers and gave us the stink eye whenever we suggested a visit with the potty. He was unimpressed with the concept of underpants and was totally unfazed by bribery of all sorts.
So months passed with half-hearted attempts, cycling through various 'foolproof' strategies. Soon enough, our oldest's 4th birthday looming ever closer on the horizon, little brother hopped in on the action and we doubled down; me inspired, having sat patiently though a lecture on the topic, furiously scribbling notes, collecting literature, and asking questions.
This renewed effort coincided brilliantly with our decision to embark on a major home renovation.
Step one: demolish the bathroom.
From there, things were at best 'inconsistent' and at worst, quite accurately described as a 'shit show'; Suffice to say, the months following this brave/incredibly foolish move were a blurry, tiresome parade of victories and failures and endless laundry.
Having now spent the better part of two years in some phase of 'potty training,' I am 100% certain of exactly nothing on the topic. And so, in the spirit of having learned essentially nothing from my experiences, I will now share my advice to those of you who may someday be embarking on this wet and smelly journey, to those of you who have already killed it and don't know what all the fuss is about, and to those readers who would sooner toilet train a baboon than attempt to potty train a toddler.
Grab a pen people, this is invaluable stuff:
LESSON #1: Don't listen to anyone.
Seriously. Turn off your phone. Disconnect your Internet. Literally walk in the opposite direction if you happen to see anyone (ANYONE) approaching you on the street. If you happen to find yourself stuck in the unfortunate circumstance of being within earshot of another adult, stick your fingers in your ears and start humming as loudly as humanly possible, then RUN.
See, once the world catches wind of your endeavor, you will be SHOWERED with unwanted advice. And believe me, the would-be advisor's qualifications mean nothing. Take me, for example, I just spent several paragraphs proving to you how inept I have been in avoiding soiled underpants and somehow you are STILL reading this post
Just because some lady on the checkout line's now 47-year-old son quit wetting himself after she took him to a Shaman and drizzled honey on his earlobes doesn't mean that I should buy a plane ticket to South America and stop off at the grocery store on the way back.
LESSON #2: Don't fool yourself, you're not running this show.
If you're currently parenting an average or even slightly better than average child, this is a lesson you've likely already learned. I don't care how much Law and Order you're unleashing upon that poor little rugrat; you simply cannot take credit for how things unfold from day to day. This extends to a number of things; the least of which is when that kid decides to quit crapping in his or her Disney Junior brand underpants. If your little ray of sunshine tossed her diapers out the window at 15 months: congratulations and guess what? You're raising a freak of nature and it's HER success, not yours, so spare yourself the nerve injury and quit patting yourself on the back.
LESSON #3: Bribery is just an ugly term for positive reward system, so hop off your moral high horse and just flipping go for it.
I have shamelessly offered the following items as 'positive rewards' for one or more of my children when they just couldn't be otherwise bothered to interrupt their day to have a bowel movement.
- My phone
- My husband's phone
- Special designated 'potty toys' picked out for exclusive use on the crapper.
Note: my gut is telling me that this is not a totally inclusive list, there were probably more shameful things offered which I have already suppressed.
LESSON #4: It will happen
Just when you think you couldn't possibly do another load of soiled pants without losing your mind completely; you'll find yourself happily driving to Toys R Us to pick up a coveted toy as the ultimate reward for '7 days, no accidents.' Now, I wish I could say that was that; no more boo boo in the laundry. But alas....
LESSON # 5: All kids are different
Once our oldest got over his apparently debilitating fear of what horrors might befall him if he took a moment away from his play to visit the toilet; he just flipped a switch. It happened almost literally overnight. Suddenly, the kid was deemed 'potty trained.' And it was just in time. This was shortly after his 4th birthday, which was when I was expecting to receive a letter from the Mom Police informing me that having an incontinent 4-year-old was grounds for dismissal from parenthood.
Our 3-year-old, however, was a totally different story. This came as zero shock to us, since the kid has been charting new parenting territory for us since the minute he arrived. He earned his 'potty toy' months ago, after we pretty much literally dangled it over his head for 7 days straight, essentially relying on coercion to drag him on out of diapers. He's calculating like that, the kid played us. Since that time, we expect at least 1-2 accidents a week and it still surprises me when he actually volunteers to visit the bathroom without first engaging in a 10 minute negotiation process.
And so, I leave you with this parting thought, it's in response to an adage I've heard on endless occasions and one that always makes me chuckle a little:
Well, they won't go to college in diapers.
Why do I chuckle? Because I work closely with the geriatric population and guess what people, we all pretty much end up BACK in diapers eventually anyways....