Family Magazine

Potty Training, for the Fifth Time

By Sherwoods
I hate potty training.  Most things in parenting haven't lived up to their bad reputation.  Babies staying up all night?  It doesn't last that long.  Terrible twos?  They're not that bad - it's the threes you need to look out for.  Food battles?  There are lots of coercive tactics to deal with that one.
But potty training.  It really is that bad.  There's nothing to jack up your stress level like following a non-verbal toddler around the house with a red plastic toilet hoping to catch them before they make yet another mess on the rug or the bed or the couch or even (sigh) your lap.  Add that into all of the other household tasks that have to get done, and it makes for a very grouchy time.
But, I also don't care for changing diapers, washing diapers, and most especially, spraying poop off diapers.  So, for me, potty training is the lesser of two evils.
Eleanor turned twenty months at the beginning of January, so I ordered some teeny-tiny underwear, baby leg warmers, and prepared myself and Brandon for a long time of grouch.  Did I mention that I hate potty training?
The underwear took some time coming, and then we all got sick, so this week we started the dreaded potty training.  I sighed heavily Tuesday morning as I dragged out the dusty red plastic potty from its hiding spot in a dark closet, removed Eleanor's diaper, and steeled myself for puddles all over the house.  "I'm sorry," I apologized to the family over breakfast, "if I'm grouchy for the next few weeks.  It's potty training time.  I'll try to be nice.  But I'm not making any promises.  If you see a puddle, let me know.  If you really want to be nice, wipe it up for me."
Eleanor has followed the usual trajectory of potty training.  Phase one: iron bladder.  The child decides that the best way to deal with no diapers is to hold it forever.  Juice, treats, threats, and promises don't do anything.  Phase two: mouse bladder.  The child realizes that peeing is the way to get treats.  So they pee every twenty minutes, everywhere.  The whole house is covered with puddles, often with wet footsteps leading out of them.  You wonder what you did wrong, and how large you can buy diapers because this child will never be potty trained.  Phase three: Predictable pottying.  The child realizes that pee goes in the potty, it's possible to hold it for several hours, and they can use the toilet without sitting for at least half an hour.
We've made our way all of the way to phase three, and I'm pretty relieved.  Eleanor now spends her days wandering around the house in underwear, a shirt, and leg warmers.  Whenever she can, she finds Joseph's snow boots to complete the outfit, and clomps along, looking like some strange little Flashdance extra.
I don't trust her with pants quite yet, but I'm not following her with the potty either.  We've settled into an easy truce: she'll sit on the toilet for me, and I'll not yell at her when she wets her pants.  I know that, after a reasonable amount of time (a month? two months?), she'll start taking care of business on her own, and then I'll be pretty much done.
And now I wonder, with the beauty of hindsight, what all of the fuss was about, the grouchiness, the stress, the wondering if my child would ever be able to use the bathroom on their own.  It seems like such a simple, straightforward thing to do.  Why was I ever so stressed, so grouchy, so anxious about potty training?  It's not that complicated.  Right?
It's funny how, after enough experience with something, everything becomes so easy to understand.  Of course that experience is hard-won and nearly kills you to gain it, but it's pretty nice to reach the other end of that spectrum and not be at the beginning.  I definitely would never go back to just having one child again.  I may be older, have more wrinkles, less free time, and more messes to clean up, but I have experience.  And that's better than all of that stuff combined.

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