I really thought I would be celebrating the end of an era by now – an era of $50 boxes of diapers, jumbo packages of wipes, Costco size tubes of Desitin, and lots of time spent wiping butts. I was ready to be done. We have been managing the costs and challenges of having 2 kids in diapers for 2 years. I have been doing the diaper thing for 5+ years, and I think it is time to move on. The only problem is, the boys are not so ready.
I have learned a few things about over the past few months. I can’t say I have any real answers on potty training, but hopefully I can use these lessons to help potty train Noah when the time comes – even if that lesson is to just have patience and a sense of humor about the whole endeavor. Here are just a few of the reasons why I hate potty training:
- All the potty training books tell you to look for signs of readiness, but what if your kid never seems ready? I know… there are not many elementary students still in diapers, but at what age do you give up on looking for signs and just force the issue? For us, the tipping point came at three and a half for Jacob. We regularly tried asking Jacob and Noah if they needed to go potty, and Jacob never would show interest or willingness to use the potty. Noah, on the other hand, was always eager to sit on the potty and showed lots of interest, but was quick to give up and get distracted. I intended to potty train both boys at the same time, but after one day of accidents and dirty Toy Story underwear x 2, I decided to just focus on Jacob. Noah was just barely 2 and had a little more time until he was truly ready. Jacob might not have been ready, but the time had come for him to get ready. As a family with two working parents, summer camp is necessary for us to meet our childcare needs during the time school is not in session. In order for Jacob to go to the summer camp where we are sending the other children, he would need to be potty trained to go in the camp for his age group. All of these factors, combined with the fact that he had a week off from school in January that we could devote to potty training, meant it was time.
- Some kids can be potty trained in a weekend – like my daughter Isabella – and other kids can take six months or more to be fully potty trained. We decided to potty train Isabella at around two and a half. It wasn’t because she was showing any particular signs of readiness, but she was also not opposed to the idea. She was motivated by the opportunity to wear princess panties and getting to be a big girl. We were motivated by not wanting to have two kids in diapers and knowing that she needed to be potty trained by the time she started Montessori school. We took away diapers and after a few accidents it seemed like she had mastered it. I think it literally took a weekend to master. She still used pull-ups for naps and bedtime for a few more months, but overall she was pretty easy. Of course, I remember the occasional accident, like the time we had been in line at Carter’s at the outlet mall for 15 minutes and I asked her to hold it until we were checked out. Of course, she peed all over herself and the floor at Carter’s – making me feel terrible for making her wait and frustrated that I had to get out of line after all, on top of cleaning up a big mess and a sad toddler. We have been seriously potty training Jacob for almost 3 months. Some days he will go all day with no accidents and only a pull up at night. Other days he will have 5-6 accidents – basically making us feel like we have made zero progress in the potty training department.
- Boys are different from girls when it comes to potty training. I have heard this from a number of friends and read it all over the internet (so it must be true, right?). Girls really have one option for using the potty. A girl sits down no matter what is coming out. Boys can sit on the small potty or the big potty – facing forward or backwards. They can stand at the toilet or the urinal or even outside. I feel like this difference alone makes potty training boys a little more confusing. I am still trying to figure out which way Jacob prefers, whereas Isabella never had a choice. I also think boys are ready a little later than girls and tend to care a bit less about using the potty and having accidents. Isabella would cry and seem very bothered if she had an accident. Jacob could continue playing for a half an hour unfazed by pee soaked pants or a load in his Thomas underwear. WTF?!?!
- I never knew that I could get so frustrated and angry over a little pee and poop. I never batted an eyelash at the disgusting blowout baby diapers, getting peed on by a newborn, or wiping my kid’s sweet little cheeks during diaper changes. For some reason I get the worst mommy rage when sweet little Jacob is playing and suddenly pees all over himself, and the rug/couch/bed/floor/stroller/car seat, when he just as easily could have gone to the bathroom or called for me to help him. I have seriously wanted to shake him just a little when I walk into the playroom to the smell of poop in his brand new Mickey underwear. I ask him every 30 minutes or so if he has to go to the bathroom. I look for the signs, and sometimes catch him before he has an accident. My frustration really peaks when he has an accident within minutes of asking him if he has to go or after just trying to go. I don’t get it! At least 50% of the time, most days of the week, he tells me or another adult when he has to go and can make it to the bathroom successfully. So, why does he pee all over himself while standing right in front of me the other times? Is he acting out? Is he too busy or preoccupied to bother with the potty? Is it his hypotonia and motor planning problems that impact his ability to consistently control his bowels? I think it is the randomness that gets me the most. I am trying really hard to not get angry, yell, or shame him when he has accidents, but it is something I am really struggling with. I practice lots of deep breathing, using my quiet voice, and praising the successes. I am working on an entire new post about mommy anger and frustration, as this is something new and unexpected for me as a parent.
- Potty training is a little like having a newborn again. I have to pack extra wipes and changes of clothes, socks, and underwear in the diaper bag in case of accidents. I feel like I am constantly counting pees and poops, except with a potty training toddler, it is to anticipate the need to go and avoid accidents. I used to spend a lot of time with my babies on their changing tables, “bonding” over peek-a-boo or just chatting. Now I spend a significant part of my days in the bathroom, and it is not so I can escape and catch up on People magazine. I am usually on the cold tile floor reading an Elmo book, looking at kid videos on my iphone, or just talking or singing with Jacob. I guess I just need to think of this as good bonding time with my busy toddler.
I know that Jacob will eventually figure this out. It feels like I have been potty training forever, but 3 months is not even that long. I have talked to plenty of other moms with similar challenges, and I know it can take many months for it all to click for some kids. I remember when Jacob was taking a long time to learn how to walk and I felt like he would never master that important milestone. His therapists would tell me most kids eventually walk – I just needed to be patient. We used walkers and we practiced and waited for it to click and it eventually did. I know it is the same with potty training. Most kids eventually use the toilet on their own – I just need to be patient. In the meantime, I need to stock up on plenty of good carpet cleaning products, stain remover, extra underwear, and my favorite bottle of wine.