Monday, August 27, 2012

How to Fail at Potty Training

I’ve tried everything – timers, ice cream, stickers, underpants, no pants, begging, pleading, bribing. I’ve given demonstrations and explanations and reasoned from as many possible angles as a two-year-old might grasp. Big girl. Big sister. All your friends are doing it. (Yeah, I’m sure I’ll regret that one in 10 years). We’ve shopped together for Minnie Mouse underwear and called grandparents to share the excitement of small successes.

She’s ready. I know she’s ready. I can tell by the way she talks that her mind understands. I can tell by the way she closes herself in the pantry to poop that her body understands. Yet, she refuses to surrender to the potty. She turns down my bribes and reacts to my enthusiasm with a blank stare. She holds her pee for hours waiting for my next distracted moment so she can sneak behind the recliner or under the kitchen table.

Potty days are some of my worst days. The excitement of the morning (Today is the day!) quickly fades away as the frustration builds and turns into tears. Sometimes they are hers. More often, they are mine. And when I find myself ducking in the other room to take a deep breath and cry, I don’t know what else to do but give up and give in and reach for the diapers. I’ve lost another battle and I criticize myself as I rinse her clothes and disinfect the floor and think about all the other kids who are already trained. What am I doing wrong?

With today’s disastrous attempt still weighing on my mind and ruining my day, I can’t help wondering why I put myself through this. Because I don’t want to have two kids in diapers for a few months? Because the cost of diapers is really that unbearable? Because I feel some invisible self-created social pressure to make sure she isn’t “behind” the other kids? I’m still searching for a reason that justifies this much aggravation.

If she got as upset as I do, I would never force her through this process. I would recognize that she’s not ready and wait for another sign that the time is right. Shouldn’t I grant myself that same leeway? I’ve followed all the signs that point to her readiness, but I’ve ignored the ones pointing away from mine. Maybe that’s what I’m doing wrong. I’ve been waiting for her to surrender instead of surrendering myself.

So this is it. I’m not just waiting a week or two like I have every other time. No more denying that I will have two kids in diapers for a while. No more hoping that each box I buy will be the last. No more forcing. No more crying. No more potty. For at least four months.

It’s all going to be ok. We’ll get there. Someday. Until then, I can focus on enjoying the last two months of my pregnancy and the precious remaining days of one-on-one time with Reese. I won't have to worry about running her to the bathroom while nursing a newborn. And finally, she and I can both be at peace when she goes in the pantry and closes the door.


  1. Lisa, good for you! This post couldn't have come at a better time for me because I have been trying to get Abi to go potty and she just doesn't want to. She is perfectly fine in her diapers telling me "mommy, you wear underwear but I will wear my diapers because I like them." But, my brain won't stop as I'm thinking what will others think if Abi isn't potty trained soon. In the grand spectrum of things what's a few more months of her in diapers? Thanks for the reminder that we don't have to have everything perfect and up to "standards." As the saying goes no one has ever started kindergarten in diapers we are all good! Enjoy your last months 1on 1with her!!

    1. I figured if she can argue with me about it in full sentences then she's old enough to do it, but that hasn't been the case. I figured up the cost of keeping her in diapers for another 4-6 months and it's so not worth this headache! I'm already happier after deciding to put it on hold for awhile. I forget that I just need to do what's best for me and my family and not worry about everyone else!

  2. You have to do what's best for you and Reese. And kids generally regress with things like that when a new baby comes home so it's probably a really good idea to wait! The good thing is, it sounds like she already understands how to hold it, so when she decides that going on the potty is a good idea, she should get the hang of it quickly! All kids do it in their own time! And it is certainly no one's place to have an opinion otherwise!