In the last few months, I have been a part of conversations with a number of young moms talking about their little kids and their potty needs. It’s been quite some time since I’ve had to concern myself with facilitating potty needs, but I’m not so far removed that I’ve forgotten. After considering the risk of embarrassing my kids, I have chosen to continue with the disclosure of my learned experiences from my days of potty training. If I, in fact, cause them any angst, they will let me know. Hopefully, they will shake their heads, chuckle and get on with life. I am certain they believed at some point that I lived to embarrass them. I didn’t really live with that goal in mind then, but if this post makes them blush, I hope they are blushing in a humorous, loving kind of way and not with a heated angry face like the red-faced emoji.
When the kids became toddlers, it was such an exciting time. Like many grown-ups, I ooh’d and ah’d about the baby steps and the joy that my toddlers loved exploration. What I didn’t’ know was that the next stage of child development involved potty training. Potty training has earned its place in the chronicles of child rearing. Potty training reigns as one of the top developmental stages caretakers of little ones could live without. It ranks right up there with temper tantrums during the terrible two’s and the day those little creatures learn the words “No” and “Why?” So, you gotta respect potty training while recognizing (as my daddy would say about most any topic), “Suga, you ain’t the first and you sho nuff won’t be the last” to go through this. Hang in there and know that there will come a day when those little ones will care about being dry AND those cute undies you bought to entice them to go potty.
Now, the potty training tools have improved designs and the options for support are more abundant. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the inevitable frustrated trainer. I honestly believe that kids come close to mastery of this skill just before the trainer has a full on meltdown. I can remember wanting to hide from my toilet-resistant toddlers hoping that somebody else would fix it for me. Not only did the little rebels work my nerves, but all of those potty training experts exhausted me. I couldn’t figure out why the expert potty trainers were not millionaires if they had all of the answers. Where were their books for potty training illiterates like me? I appreciated those who suggested tips or methods that helped them bridge the gap from diapers to big kid undies. I also enjoyed the tales of potty training journeys shared by people successfully on the other side of accidents and multiple changes of clothes. However, the voices of judgment accompanied by turned up noses at my potty training decisions was bothersome. Each child is different and there has never been a prescribed timeframe for potty training. Nobody that I know has ever documented that moment when they or the potty trainee became potty trained. I can just remember that the trainer one day, like me, said something like, “Oh my, the little person hasn’t wet all day” or “Oh, little person, I’m so proud of you! You went potty three times today!” So, if you are potty training, hang on and keep a journal. This will be funny one day.
I remember the expert advice that I should just refuse to buy pull ups and make the incontinent child figure out what it feels like to be wet. Well, all I have for that is this: “Child please!” If you can afford a pull-up, buy a pull-up. Now, let me tell you all of the places that your resident expert won’t be when this child is experiencing said wetness. The expert will not be holding the potty training child when the child pees your lap from the excitement of seeing the favorite animated character. The expert will not be paying for fabric cleaning for your car seat or your couch. The wise advisor will not be sanitizing your floors after you see that look of shock and “oopsy, I didn’t make it again” on the face of the pint-sized trainee. If you can afford a pull-up, buy a pull-up and save yourself that drama.
One person’s suggested tool was the physical reward if the hand clapping, cheering and back flips didn’t work. As I recall, we tried candy pieces. Sometimes we used to count the pieces while we waited. Other times we used these opportunities to learn colors. One child made progress taking that route and the other child learned that “potty” meant the tired lady will bring me treats. From what I’ve heard lately, treats and toys continue to be strategies of potty trainers. Figuring out the potty training love language of my bladder-challenged babies was by trial and error because like I said, “Each child is different and there has never been a prescribed timeframe for potty training.”
Once the kids’ bladders and brains connected, a new challenge emerged. Where was the nearest bathroom? When those amateurs said they needed to potty, they didn’t mean in a minute. They meant NOW! It was game time. I grabbed the tiny hand or scooped up that kid like a sack of potatoes and ran. The sack of potatoes tactic always got laughs from my kids. They thought it was a game and I guess it was a game of sorts: Can mama find a bathroom before she has a mess to figure out? As the trainer, I learned that “bathroom” was a relative term. Bathroom meant anything from a real porcelain throne to that water bottle I emptied by chugging all of the contents when the potty alert sounded. Flexibility, creativity and open-mindedness were my companions and these good friends will serve you and your emotional state well if you befriend them all.
I remember maneuvering between car doors to create a private stall after someone said they had “to go.” As the laughing child enjoyed the excitement of the cement portable potty, I was playing the game of foot placement trying to dodge the trailing stream of wetness on the ground which generally encouraged more giggles. I have hurried a kid into a traditional restroom with hands on their heads, on their hips, raised in front of their chests or just anywhere that would ensure they touched nothing. Once in the stall, I would lift my kid and instruct the kid to stand on the toilet to handle their business. When it came to my kids and their clean potty needs, those skimpy paper covers were not enough protection and I rarely had time to make the triangle of double or triple folded toilet paper liners to cover every inch of the seat for fear of the impending bladder release. Just saying bladder release reminded me of the ease of that warm sensation felt by the unsuspecting trainer when there is no barrier between the trainer and the potty training kid. Unfortunately, there was no dam lock or lever I could adjust to stop the flow. There was nothing I could do except say, “Dang” and start the clean up.
I found it useful to always keep changes of clothes for the kids and me in the car. I often kept extra clothing in my mama tote for the kids too. When we traveled by plane, I took changes of clothes for each of us in the carry on bags along with wipes and plastic storage bags for wet clothes. Even when your child is just outside the potty training window, take a pull up and the plastic baggies on the plane just in case you get stuck on the runway and the pilot tells everyone to “remain seated with your seatbelts on.” When the kid needs to go, the kid needs to go. The kid will be happy, you will be happy and the flight attendant with the eagle eyes won’t call you out. Trust me on this piece of advice.
I am always up for sharing any advice I have about potty training and I definitely love hearing the funny tales from the toilet. I don’t proclaim to be an expert trainer, but I have successfully coached two kids through the process and that counts for something. I was once a young, tired, frustrated potty training mama trying to navigate the potty training challenge and do all of the other things that come with raising kids. Because of my experiences, my greatest hope is that I offered you a laugh, a few helpful tips and a little encouragement to stay the course and in the words of old church elders, “Hang on ‘till your change comes!”