To Potty Train A Parent


It is NEVER a good idea to offer unsolicited potty training advice, especially when your audience is a mother strung out from a long night with a breastmilk addict.

One “sage advice” drive-by at our local grocery store comes to mind. I was staring off into space in the dairy aisle when an older gentleman made his presence known. At least the encounter began friendly.

“How old is your son?”

With these kinds of questions, the response goes one of two ways…

“Nine months.”

I remember readying myself for his next move. Senior citizens love touching babies.

“Wow, nine months! That was the age that I potty trained my son!”

[Insert polite head nods and a weak smile here.]

I remember parting amicably after he began to discuss that same son’s “issues” in adulthood.

For myself, potty training isn’t at all what I expected. When my son was 20-months-old, we purchased a plastic potty, hundreds of stickers, and giant picture books. In one summer, I would teach him to use the bathroom, and we would forever part with diapers.

[Enter reality.]

Over the next fourteen months, my husband and I learned a few very important lessons about potty training, life, and ourselves:

  1. Change means time.

If you are to potty train your child, you must be willing to wait – sometimes for days, sometimes for months. You will read books, you will buy treats, you will lose your sanity…almost. But, one day, a magical moment will happen, and you will forever share that milestone with your child. And, in this, all those hours spent sitting, waiting, and wishing will be remembered as bonding.

  1. Change means mistakes.

Potty training, in many ways, is three steps forward and two steps backward. It helps to remember that you are teaching a little person, but that often doesn’t make the urine on your shoes or the “muddy” tracks on your everything easier to bear. And I would still like to know why accidents always happen on important days. A positive spirit is essential for setbacks, even if you have to fake it for your child.

  1. Change means accountability.

I dreaded potty training for one reason alone: it meant that I would have to be committed – think buttons, pit stops, and toilet heights. Diapers are annoying, but teaching your child to use the bathroom in the early years is an inconvenience that cannot wait. Literally. You have to make yourself available, and you have to put your most patient self forward. A toddler’s psychology is so fragile.

  1. Change means a balance of power.

We let our son direct his potty training timeline until we reached the “I-am-never-going-to-poop-in-the-potty” standstill. It was our will against his. After 3-4 months of consistent, accident-free days in big boy underwear, we knew it was time for our son to progress. And he has transitioned smoothly with our encouragement, time, and love. It truly is a team effort.

Now that our family is finally on the other side (at least with one child), the view is satisfying. I am reminded that our children are investments and that precious rewards are within reach if we can stick out the messy years. 

In that red bathroom that I have come to know so well, I found a better version of myself. If you listen carefully, she is teaching a little boy about his body, while teaching her own heart how to let go.

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