Potty training. Ugh. Do you feel the same way? Let me tell you my story. My firstborn is a dream. So easy. So accomodating. So mature. I was worried about potty training, but took the advice of everyone I met and didn’t push it at all. We decided to let her choose when to do it. I tried to encourage her to try, but each time was met with so much resistance that it wasn’t even worth it. So, you can imagine my shock when she walked down the stairs, four months before her 3rd birthday, and said, “Mommy, I don’t want to wear diapers anymore.” Hmm…yet you’ve never ONCE gone in the potty! Rrriiight.
Thankfully, Janae was in town for Thanksgiving and she jumped on this opportunity. Apparently when people said “wait until she’s ready” this is what they meant. We took Laney out shopping for underwear that afternoon and tried to get her to sit on the potty every 20 minutes until she went. Nothing. And each time was a fight. She’d arch her back and scream. So she held it all day and all night. She went to bed with her underwear on and kept it dry.
The next day, we went swimming (yes, we lived in Phoenix and it was “warm enough” to go swimming outdoors). Much to my surprise, Laney said, “Mom! I need to go potty!” And she did! #1 AND #2! WOW! That was an exciting day. And that was the end of potty training her. In the last 2 years since then, she has had about 3 accidents total. I think two of those were wetting the bed and one was just not making it to the potty in time.
Now, fast forward a year when my second born is approaching her 2nd birthday. Noelle is strong spirited, passionate, and can be as stubborn as a mule most of the time. If she doesn’t want to, she’s not going to. If she does want to, there’s no stopping her. I would stay up at night dreading the day I’d have to potty train her. So I decided to follow the wise advice again and just wait until she was ready. I didn’t expect that to be until she was at LEAST four.
Nope. Not so. Just after her second birthday, she decided it was time to use the potty. She’d rip off her diaper every time after she filled it. I never knew when I’d have a messy bum running thru the house…or where she left that diaper. She’d leave puddles on the carpet or the floors for me to discover later, or would take off her diaper, run to a corner, and poop there. Seriously? Do we HAVE to potty train? I think she could wear diapers all her life, don’t you?
That’s when we decided it was time to teach her to go on the toilet. But training a bull-headed two year old to do what you want her to do is like training an elephant to do flips. It’s just not worth the effort! Still, I couldn’t have my entire house used as a port-a-potty, so we had to start. I tried everything to get her to produce on the toilet, but little worked. We put blue food coloring in the toilet water to see if she could make it turn green (doesn’t really work anyway) but that wasn’t inticing enough. Then we moved to M&Ms and fruit snacks as bait. But she wasn’t going so all we’d end up with was fits. Still, it worked the best because one day, she actually went. #1, but still, she went. There was great rejoicing in our home that day.
But then we met a new challenge. She would go a teeny-tiny bit, get off, and then 5 minutes later, have to go again. This wouldn’t be a big deal if she could get herself on the potty, pull down her own pants, and pull them back up again, let alone flush and wash her hands. So for the next many days, I spent most of my time in the bathroom. With two other kids to take care of, including a 5 month old, that wasn’t condusive to my life. Plus, she’d wet her pants half the time, so my laundry was piling up fast. I decided to try the bare-bum method and let her run around in a dress all day with nothing on her rear. It worked like a charm! As long as she had nothing on, she never had an accident and was pretty consistent at getting to the potty.
Then we met ANOTHER challenge. Noelle refused to go #2. She would hold it for days until her belly swelled up, she would cry in pain, and we had to put a diaper on just to get her to go. We had to give her enemas and laxatives to help with the constipation. Once she got regular again, we’d start letting her use underwear again. After about 4 days of success with #1, she would get backed up (because in those 4 days, she wasn’t pooping), so we’d start the process all over again. This was the hardest experience I had had in parenting up to that point. I got nothing done, had constant cleanup to do, and felt like I lived in the bathroom. Plus, I was getting really angry with her. I hated potty training and I was so frustrated that it was taking so long!
After about 6 weeks of this process, we moved out of state. For the couple weeks before and couple weeks after, I put her in diapers and gave up on the whole thing. What a relief. But soon, she was begging to go potty again. How do you squash the desires of a two-year-old to do exactly what you really DO want her to do? So, we got out the underwear and put away the diapers…again. This time, she had grown leaps and bounds. She could get on and off the potty herself, pull up and down her own pants, flush the potty, wash her own hands…brilliant. And she was consistent at getting to the potty without wetting her pants first. Well, she’d go a teeny tiny bit in her pants, but then she’d get the rest out in the toilet. Success.
Still, though, we had a problem with #2. And wetting the bed. I am a believer in no training pants and not switching between diapers and underwear every day/night, so I kept her in underwear at night as long as she was in underwear during the day. And she wet the bed a lot. We tried limiting water in the evenings, but it didn’t seem to matter. That’s when I had a stupendous idea. I bought a training potty from Goodwill and put it in her bedroom. That way, during naps and bedtime, if she ever had to go, she could immediately. And guess what?! It solved the problem completely. We’re now to the point that she’ll wet the bed maybe once a month. But usually not.
And Kerri had a stupendous idea that really helped Noelle get thru the difficulty of going #2 on the toilet. One day, as Noelle was pushing on the potty, and I could tell it just wasn’t going to get anywhere, Kerri suggested I pop Noelle in the tub and let her get her mind off the potty as well as relax her body enough to go. So I did, and guess what?! It worked! Within 5 minutes, she asked to go potty and actually pooped. It was amazing! No, that wasn’t the end of our troubles, but it did fix the constipation cycle and she took only about another week before she was completely done.
From start to finish took about 6 months, with a 6 week hiatus in between when we were moving, plus about 6 breaks as we had to get her regular before continuing. It was a dreaded process, but I learned a lot along the way. In my darkest moments, where I would get angry with her because of the whole thing, I realized that none of that works nor is it worth it. The best advice is still to wait until your child is ready, but then after that, just relax and take it a day at a time. There’s no magic trick to potty training except patience and love.
Still, I am already dreading when Emery will go thru this. You know that whole amnesia thing after pregnancy and labor that makes moms want to have another baby? Yeah, there is NEVER enough time that passes between potty trainings that makes you actually WANT to do it again. But there is also nothing so wonderful as having a potty trained child. It is SO worth it!
**For those of you struggling to potty train an older child, just wait. Kerri will be posting on her experiences in that soon!**