Potty training a toddler is one of those motherhood "rights of passage" that is equal parts hilarious and painfully annoying. You spend way more time in the bathroom than you would like, and most of that time is spent crouching at the foot of a small person singing ABC's and who is not, in fact, actually using the potty the way it's intended to be used. As a mother who has spent more than a few hours in the bathroom with a small human, I can tell you there are things your toddler is thinking when you potty train. Things like, "Wow, if I knew I could get my mom to spend time just staring at me for hours, and do nothing else with her day, I'd sit on this thing forever! Plus, I hear I might get some candy out of this? Score!"
When it came time to start potty training my first born son, I listened and read about all the different potty training methods my peers were trying, and decided I didn't want to make myself go crazy. I took, what I felt, was the most "me-friendly" approach, which is to say I was not all that gung-ho about getting my kid out of his diapers by a certain time or in a specific time frame. I was going to let my kid take the reigns, because I just didn't want to deal with the potential sh*t potty training a headstrong toddler could bring (figuratively, and literally).
Still, we dabbled in some potty training, and I'm sure I made some mistakes along the way that hopefully won't scar him later in life. Looking back, however, (and now that he is in kindergarten), I can only imagine what he must have been thinking during that very special time in our journey together. If I know my son as well as I think I do (and I do) I imagine his potty training thoughts went something like this:
"So, Tell Me More About This Candy"
When we first started potty training my now 5-year-old son (the first born), I went the ole "positive reward" route. If he made a successful deposit in the porcelain throne, and he would get three small, chocolate candies.
This worked oh, maybe three times in the beginning of potty training. Of course, I felt like Best Mom Ever Who Had Nailed Potty Training Like It Ain't No Thang, but it was just beginner's luck. Eventually, we had to cut out the candy rewards, because when he didn't go in the potty, he still wanted those chocolate-covered candies. Eventually I just wanted the whining to stop, so the kid got his chocolate, regardless.
"Oh, Fun! Target Practice!"
Once we got the peeing down in a consistent way, my son wanted to try peeing "like daddy." As any mom of boys is familiar with, the aim is not so strong with a potty-training kid. So I pulled out the Cheerios (I'm seeing some weird food and potty patterns here. Oh well. Better save up for therapy!), and instructed my son to practice his aim.
In theory, that sounds great, but toddlers still need help standing up and even reaching most toilets. If it wasn't pee on my bathroom floor, it was Cheerios.
"So You Mean To Tell Me This Thing Is Not For Splashing In?"
Until we began potty training, the toilet was this wonderful object that my toddler had expressly used for water play. I've always been rather laissez-faire (some might call it just plain lazy) in the child-proofing department, so I never had any of those child-locks on things that might have been worth locking. Oh, well.
"Hold On. It's Not For Throwing Your Phone Into, Either?"
I know! I know! Completely crazy concept, right? When my son learned that the bowl was not, in fact, a portal into which iPhones and mommy's key's disappear into, it simply blew his little mind.
"Don't Hold Me! I Can Do This Myself. Whoa!"
We had quite a few struggles around the concept of independence around the simple act of sitting on the potty. I felt that his little body needed some extra support from me, even though we had that potty seat, especially in the beginning when he was just getting the hang of it. My son, however, felt otherwise.
"I can do it myself!" he would insist, at the exact moment his skinny little body would practically fall into the toilet bowl.
"It Is So Much Fun To Just Sit Here And Stare At You"
When the books lost their pull, and I would realize no potty magic was going to happen on this day, I'd say, "OK, let's get off the potty." But no, my toddler would insist on sitting there. "I'm not finished," he would say. This, of course, usually occurred around bedtime, and was his primary stall tactic that allowed him to stay up later than usual. Well played, my son. Well played.
"Read Me Another Story. I Could Sit Here All Day."
My friends had regaled me with tales of reading books to their kids on the potty and how this seemed to have some kind of magic effect on the whole potty-going experience. So, I grabbed a couple books, took a deep sigh, and settled in for the long haul. I knew it, and he knew it, that the only thing that we would accomplish was finishing 20 books (or the same book 20 times over). "Do you have to poop?" I would keep asking. "Yes," my son would say. "Read more." Sigh.
"Must. Touch. Everything."
The absolute worst part of potty training, for me, was when my son expressed interest in going potty when we were out in public places. I mean, who was I to say, "It's very important that we use the potty every time we feel like we have to go," except for when we are not at home? That would be a really confusing message, right?
So I would grit my teeth and walk him to what would ostensibly be the bathroom of my nightmares, and he would want to touch everything. Oh! Look! This nasty toilet seat! And this part back here, behind the toilet! Hey, what about the flusher with the brown liquid dripping off of it? Shudder.
"Toilet Paper Is The Best Invention Ever"
Nothing made my potty-training toddler happier than when he was unspooling all of the toilet paper. Nothing.
I really wish I could understand the fascination with the toilet paper roll. Is it the fact that it seems to be never ending? That just when you think you've reached the end, there's more? Is it the reaction from mommy losing her marbles over the clogged toilet full of toilet paper that makes a toddler go nuts with glee? I wish I could go back in time and ask him.
"That Was Fun, Now Put My Diaper Back On So I Can Poop"
After all that fun, we pretty much went really slowly with the potty training; especially when it came to going number two. So, while I was able to get a reliable pee in the potty from my toddler, it took a long time to get him to lose the diapers for good.
Mostly, I think, we used the potty as part of a routine, or a dance that we did together where we each played a part. I, the encouraging mother, who knew that all the other "good mothers" were potty training their kids and so I, too, must follow for fear of being banished from the tribe. My son, the seemingly obliging one, who was willing to go through all the motions, except the only one that really counted. In the end, I think he just decided to use the toilet when he was good and ready, and it had nothing to do with humoring me at all.