If you're feeling especially confident as a parent (i.e. your toddler is sleeping through the night and eating their vegetables), the universe has concocted something extra special for you... to ruin it. It's called toilet training, and it will own your soul from now until eternity (or at least until your kid reliably pees and poops in the desired receptacle, so, like, 15 years from now). It's a journey that will be full of twists and turns and those detours will be disgusting, my friend, because, potty training is designed to break your spirit.
When my mom BFF finished potty training her 3-year-old, she passed along the book she'd used. I read it and it made sense to me and worked for her, so I decided to go for it. At 2 years and 4 months, my daughter was within the "ideal" window for this particular method. We did the first day with her running around naked as a jaybird and me doing nothing but watching for her "tell" and running her to the potty. It was exhausting, but after a few days she graduated to "commando." A few weeks later and she was in underpants. And then we were done!
Just kidding. Of course we weren't done! It's been eight months, and I'm still dealing with this literal crap. Feeling like we're never really finished is killing me inside, which has led me to the conclusion that the whole process was devised to crush a parent's will to live. If you will, Your Honor, exhibits A through J:
3-Day Success Stories That Haunt Your Dreams
OK, so apparently 3-day potty training is a thing. And according to all the mom boards, "It really works, by golly!" Yeah, don't come at me with that — not today, Satan! Is it just me, or do these tall tales exist only to make the rest of us feel bad about ourselves? Because, clearly, we just did it wrong.
First Day Disasters
Everyone says not to give up the after the first day because even if it looks like a hot mess, your child is probably just about to turn the corner. That sounds a little too much like "The Secret" for my taste. I'm no quitter, but who wouldn't be discouraged after an entire day of chasing around a toddler as they dribble urine (or worse) all over the floor?
The Lack Of Intrinsic Motivation
Kids are naturally driven to learn skills like walking and self-feeding because they come with their own rewards. But using the potty? Not so much. Why would they suddenly start using the commode when they have this convenient diaper in which to do their business (added bonuses: it's private and you don't have to stop playing)? Just because mommy and/or daddy wants them to? Clearly, sir, you've never met a toddler.
It's not like kids learn to use the potty and then never look back. Seriously, that's pretend, you guys, or at least that's what I tell myself. According to What to Expect, triggers for toileting accidents include stress, fatigue, distraction, and excitement. That's why every time we go to an event at grandma's house (cows! cousins! cookies!), my daughter invariably soils a week's worth of underwear in the course of an afternoon.
Ah, potty training a stubborn child. Can you make a child sit still for those necessary immunizations, even though they don't want to? Yes, and that cracks holes in your heart every single time. Can you make your child sit in their carseat? Yes, and it's against the law if you don't. But the whole "peeing and pooping in the toilet" thing is not on the list of necessary things you can force your child to do. And believe me, your child is very much aware of this.
The fact that regressions are a normal part of the process does not make them any less frustrating, especially when your kid appears to have "unlearned" something you thought they'd mastered. When my husband came back from his year-long deployment, our little girl backslid in a major way, culminating in a full-on rage pee at the zoo. Can't wait to see what happens when her baby brother arrives.
All The Poop
In my experience, getting your child to pee in the potty is, in comparison, a cake walk compared to old number two. Fear of pooping in the potty is fairly common, as is consolidation (as in, waiting for the nap or night diaper to do one's business). In a vicious cycle, this leads to constipation and more reluctance to eliminate.
I didn't want to use rewards, but after my daughter's nighttime poops resulted in painful rashes, I ended up caving and offering up M&Ms. I was thrilled the other day when she self-initiated before dinner and rewarded her with chocolate. Success! Until she had a bowel movement in the bathtub an hour later and another in her nighttime Pull-Up.
If you thought training your kid during the day when they're conscious was difficult, just wait until you take on the other 12 hours. Nighttime training is particularly difficult because it's purely about physical readiness.
My kid sleeps like a log and has never woken up dry. My husband refuses to limit her fluids in the evening, and middle of the night wake-ups are rough on my pregnant self. I've put it on the back burner for now, but I'm acutely aware of the specter of an elementary-aged kid who can't go to sleepovers because she wets the bed.
When it comes to potty training, everyone's an expert. Except you, of course. Clearly, you are clueless. Otherwise, you would know that you have to completely ditch the diapers and that you can't ask your child if they have to go to the bathroom (you just say, "Let's go." Duh.). What happened to "every kid is different" and "mother knows best"?
How It Reflects On Your Parenting
For some reason, the ease with which your child potty trains is used as a measure of parenting success, regardless of your child's readiness or personality, over which you have no control. It's the icing on the cake of a faulty system. When the potty training blues get you down, try to remember that it's not you that's messed up — it's the whole damn process.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.