A friend of mine recently announced (via social media) that she was taking the weekend to potty training her son. "Hit me with your best tips and tricks!" she posted. I was heartened to see an outpouring of support in the form of encouraging advice and helpful perspectives. Honestly, encouragement is one of the best things you can do for a mom who's potty training, but there's actually a lot you can do to make this pee-pee covered hell on Earth more bearable.
I don't mean to be apocalyptic here or anything, but, seriously, potty-training is the worst. It's tough enough to teach a toddler self-regulation and self control. When potty training, you have to not only teach them both of those thing simultaneously, if they don't learn your lesson everyone is going to be covered in urine and poop. The first few times you're OK with it. Like, "It's all right, they're learning. We just have to practice." But after this goes on for long enough, your body, mind, and spirit lie broken on the floor along with the dream that your child is ever going to get the hang of this.
By the way, "long enough" can happen pretty quickly. Like, I was definitely crying on the night of the first day of earnestly trying to toilet train my daughter. "We're never going to have nice things ever again," I wailed to my (more patient and even-keeled) husband. "This is our life now. We should just move to a garbage dumb with all the other sh*t-covered animals."
"That sounds terrible," you say as you read this. "What can I, the thoughtful friend of a potty-training parent, do to help?" I'm so glad you asked, because you can definitely stand to do one (or all) of the following:
All of it. Like, clear out the first store and then Google the two next closest and go to town there as well. If your friend doesn’t drink, find the food or beverage of choice that will zen her out as much as possible because potty training will require even the most stalwart and seasoned of parents. They're literally in the sh*t, and they're going to need a lot of booze to be able to handle it.
(But seriously: a bottle of wine would be nice.)
Send Messages Of Support
Motherhood can be isolating a lot of the time. That is particularly true when you're in the process of potty training; you may well be holed up in your home for a while since outings with a not-quite-potty-trained child can be stressful, frustrating, and incredibly messy.
Letting a potty training mom know you're thinking about her can remind her of something she very may well be losing sight of: there is a world out there full of people, places, and things that have nothing to do with her child's excrement. Or, if you're a mom who has potty trained a child yourself, letting her know that you know what she's going through can be useful, too.
Don't Talk About How Quickly And Easily Your Child Was Potty Trained
But please, other moms who have potty trained, if you were #blessed with a child who was trained early and/or quickly and managed to escape the process unscathed and relatively uncovered by pee, please do not assume this means that you were mystically imbued with the knowledge and insight to know exactly what to do. Recognize that you probably got lucky.
Noe, that's not to say that you didn't do a good job or anything, but even someone doing all the same things can have a wildly different experience when it comes to potty training. Every kid is different. If you are asked about how potty trained went for you, don't lie or anything, but acknowledge your good fortune in relating your techniques and experiences.
Don't Comment On The Fact That The Child Is Not Yet Potty Trained
"You mean he's not potty trained yet?!"
"Seriously, you have to get that kid out of diapers! Aren't you tired of cleaning poop?"
- Obviously not, that's why we're doing it now.
- Not helpful.
- It makes me giggle to think that some people harbor the misconception that getting a child out of diapers means you no longer have to clean poop.
All this just makes people feel insecure and judged, which, if you're truly concerned about potty training, can do more harm than good.
Don't Suggest Extended Outings/Long Drives For A While
For the mom of a potty-training (or newly potty-trained) child, adventures can feel less adventurous and more like a psychological thriller. When will this child need to go to the bathroom? Where are all the bathrooms? What if we don't make it on time? Will there be somewhere to change their messy clothes? How many different pairs of pants should I bring?
All these (very possible) what if's often just result in a mom who is potty training her kid to stick close to home base for a while until her little one has things a bit more under control.
Laugh When She Laughs And Don't Laugh When She Doesn't
There's absolutely humor to be found in a child sitting on a toilet for five minutes without taking a poo only to immediately pop a squat next to said toilet as soon as they hop off. However, when it's the fourth time that's happened in two days and a mom begins to feel that she will never have a home that doesn't smell vaguely of urine, it can be difficult to find the perspective or fortitude to laugh.
So before you guffaw at the potty-training horror stories you're hearing, take the mom's tone and perspective into account. Your laughter could be a welcome break of tension or (in her stressed out desperation) it could come across as mocking and thoughtless.
Just Let Her Talk, Even If It's Gross
I mean, yes, there's a limit to how much you can talk about crap in polite conversation or even casual conversation among close friends. But recognize that she's dealing with a lot of grossness lately and venting can help her not go completely insane.
Validate Her Frustration
When it comes to parenthood in general, moms and dads can often feel like they shouldn't complain about their legitimate problems because other people are not expressing the same issues. So, they figure, they must just need to suck it up, because whatever difficulty they are going through isn't a big deal.
However, f it's a big deal to you it's a big deal. Sure, perspective is important, but everyone is entitled to their feelings. So assure your friend in the throes of potty-training hell that this is tough and that you can see they are doing their best.
Don't Critique Her Timing Or Technique
Again, what worked for you (or your sister's brother-in-law's aunt's baby, who is now five and reading at a college level) isn't going to work for everyone. Plus, you may not know some of the issues that contributed to a child not being potty trained when you thought they should have been. This sort of conjecture is completely unhelpful, so save it.
Clap When Her Kid Craps
Seriously, I know it's absurd, but these kids need so much goddamn encouragement and every little bit helps.
Wave A Wand And Potty Train Her Kid For Her
You must know a magical fairy? Right? RIGHT?! PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHEN IS THIS SH*T GOING TO END?!