The thing about trying to figure out the best way to potty train a toddler is that there is no good way. Almost entirely, your success in this endeavor will be defined by who your kid is, and not what you do, nor what strategies you employ/what kind of candy you use to bribe them. OK, the candy selection has a bigger bearing on your success than other factors, but still, everything about potty training — how long it takes, what setbacks you suffer, what specific parts of it present the biggest challenge, exactly which surfaces you find yourself scrubbing human feces off of — is more or less determined by your child, and the beautiful, unique ways in which they are innately programmed to dissolve your barely-there sanity during your attempts to rid yourself of the task of dealing with their sh*t.
That said, there are certain parts of potty training — or "helping your child achieve bathroom independence" as you might say if you hate sounding like you're training your kid like an animal, or as you might say if you just hate being likable — that are universal. Most of these revolve around a consistent feeling of wanting to throw yourself into the sea and give up on life entirely. Other parts involve rationalizing a life spent changing your child's diapers (you could live in their college dorm with them; it's not a big deal, really). And in the end, when your kid finally succeeds in consistently getting all of their unsightly excretions neatly into their correct porcelain receptacle and you can transfer your diaper budget to your wine budget, you'll end up blocking out how truly terrible it was to get to that point. It's like childbirth: If we actually remembered what a sh*tshow it was, we'd never sleep peacefully again (let alone choose to have more kids).
So in the spirit of ruining your life for a few minutes by thrusting you back into your repressed memories of the darkest moments of potty training, here are 23 feelings you will undoubtedly recall:
When You Walk In A Room To Find Your Child Has Taken Their Very Dirty Diaper Off
When you first start potty training, the first thing your kid understands is basically just that you guys are now doing...something different with the whole diaper situation. They're not exactly sure what that is, but it's certainly not business as usual (meaning, diaper stays on until parent comes to change it, no deviation). So, to them, it's like, "Well, let's see if this is what they want me to do with my diaper and its contents!" *Pull, pull, plop, smear*
When You Are About To Walk Into Your House With Someone Who Doesn't Live There, And You Suddenly Worry That It Will Smell Like Poop Or Pee
That organic cleaner probably doesn't even work, you swear. You clean and clean, but what if there's a lingering stench from when your kid painted with his poop — painted with his actual poop — on the stairs two days ago? And the terrifying thing is, if there was a smell, you probably wouldn't even notice because you're so used to it. The friend you're walking into your house with right now could very well spend their entire visit feeling grossed out, judging your whole life, and silently figuring out how to leave and never come back.
When You Leave Your House Without A Pull-Up Diaper On
There's nothing more optimistic and reckless in this world than deciding to leave the house with a not-quite-dependably potty trained child wearing underwear, in all its terrifying permeability.
When You Left Your House Without A Pull-Up Diaper On — And Your Kid Says The Need To Go Potty!
Look at you, little champ! You told me! You get it! Let's do this!
...But You're At Least 5 Entire Minutes From The Nearest Toilet...
Anyone who's ever potty trained a child knows that, especially in the beginning, when they tell you they need to go, you've got about 7 seconds to get them to a toilet.
...And Then They STOP Saying They Need To Go Potty...
That's not a good sign.
...And You Know It's Too Late.
You flew too close to the sun.
Realizing What You Have To Do
From now on, the bathroom is our home. We're just never going to be more than 7 seconds from the bathroom. That's the new plan. We will sleep here. We will take business meetings here. We will eat here OH YES WE WILL EAT HERE, SUCK IT UP, THIS IS WAR, MAN.
When Your Kid Insists On Unbuttoning Their Own Pants
Which they suck at, because of course they do, but they melt all the way down if you even suggest that you might help them, so you let them try...and then they pee their pants even though they're standing right in front of the toilet and dammit you offered to help, this never needed to happen.
But You Have To Take A Deep Breath And Pretend It's Fine
There's no less convincing performance than a parent who is staring down at a totally avoidable potty training accident while trying to pretend that they aren't internally combusting with the scorching fire of a thousand suns at their incompetence and stubbornness.
"It's OK! You did a really good job of...almost making it to the potty! Buttons are hard, aren't they? I think you're so smart for wanting to do it yourself! I know you'll do it next time! Let's practice after we get some new pants on."
*Peels pee-soaked pants off disheartened toddler; plasters encouraging smile to face; dies a little inside*
When Someone Says Something Monstrous Like "Wow, He's STILL Not Potty Trained?"
Oh, hey, you said that! Look who woke up on the brave side of the bed this morning. *cracks knuckles* Honestly, I'm never not ready to let some of this ever-present, potty training-induced, seething existential rage spill out onto someone else, so fine, bring it, let's dance.
...Or "Have You Tried...?"
"Oh, have you tried [whatever potty training tip that you've probably heard and probably tried and is probably stupid] yet? It really worked for us."
Shut it down.
...Or "I'm Sorry You're Having A Hard Time!"
"...I guess we just got lucky when we were potty training [dumb kid who is awful and also they're lying, these people are liars, this kid probably still wets the bed]."
Oh, did you? Did you just get soooo lucky with your kid?
...Or "Hey, How's It Going? What Amazing Weather We're Having Today! Here, Want A Brownie?"
How. dare. you.
...Or "Ma'am, Please Stop Screaming, This Is A Library."
CAN I LIVE? I'll be human again when plastic sheets stop being such a big part of my life.
What You Say You Think Of Bribery As A Method
I would never!
How You Actually Feel About Bribing Your Kid With Candy To Use The Potty
And they're all like...
And everyone is happy for a few minutes.
When You Wait A Thousand Years While Your Kid Sits On The Toilet
Because you'll be damned if you give up first. They're going. This is happening. You will go down with this ship.
...But They Swear They Really Don't Have To Go...
You know nothing, child.
...And You Know They're Full Of Lies, But You Are About To Be Late For Work...
So you let them get off the toilet. Whatever.
...And They Pee On The Floor While You're Grabbing A New Pull-Up.
Of course they did. Because they hate your happiness. They actively want you to be miserable. They are, in fact, doing this to spite you.
But It's Whatever Because You've Finally Figured Out The Only Potty-Training Strategy You Need
Let the forgetting begin.