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My Toddler Still Uses Diapers & I'm So Embarrassed

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Every time I see my mom, she asks me a variation of the same question: "When are you going to start potty training?" I should be prepared for this now exhausting inquiry, but every time she asks I can feel my face turn red with embarrassment. Yes, my toddler still uses diapers, and while I probably shouldn't care I absolutely do. It bothers me. I feel inadequate. I feel like I've failed. So, in these moments, I fumble through excuses and explain that, yes, I have purchased a potty chair and plan to use it as soon as "he's ready." I also know that my child isn't going to be ready any time soon.

I know I shouldn't feel ashamed. I mean, my son just turned 2 a couple of months ago, so rationally I just don't see the need to rush. I've potty trained two other kids, at different ages and with varying degrees of success, so I know how this special brand of hell works. I know, from learned experience, that there's no surefire way to hurry along the process if your child simply isn't interested in ditching the diapers. I know toddlers are stubborn AF, and don't care about someone's erroneous timeline. Yes, even if that someone is a grandparent.

I also know how frustrating potty training can be. Potty training my daughter was easily one of the most exhausting experiences I've ever endured as a parent. I started way too early, in the middle of the process we moved to a new city, and as a result she regressed after seemingly mastering her miniature porcelain throne. No amount of begging, pleading, rewards, or videos of Elmo going potty on Netflix helped. She wasn't going to budge, so the diapers stayed on.

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

It took eight months of stress, messes, and seemingly endless frustration for my daughter to finally master the potty. And I can honestly say that our success had little to do with my efforts, and more to do with the peer pressure she experienced at the hands of the other kids at day care. It was her peers, not her mom and dad, who motivated her to want to wear big kid underwear. In the end, she just wanted to be like the "big kids."

I'm letting a somewhat ludicrous fear that my son will enter Kindergarten wearing diapers override what I know to be true: that if I don't stress and let my kid decide when he's ready, he'll potty train himself and all will be well.

Potty training my middle son was, thankfully, an entirely different experience. I didn't stress out about it, I didn't enact some deadline or timeline, and I allowed him the space to take the proverbial lead. As a result, he pretty much potty trained himself and by watching his older siblings. He was 3 when he finally ditched the diapers, and while some parents seemed to have an issue with that age I considered any judgment was worth the ability to sidestep the stress I had endured when potty training my oldest.

So, I promised myself I wouldn’t stress out about potty training this time around. I swore I would continue a laid back approach that, clearly, worked. But, for whatever reason, I am letting the pressure, judgment, and shame get the better of me. I'm letting a somewhat ludicrous fear that my son will enter Kindergarten wearing diapers override what I know to be true: that if I don't stress and let my kid decide when he's ready, he'll potty train himself and all will be well.

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

I think my biggest problem is the fact that it seems like all of my mom friends with toddlers are ahead of us in the potty-training race. They post pictures on social media of their 2 year-olds proudly sitting on the potty, their captions a not-so-humble brag about their kids' ability to stay dry throughout the night. And I know every kid goes at their own pace but, I mean, can't mine hurry it up? Just a tad?

I'm my own worst critic, to be sure, but the mom critics are doing their part, believe me, and I'm left feeling inadequate in an overwhelming, almost suffocating way.

I know there's no reason to compare children. I know I don't need to use other moms' experiences as a measuring stick for my own. But I can’t help but feel a twinge of guilt or a rush of shame when I see that my friend's kid is wearing big girl underwear, while mine wears his potty chair as a hat and screams if I try to sit him on it. Like, I know that barring an unforeseen medical condition or setback, my toddler will ditch diapers eventually, but it's hard to wait. It's so hard to wait.

I know that there’s more than one "right" way and "correct" timeline to teach your child to use the potty, but I still have a tiny voice in the back of my head that wonders if I am doing everything I should be. Somehow that tiny voice seems to override everything I know about parenting and myself. Of course, people commenting on pictures of my child with an, "Oh, he's still in diapers?" isn't helpful. And of course I don't need to hear about that one time this one mom potty trained her 1-year-old in, like, three days. I'm my own worst critic, to be sure, but the mom critics are doing their part, believe me, and I'm left feeling inadequate in an overwhelming, almost suffocating way.

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

So, I'll keep trying. I'll keep taking my newly minted 2-year-old to the bathroom, and I'll keep showing him his adorable penguin potty chair. And then I'll keep watching him dismantle it, pee on the floor, or try to flush his blocks down the toilet. Because while I know I need to calm the f*ck down about potty training, and train myself to ignore the haters, that internal voice is growing louder by the day. And, for the time being, it seems that the only thing that can drown out that voice is the flush of an actual toilet my child has managed to use... successfully.