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The 15 Emotional Stages Of Potty Training: From Day 1 Smugness To Day 380 Hopelessness

My first child ruined the potty-training experience for me. She made it look too easy, nailing it within a day and ditching diapers for good without even a need for overnight pull-up diapers. She had the steel bladder of a born warrior, and when she was a toddler, that made potty training was drama-free. 

Then came her little brother. We introduced the idea of a toilet around the same age as we did with this sister and he thought that was hilarious. Fine. Go ahead, take your time. No rush. After all, potty training isn't actually hard, right? Not based on our experience so far, it wasn't; We let him coast a bit longer. Then his daycare teachers started urging us to work a little harder on getting him trained. Since they are trained professionals, and I am not, I figured they were right (and honestly, it would have been nice to rid our home forever of the stinky diaper aroma). While we couldn’t expect him to be trained in a day, we definitely weren’t prepared for the protracted process of weaning him off diapers. He is 5 years old now, and still tries to get us to wipe his butt, so like, there you go

We did have success getting him into underwear for good, though, at around age 3-and-a-half. But the road that led to that moment was long and full of pitfalls (and puddles). Here are the emotional stages of potty training I experienced:

Ignorance

I haven no idea what I'm in for because my kid's still in diapers and, from the looks of the increasingly bigger sizes, he might technically never outgrow them.

Shame

Not his shame — mine. I hear the other moms with toddlers my son's age asking their kids if they have to go and I realize it's because they're test-driving underwear outside the home. I must have missed the memo. 

Bravery

Today is the day I let my two-and-a-half year old run around naked from the waist down. We are doing this! One hour, then two hours, then three hours pass. I forget to ask him if he has to go. 

Defeat

He goes. A meaty deuce drops out of his cherubic bottom onto the living room carpet.

Resilience

We reset. I limit his liquid and fiber intake for the rest of the day.

Hope

He tells me has to pee! I run him to the toilet and hoist him onto the special potty seat so he doesn't fall in. We wait.  

Anticipation

Still waiting. He suddenly looks like he forgot why he's in the bathroom.

Fear

I take no chances overnight! Before bedtime, I stick a diaper on him. He looks relieved to have something familiar on his tush. 

Determination

Today we will go outside diaper-free. I sit him on the toilet three times before we leave, to very little effect. Once on the street, I ask him if he has to go about every twenty paces. We make it to the supermarket. I don't tempt fate. We buy one apple and race home. He does not need to relieve himself for the next two and a half hours.

Cockiness

Look at him! Big boy in his Angry Birds undies, announcing his bathroom needs in a loud, clear voice. Who said you need to reward kids with M&Ms for performing bodily functions in a bowl? All my child needs is the confidence that he's totally in touch with his need to urinate.

Regret

Why didn't I line the carseat with a tarp for our trip upstate?  

Patience

Six months pass with no real consistent bathroom usage. Accidents happen. I stash changes of clothes everywhere he goes: the stroller, daycare, his grandparents' house. We try those pull-ups that change design when they get wet, but it's impossible to make use of that feature in support of the training since you can't see the pull-up when he has pants on, and he typically needs pants on.

Hopelessness

He has zero interest in staying dry. He doesn't want to think about going to the bathroom. He likes the freedom a diaper affords him, and in a way, so do I. I am convinced this is not a normal reaction for a parent. I start to realize that parents need to be potty trained as much as kids do.

Surprise

One night he calls out for assistance to use the bathroom. He makes it in time, returns to bed dry, and wakes up the same way. It goes on like this. We embrace it without ceremony, as if to say, "Of course. This is the way it should be. Carry on, soldier." But this marks the end of his babyhood, and I suddenly miss it.

Bittersweetness

I gather up the diapers, the swimmies, the pull-ups. We buy more underwear (because it means doing laundry less frequently). And save for the occasional misfire, his potty training is complete. My youngest has joined the ranks of the big kids. And now, with the four of us in an apartment with one bathroom, I want to die. There is always a new battle to be fought.

Images: Todd Morris/Flickr; Giphy(15)