The Potty Monster
I debated long and hard about writing this post. One, because it involves a personal aspect of one of my girls. Secondly, because it is a sensitive subject. It’s sensitive for parents and could be for her later in life, because whatever goes on the Internet is there forever. Never the less it’s a topic that I feel should be discussed and hopefully help others.
I have read just about everything out there on potty training. I say almost just to cover my bases here, although I am pretty sure I have it all covered look. I started potty training the triplets at around 18 months because one was showing interest.
It was horrible (for me). We did all the prep work, had all the rewards lined up, and a head filed with expectations. Yep, flaw number one: Do NOT have expectations. Be prepaid for them not to get it, to lose interest, and most of all prepair to break and try again at a layer time. Now don’t get me wrong, some kids do great, get it right away, and make potty training look like a walk in the park. To be honest one of my girls was exactly that. One out of three. She was fully potty trained by 2 years old, day and night.
Our other daughter and our son, no interest. They liked the rewards but not enough to stick with it. This was the start of my 3 year potty training battle. Yes, 3 YEARS! I’d try for a month or two and then we’d take a break for a month or two. They’d show interest and I’d jump all over it.
Second mistake: letting what other people say bother me.
At 3 years old, the other two still weren’t “getting it” So I read more hoping someone would have a suggestion I hadn’t tried yet. There I discovered two distinct “camps” for pottyt training under 4 years old. The first were the kind ones saying that kids will do it when they are ready and that’s all there is. The other, and seemed to be the majority, if your kid isn’t potty trained before 4 years old you’re either a horrible lazy parent or there is something wrong with your kid.
The closer we got to 4 years old, the worse I felt as a mom. I watched all these other moms getting roasted on patenting forums/groups for being in a similar situation as myself. How could I be the lazy mom if I had one potty trained and was constantly trying with the other two? There is nothing wrong with my kids either.
Just when I was ready to crawl under a rock, right around 4 years old my son wanted underwear again. Wow, really? Ok, let’s do this! Guess what happened, yep that’s right, a couple of days and he was done. Trained night and day! This victory in the potty struggle gave me another boost and my attention turned to the last girl.
A whole year and nothing mattered! She could care less if she ran around in soiled underwear (luckily for her it mattered to me). She didn’t care about treats or stickers. She didn’t even care if it would get her a new My Little Pony (her absolute favorite). She has always been my headstrong, stubborn child. My picky eater. My one child that would go west if everyone else was going east. I love her for those things too. She can be completely infuriating, but she is following her own music and I will not fault her for it.
I kept trying and she kept not caring. When we were getting close to her fifth birthday I started freaking out. Nothing I had tried worked. Everyone was saying that they would hate soiled underwear but she could care less! What if she never cared? What if she went on like this for another year or two? What if she NEVER cared? My anxiety was through the roof and she was dancing a jig. There was no new advice and no comfort anywhere. I had actually stepped into the age range where if your child isn’t potty trained you are now officially the worst mom (according to other moms).
It didn’t help that I was feeling super pressured by family too because she was still in dipes. I tried to force it from Christmas until their 5th birthday in Jan. The week before their birthday both my daughter and I were tired, frustrated, and trenched so deep in a power struggle that we both just threw up our arms and sunk to the floor. After I put them to bed I literally broke down crying for hours. My husband just stared at me like I had lost my mind. He tried to comfort me, but how do you comfort crazy? How can you comfort someone who feels like a complete mom failure because of potty training?
What happened next was nothing short of a miracle (for me). One day (a couple of weeks later) she woke up and wanted underwear. She actually WANTED it! Ok, no expectations, I told myself. I had my hopes up so many times over the last 3 years that I just had none left.
The first day was filled with dirty undies and pants, but she was actually TRYING. She was making effort to get to the potty and not sitting in soiled clothing. Yep, that was my first win! I know it may not sound successful to others but for me it was a complete 180. The next day was even better. She would still have small accidents on her way to the potty and need changed BUT she was finishing in the toilet and running to the bathroom on her own! We are still not quite there yet (except she has night time down! ) but everyday is getting better and better. She won’t stand for being in any dirty undies now, trying to get there on her own/doing it herself, and she is doing a really really good job. Not perfect yet, but she’ll get there!
This experience taught me some valuable lessons. First and the most important to all parents out there: They will get it, in their own time. You can try over and over, you can drive yourself nuts, but if they aren’t into it, it’s not gonna happen. You can encourage, plan, talk about it, and try, but if it’s not happening take a break for awhile and try later.
Secondly, this is THEIR (your child’s) accomplishment, not yours. I’m tired of other parents saying that parents with “late trainers” are lazy or incompetent parents. I’m sure there are some out there, but I think they are a small minority. I had one child that was potty trained at 2 years old (almost exactly), one that was almost 4, and one just after her 5th birthday and she still has a little ways to go. Mine wasn’t laziness, mine was a simple case of “kids will do it when they are ready. ”
Potty training was the one area that made me feel like the worst mom ever. FAILURE!
That was mostly due to listening to everyone else. Listening to how easy it was for them. Listening to the hateful remarks they made to others that were in my situation. So for anyone out there who is going through what I did: Don’t give up. Your not a horrible parent (as long as you try). Your child will eventually get there, even if it feels hopeless to you. And lastly, this is THEIR accomplishment, treat it as such and let them know how proud you are of them. Even if they aren’t getting it, but they are trying hard, give them the ego boost they need.
To the parents who are quick to judge others for things like this: Every child is different and goes at their own pace. You don’t know their full story. You don’t know if there are other issues. You may not know that this parent struggled in a potty training hell for 3 years, trying everything they could. You may not realize how much your short, hateful comment affected them and made them crawl deeper into their hole.
As parents we try as hard as we can to do everything we can for our children (at least I do). To give them a strong foundation and tools/support to be the best version of themselves. Just don’t forget that it is the version of THEM, not you or your ideal of them. Every child is different, with different strengths and weaknesses.
Potty training was by far the hardest and most frustrating thing I have ever done and that’s saying a lot.