Ever have one of those moments in parenting where you question yourself completely? How about full seasons of parenting where you fail over and over again? That sums up my year of potty-training my son, Josiah. Looking back now there are plenty of moments I can laugh at, however, while living it, those times were defeating.
Here’s how it all began…
My son turned 2, a mere 2 months before the arrival of our daughter, Melody. A couple months before he turned 2, a close friend of mine shared with me how her 18-month old son was completely potty-trained and that I didn’t need to wait until “he was ready.” I love my friend and value her parenting skills, so I borrowed her potty-training book and dove headfirst into the waters. After all, my son was 22 months old and I loved the idea of him being potty-trained before we had another set of diapers to change at home.
The idea of this potty-training method isn’t too new: little one goes commando for 3 days straight, learns how to use the potty and in the end is accident-free and wearing undies. I should’ve sensed trouble when he had 14 accidents in that first hour of day 1. Of course, I only purchased one set of undies, so I was calling my mom to pick more up at the store, while I ran a quick mini load of laundry. With boys, they recommend wearing undies instead of going commando because they get more of a kick out of watching themselves peeing. We did have a turning point on day 3 when Josiah figured out how to pee on command, which was amazing! But as the days turned into weeks, I quickly began to realize things weren’t working out. I went back to my book and realized I was micromanaging the situation. I would hover around, anticipating his next accident and continuously ask, “Do you need to go potty?” I stepped back and tried to be calmer – and if you knew me, my friends and family are always amazed at how calm of a person I am daily.
Despite my best efforts, I decided to temporarily hang up the towel a month before my daughter was born. After all, cleaning up poopy undies at 8 months pregnant (and with morning sickness still in full swing), was not a pleasant time. In the months that followed, Josiah began speech therapy for expressive speech through our Early Intervention program in Pennsylvania. I never really connected it until years later, but his lack of expressive speech made it a lot harder in his potty-training journey. He was at about 20 words at 2 years old, and none of those were about going to the bathroom.
As time went on and I began to find a new balance with having a newborn and a 2-year-old I felt it was time to revisit potty-training yet again with my son. I quickly realized though that backtracking in his training made it a lot harder to re-train him. He already knew how to use the potty, but he was older and more independent – and so the stubbornness in his training hit hard. Numerous tantrums and days where I did my best not to lose my cool were my new normal. I learned that if you’re going to teach your kids something, you have to be consistent – no backtracking, no wavering, no being wishy-washy, no fail to follow-through on consequences.
I vividly remember the biggest fail during our year of potty-training. It was naptime for Josiah and because he would always try to escape his room, I put a gate in his doorway to keep him contained. We have a video monitor, but the quality isn’t amazing, and I turned the volume down because I didn’t want to hear him cry. After about 30 minutes things got quiet and I figured he had fallen asleep. My husband got home from work not too long after and upon changing clothes, came downstairs and told me I should probably go check on Josiah. I went on upstairs and locked eyes with my sweet, charming, loving son. His hands were covered in brown. Then I looked closer and the gate was covered in brown. Then I looked into his room and his toy chest, carpet and bed were covered. He was in a pull-up, but obviously went poop and it couldn’t be contained. Poor guy was so upset though and I couldn’t bring myself to yell at him. I did what any parent would do in an oh-crap moment – I stuck him in the bathtub, clothes and all and began to peel layers off and get him cleaned up. Once he was safely playing in the tub, I went into his room to clean up the scene. Needless to say, I had somehow turned the volume back up on the monitor downstairs, because when Josiah and I came downstairs after the whole fiasco, my husband told me to take Melody and go to my mom’s house to have a girl’s night.
Speaking of – my mom experienced the wiles of Josiah’s potty-training around this same timeframe. She was watching him while I was at an appointment and knew he had to go number 2. He managed to go in the portable mini potty successfully, but as she was cleaning it out she quickly noticed something was off. Upon returning to the living room, she caught him pooping in the corner, up against the wall. Yes – he literally pooped on our living room wall. My husband still has a hard time believing this story, but my mom took photos for evidence.
As time continued, my son’s speech exploded and his potty-training skills did as well. I was beginning to wonder if I would have a son going to college in diapers. Thankfully, it just took time and consistency – and more than one girl’s night out for this momma. Looking back, these poop-scapades crack me up, but in the moment, they brought out such frustration in my parenting capabilities. So, if you’re elbow-deep in number 2 – don’t lose hope! In the right time, our little ones grow, mature and learn the skills they need to be responsible individuals. I survived my year of potty-training my son, and I know you will get there too with your little one!