That time we tried potty training

Today’s missive from the furrows of parenting is a story of failure. I have a few hundred that I could share, obviously, but I generally try not to think about them. I chalk them up to being a rookie and move on to something more fun. But sometimes it’s good to look them over (when they don’t reduce you do a sobbing heap of shame) and think about what was going on and why it all went wrong. So that’s today. The story of eight hours of potty training (without the graphic details).

It’s not a story of the toddler’s failure to do anything. Or of mine as a mother. It’s just one task I undertook that never got done, despite all my efforts.

This was not what it was like

Just a few days ago, I bit the bullet and decided to potty train the toddler (who is 2 and 3/4). I’m not entirely sure why I decided we would start. I guess I like to get on with things, and this seemed like the next thing we were meant to do, or help our toddler to do. Friends with kids the same age seemed to be cracking on. The childminder said she thought that the little man was ready. Everyone says ‘do it in summer when your kid can run around naked!’ (except not so practical when they can scratch their eczema). We were even having conversations about toilets and potties and genitalia, so it seemed like a reasonable step to take.

Then, I read a book about it: Gina Ford’s ‘How to potty train in a week’. I’ve never read anything Gina Ford has ever written, as most of my friends resist the idea of enforcing routines on their babies and she was kind of a dirty word in my hippy circles. (I should say that despite my best attempts at being a hippy, my babies and I have been happiest in a lightly-held routine).  But I couldn’t quite resist the idea that potty training could be so quick. So I read it, for research purposes. And it seemed to make sense, even if I laughed hysterically at the idea that I would be able to make Jesse sit on a potty every 15 minutes during the first few days. I decided to give some version of it a go.

I’m not going to detail the little man’s excretions here, I will spare his grown-up self something. The potty did not turn out to be an appealing place in which to do anything you might think it was there for. The day didn’t go well from a practical point of view. And what was far worse, was that I hated the parent I turned into that day. I stayed calm, like everyone says you should, when accidents happened. But man did I flip out about other things. I was on the edge. I had cabin fever. I was so bored, and frustrated. And the poor 7 month old was practically ignored all day as I watched her brother like a hawk. A hawk with a potty.

I was ratty and resentful and we all were going a bit nuts from being at home all day. All the rewards in the world meant nothing to the poor confused toddler. The only perk was that he got to watch the whole of Finding Nemo as it was the only way to get him on the potty for long enough that he essentially was forced to wee in the end.

There are battles I fight with the little man every day. Mostly they centre around treatment for his eczema and the creams and medicines and special baths he needs. And there are other battles I could fight, only I don’t want to. I would rather we negotiate on what we can. When it comes to his body, I want him to know that his feelings and opinions matter – but the necessity of moisturising his skin constantly and minimising the scratching mean that I cannot be an extremist on this. For his own good I have to put the creams on. But the battles wear us both down, they really do, physically and emotionally.

So it got to 5pm and there were tears and I just decided that we weren’t going to fight this battle right now. Maybe if we’d stuck it out for even a week, things would have turned. Or maybe it would have been months. Maybe I’m just postponing the inevitable, but I really don’t mind. I’d like to buy us some more happy days right now.

My increasingly desperate trail of text messages to Andy throughout that day revealed that I was totally cracking up, and the kind man reached out to the virtual world on my behalf and invited Facebook friends to send me messages of solidarity and love. Thank you, if you sent me a message. There was a lot of love poured in my direction and a lot of wisdom. And a lot of people saying, ‘just wait till he’s ready’.

So we tried and we failed. Or probably more accurately, I tried and I failed. I apologised to Jesse for how I’d treated him all day, and he said it was ok. And we’re all fine with my failure. Potty training will happen sometime in the future when he’s more interested. (We have some Paw Patrol pants going spare now if you’re interested?). Successful potty trainers of 2 year olds, I salute you, but I will not be joining your ranks!

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3 thoughts on “That time we tried potty training

  1. Nikki Nell

    Love this, so honest and most likely a reflection of many mums with 2 and 3/4 year old toddlers that day. Potty training is such a variable thing – you know your child, you know if it is working and sometimes the best thing is to do what you have done, a little gentle resignation and postpone for another day. I know mums who had their toddler trained by 18 months, I also know mums who had their children just about sorted by the age of 4. Each to their own, who cares about the hows and whens when you know by the time they are ten it won’t even be an issue? He may be one of those who goes straight for the loo and forgoes the potty!

    Best of luck for the next attempt, whenever that may be, but happy nappy days until then… 😉 x

  2. Tara Devlin

    Hey Jenny – I obviously have zero expertise on this but I just this minute heard about this book while listening to the author being interviewed in a podcast and you came to mind, so I thought I’d pass it on. It’s called Skip to the Loo by Sally Lloyd Jones, a Christian author, who wanted to write a book for children in rhyme to help make the whole potty training thing less daunting. Not sure if you’ve come across it – but just thought I should share, in case it might help. Tara


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