There are two words that are guaranteed to strike fear in the hearts of almost all parents of two year olds: Potty Training. It’s a rite of passage that we all went through ourselves as children, but helpfully have no memory of so we can’t use our own experiences to teach our children. This means we have to rely on the experiences of others, information that we read online and in books, and good old fashioned winging it. No matter what your approach, there are several stages that almost all parents go through when taking on the challenge of potty training.
You have had numerous questions from well-meaning / interfering friends and relatives about when you are going to start potty training your two year old and up until now you have managed to throw them off with a light laugh and the claim that he just isn’t ready yet. However, now he’s pulling off his nappy at every opportunity, it’s a week from his third birthday and he’s the only one in his nursery class who isn’t trained. Which leads us onto…
You are finally ready to admit to yourself that your child is ready to be potty trained. You didn’t really have much choice in the matter since he spent a two-hour car journey screaming that he needed to go to the toilet despite being in a nappy. Your child is a baby no more; he’s a fully fledged toddler ready to move beyond the last bastion of infanthood.
Now you have accepted your and your child’s fate, you begin to feel a little excitement for your journey together. You start to imagine a life without nappies. A life where your handbag can at last be a normal size once more, instead of a giant sack filled with wipes, mats, and nappies. A life where your choice of restaurant is no longer determined by the presence of baby changing facilities. A life where you no longer have to wipe up someone else’s poo. Don’t get too excited about that last part though, that bit takes longer than you might expect.
You’re a firm believer that preparation is the key to success, but you’re also a parent to a toddler and haven’t had a good night’s sleep in well over two years, so you put off the preparation for just one more day and enjoy a glass of wine instead. The next day, you think about preparing for potty training but you get distracted by the poster paint that somehow gets smeared up your walls. Eventually, you decide to get through this stage by ordering some books and a reward chart from Amazon and hope for the best.
You wake up early on the first day of potty training. Not because you are excited, but because the small person who crept into your room at some point during the night has placed one of their feet into your face and it’s uncomfortable. However, you quickly start to feel the excitement build as you explain to your child that today is the day they become a big boy or girl and do all their wees and poos in the potty. The excitement builds into a frenzy when your angelic darling obliges by doing a tiny tinkle into the potty! This is going to be so easy and you really can’t understand what all the fuss is about.
It’s been 3 hours and 46 minutes since you started potty training and you are pretty sure you have cracked it already. You child has not had a single accident, and has successfully used the potty on multiple occasions. You ignore the possibility that this might be down to you simply placing your child on the potty every ten-minutes and offering them a chocolate button for every tiny tinkle. You think of all your friends with their two year olds still in nappies and wonder if they’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter, since you have clearly got the training right down to a fine art.
Buoyed by your success, you brave a trip out of the house, being careful of course to ensure your child uses the potty before you leave. Halfway down the street and you notice your child has started waddling like a duck. Then you notice the wet patch running down the inside of their trousers. You are confused. You know you child only used the potty a few moments ago, so where has this come from? Never mind, you are well prepared. A quick clothes change and a wipe down on a bench and you’re good to go. Five minutes later, it happens again. Then again. And, again. You run out of pants and have to resort to the emergency pull-ups. What is going on?
Until this moment, accidents have been limited to wee, which is fairly easy to clean up. Then towards the end of the day the moment happens. You’re washing up in the kitchen. All is quiet. A little too quiet. Then you hear a little wail, “Mummeeeeeee, I done a poooooo.” You rush to the living room, your heart is pounding, your hands are covered in soap suds, and you stare in horror at the sight that greets you. Your child has already removed her pants and your lovely cream carpets are smeared in brown. It’s on her hands and in her hair. And, you thought the newborn nappy leaks were bad.
At the start of this process, you were convinced it would be a walk in the park. However, as your laundry pile grows larger and larger, it slowly dawns on you that this isn’t going to be the case at all. Those stories you read online of children who were potty trained in a day? Complete bollocks. You’ve got a week of this at least, not to mention several more months of carrying around two changes of clothes and always being on heightened alert for the location of the nearest facilities, or at best a bush that would offer your child some sort of privacy. You buckle down, ready for the long haul, and stock up on carpet cleaner, extra pants, and gin.
Finally, the day arrives when there are no accidents and no need for constant reminders to go to the toilet. At last you have turned a corner and can see the future. It’s filled with lighter laundry loads, more handbag space, and the freedom to take a two-hour road trip without worrying about the location of a public toilet. It’s a whole new era.