Something happened in my bathroom.
The space which had once been a crisp, white sanctuary for the full-bladdered looked like the interior of a shipping container that had carried a pack of wolverines on a treacherous trans-Atlantic voyage. After they visited Taco Bell for fourth meal.
The entire place was a mess.
And the smell could only be described as brutally agricultural.
A half roll of Charmin lay soaking and bloated on hardwood next to a puddle of urine. Skid marks dotted the pedestal sink, and brownish hand-prints lined the walls. There was only one possible explanation:
The ghost of Jackson Pollock’s dog had shat himself in my half bath.
“Did you poop?” My son pondered his answer as he sidled up to me innocently. I looked down at him, and it became immediately clear who exactly had pooped. He looked as though he’d fallen down a well. His hair was sticking straight up, held vertical by some powerful (and surely nefarious) bodily agent. He was covered in his own feces.
I’m not a squeamish person by any means. I once stepped on road kill while wearing flip-flops. And I kept the flip-flops. THIS, y’all, was unearthly. In a world filled with logic and reason, this would have been an appropriate moment to vomit-sob, but after I noticed that a minuscule amount of my toddler’s poop had actually made it into the potty. I started to celebrate. Because that’s just what you do.
What a good job you did! You pooped in the potty!!!
But mostly on the potty. And the floor. And the House Beautiful magazines.
He clapped his filthy hands together excitedly, I pulled on my rubber gloves, and we went upstairs for a bath….
Potty training. It’s the pits—for real. Wilder and I have been on this strange and fragrant roller coaster for approximately four months, and while we have days that are filled with triumph after triumph, we have plenty of the aforementioned blood curdling variety too. I went into this whole process with the bright-eyed ”can-do” of an adult girl scout, but soon, I learned that it takes a little bit more than a toothy grin to conquer toilet learning with a toddler. Now that I have seen things—scary things, digestive things—I can tell you there are a few things you should know that I didn’t before beginning the process.
1) This is a Chamber Pot.
It’s not a “potty chair.” It doesn’t matter how many Mickey Mice it has dancing across the lid. It’s just a little plastic tub. And your child is going to tear it the fudge up—medieval style. Sure, it might sing a cute song or look like a racecar or light up like the pyrotechnics at a White Snake concert every time your toddler throws a deuce, but even if that thing starts projecting holograms of Orlando Bloom riding topless and horseback onto the ceiling, it still won’t change the fact that it’s a bucket of human waste.
Now don’t get me wrong—baby chamber pots are great. My son can use his almost entirely independently, and I don’t have to worry about dropping him in the toilet every time my tendonitis acts up, but this is kind of a “that which we call a rose” situation minus the sweet smelling flower bit. It is just a pot, no matter how you slice it—a really tricky to clean, debatable step up from a hole in the ground.
2) You Get a Free Home Makeover.
If you are potty training, there is absolutely no way to hide it. There isn’t enough mid-century modern furniture in the world to make that puffy Elmo toilet seat/stepstool combo fade into the background, so you might as well just embrace the fact that for a little (but kind of a long) time your bathroom/living room/dining area is going to look like a seedy back alley off Sesame Street.
Aside from the basic artillery, there are several additional accouterments that will fully transform the space you once called home into a giant, odorous celebration of the excremental arts. Our half bath for example, has been through countless metamorphoses rendering it completely useless to anybody over the age of 5.
It has been children’s library:
The front lawn of a fraternity:
3) You Will Fantasize About These:
Congratulations! You’re potty training! You’re never walking down that aisle in Target again. Nope. NEVER. Not you! You, my friend, are on top of the world. You just changed your last poopy diaper, sister
(cue: victorious trumpeting)
Enter poopy underpants.
(cue: murderous violin-shrieking)
So. Much. Worse. It might be days, weeks even, until it happens, but rest assured, my sweet, optimistic friend. It will happen, and you’ll find yourself back at Target, looking wistfully down that impeccable, many-Pampered aisle as you search frantically for another 6-pack of teensy Frozen briefs. Because the last batch just couldn’t be saved. It won’t be like this forever (or so I’m told), but until that day when the threat of the next poopocolyptic disaster is eradicated and we can all crawl out of our bunkers, I’ll sigh an enviable sigh every time I see one of those tell-tale bulky bottoms.
4) YOU too Can Potty Train in 3 Days…or for an eternity.
Unless you are some kind of mystic, there is a 0.01% chance that you will potty train your child at the exact right time. You can get all up on the BabyCenter looking at readiness checklists and soaking up anecdotal advice, but until you un-tape that final Huggie, you just won’t know how it’s all going to shake out. I know plenty of parents who’ve started the process perhaps a hair early and soldiered through months of turmoil and others for whom the transition has been so seamless that they have kicked themselves for not starting earlier. (Note: I kind of want to kick you lucky people too. I feel like you must be really clean.) All of our kiddos are different.
AND everybody’s definition of “potty trained” is different. You will, unfortunately, meet that one mom that says her three month old is potty trained. Don’t be fooled. This woman is an alien robot who has been strategically placed among us to cause our Neanderthal civilization to drown in it’s own mom guilt. Just kidding. But seriously, this mama-droid’s definition of potty training is probably a wee bit different than the image you have floating about in your beautiful head. It does not mean, for example, that her baby is sitting on the can reading the Atlantic and misting the Hawaiian Breeze Glade with every bowel movement. It probably just means she practices elimination communication (and god bless her for it!). Unless…her baby is a robot too!
Some “potty trained” kids roam naked at home, some still sleep in pull ups, some probably DO read the Atlantic and use the Glade, but in order to preserve what’s left of your sanity, try not to compare. Too much.
*However, if you must know, my nearly two and a half year old began badgering me about using the potty about 6 months ago, and after reading literally all the books and ticking off all of the readiness boxes, we went for it—guns blazing. And in my mind, we’re still going for it.
5) “You can’t control what goes in or what comes out of your child.”
I love my pediatrician. LOVE him. But sometimes he says things like that—which really p*** me off.
Of course, he’s absolutely correct.
Don’t you get tired of being right ALL OF THE TIME, Dr. Brad?!
No matter how hard you try, how pathetically you grovel, how high you hike the M&M incentive package, you don’t get to be in control of the toilet learning process. No more so than you get to control your toddler’s taste for raw kale. The truth is, there really is only so much you can do.
As one of those borderline-insufferable over-achieving moms, this pill has been difficult to swallow for me. Letting go and watching my child straight up massacre a pair of immaculate tighty-whities without so much as batting a pretty lash isn’t my idea of nirvana, but at the end of the day, it’s literally his business, not mine, no matter how closely acquainted I’ve become with it over the last couple of years.
Stand back…a little further…just a little bit further…and let your tot take the lead.
I hope that the picture I painted of this whole process wasn’t too glamorous for you! 😉
Hardy-hars aside, I don’t think any parent ever looks back terribly fondly on potty training wishing they could do it all over again, but for some of us (ahem, ME) it can be really tough. Beyond tough. Hang in there, friends. Eventually, we’ll all meet up in a restroom line somewhere and laugh about these good old times. I mean, you haven’t really lived until you’ve seen what happens to a pair of soiled Batman underoos after they have been down the twirly slide eight times on a hot summer’s day, right? Right?!