THE BLOG

Dispatches From Potty Training

06/03/2014 05:02 pm ET | Updated Aug 03, 2014
Emre Eldemir via Getty Images

I remember having a notebook. A notebook filled with breastfeeding times, which boob my child latched on to, the number of pees and poops. I remember saying, "I never thought a peed or pooped-on diaper would bring me such happiness." It meant my baby was hydrated, being fed properly and I could sleep a little more soundly (though not often).

Slowly but surely, we grew out of the newborn phase, and pees and poops became less romantic. And thankfully, part of the norm. Changing diapers shockingly was no longer a high point in my day, yet I was also in "no rush" to get him out of them when people asked whether he was potty-trained at 2.

By the same token, my baby was no longer a baby, but a toddler. Then again, the thought of trying to figure out the whole public bathroom scene with him seemed too difficult, a.k.a. too disgusting. Then again, would that ever be appealing? But when my toddler started trying to take off and (even more oddly) put on his own diaper, I took notice and realized it wasn't necessarily about me. Truth be told, if a few of my other friends hadn't already done it, I probably would have been less likely to give it a go. Strength in numbers.

Many had been singing the praises of a book appropriately titled Oh Crap, so I followed the success stories. What did we have to lose? At 2 years and 5 months old, we took the plunge. As the book suggested, about a week before we were to implement the new regime, we started talking about how we were going to "throw the diapers away." On April 5, we "threw them away" (except for at nighttime) forever. Yes, forever.

The author of Oh Crap, Jamie Glowacki, is against pull-ups, so we bypassed those suckers -- which leads to perk number one: no more spending money on diapers! The first "block," which for us lasted three days, were nakie days. Once the diapers were out of sight we waited. We had the extra liquids ready -- because practice makes perfect -- and yet it was all... anti-climactic.

We had envisioned pee everywhere and just pure mayhem. Thankfully, other than one moment where I picked up my child while he was peeing and ran with him while he continued to pee across the room to get to a potty, there wasn't much more than dribble action. Instead, my child was what she called a "camel." Some would say, "you're so lucky" and maybe we are because we weren't stepping in puddles every step of the way, but it was insane watching our child do the pee pee dance because, from what we could read from his eyes, the potty was evil.

The process also helped me see Parent Fail One: that our child hardly drank liquids! Had my child been dehydrated all these months? So we gave in and bought the juice that was usually reserved for birthday parties only to ensure the pee. By day two, another Parent Fail: the TV became a crutch and our child more defiant than ever. This was potty boot camp, yet I felt I was the one getting whipped into shape.

Those first few days, my child fought every pee on that potty... not to mention the poop that we ended up waiting days upon days for. Suddenly, we were back at square one. Except this time I was able to plead with my juiced-high toddler to poop. Thankfully, the book suggested not to keep a notebook, because I would have driven myself crazy.

On Day 4, we made it beyond the house in pants. On Day 5, we got a traumatizing poop (thankfully, I was warned about this by the book and friends as well) and after an accident at the park on Day 7, we were potty-trained! It took a long time to celebrate, though. I'm still kind of in disbelief each time I say it. Because admittedly those 7 days -- and to be honest, that first month -- were one of the hardest of my parenting experience. I had ripped the Band-Aid off and it hurt us both.

I knew that potty training would be difficult but I hadn't expected it to really test me as a parent. My patience was pushed to the edge and after a few meltdowns on both sides, I realized that while Oliver was learning how to use the potty, I was learning things too.

I needed to learn to be more patient. This was my first teaching task as a parent, and after a few days I realized that maybe I had pushed him a little too fast. I was frustrated by things that to me seemed ridiculous, but to him were very big deals, such as accidentally peeing on his own leg. I had to remind myself that this was all new for him. And even though the book or other friends said one thing, my child is an individual. And every day this huge accomplishment of his is becoming more and more part of his norm, with each tiny feat -- like peeing at a friend's house, nevertheless an unfamiliar public place -- adding to his success.

As adults, we often have a hard time being pushed beyond our comfort zones. Why would I think my toddler wouldn't have something to say about it? I do believe that a little push often leads to great accomplishments (yes, potty training is a great accomplishment). But I also believe as parents we need to pick and choose our battles. So when my toddler had anxiety about sitting on the tiny potette, I knew I needed to suck it up and bring his giant potty with me (as foolish as I looked) until he was ready.

And then one day he was. And I was a better parent for it. Not because he's potty trained, but because I recognized his weaknesses, my own weaknesses and when to push and when to give in.