What Potty Training really teaches…

181 days without yelling, 184 days of loving more to go!

Dear #3,

Last Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 at oh say, 7:23 in the morning you declared you wanted to be potty trained.  We, as in you, me, and your brothers, had JUST sat down and gotten settled at our favorite breakfast restaurant in our favorite vacation town. I had JUST taken a deep breath to enjoy the smell of the ocean. I had JUST relaxed and told myself, I can do this. I can handle 4 kids at a restaurant by myself on 5 hours of sleep.  Then you got up from your chair, as if to challenge my confidence, looked me straight in the eye and without wavering, stated:

“I have to pee.”

“You can go in your diaper, it’s okay.”
(Wrong answer, I know, but everyone was coloring happily, the baby wasn’t screaming, I didn’t want to upset the calm and I really had no desire to start potty training at.that.moment.)

“No, I don’t want to. I go pee pee in potty.”

“Really, right now?!”
(Right now while we are away from home for 3 days and I have no training underwear or anything? Right now while we’ll be spending 3 days at the beach where it is a hike to the potty? Right now, when mommy is overwhelmed and stressed to the max? Right now, as in right now, right NOW?!! Really?!!!)

“Yes. No pee in diaper.”  You said politely and then you screamed not so politely,


I simply had no choice. I corralled everyone and we trekked into the very SMALL bathroom. #1, #2 and I cheered you on. But you didn’t need it. You walked right up to the toilet with the biggest air of confidence I have ever seen you display and did your thing, as if you had been doing it your entire life.

Then you turned and looked at me with the biggest, proudest smile I have ever seen. Up until this point, you have been a pretty shy and nervous child. Not that morning my son. Not that morning. It was just pee in the potty but it was so much more than that, to you and to me. It was a turning point. A point where you realized you CAN do things. You CAN communicate. You CAN do things by yourself.

Since that moment I’ve been “teaching you” how to use the potty. You have absolutely no problem peeing in the potty. GREAT!  But oh my sweet son, pooping in the potty, well let’s just say you prefer pooping in your underwear. Like my, you were of the theory to go straight from diaper to underwear which is great, but the constant accidents in the underwear? Not so great. In fact, the accidents are starting to drive me nuts. And it’s only been seven days! You’re using all your willpower to get your pee in the potty and I am using all my willpower to not scream when you poop in your underwear. Somewhere between wiping your bottom (again) and washing dirty underwear (again), I realized something.

Sure, potty training is about teaching you. Teaching you the obvious: to go to the bathroom in the potty, not in your underwear, not on the floor, not in the car seat, not on the rug, not in the tub, not in the pool . Sure it is about teaching you self control, confidence, independence. But really, it’s about TEACHING ME.

Potty Training TEACHES ME.

Potty Training teaches me PATIENCE, LOVE, FORGIVENESS, and UNDERSTANDING as I clean the seventh pair of soiled brown underwear. Of the day. You are not even three. You are just learning. You didn’t have an accident on purpose. I love you no matter what “mistakes” you make during this process, and in life.

Potty Training teaches me PHYSICAL ENDURANCE as I grab you and run with you in my arms across the beach, up the dunes, to make it to the bathroom before you have an accident.

Potty Training teaches me MENTAL ENDURANCE as I force myself to remember to ask you every 5 then 10 then 15 minutes if you need to go, as I force myself to keep asking even after four days of success since accidents do happen…for years to come.

Potty Training teaches me CREATIVITY as I have to come up with new ways to make peeing fun, like putting red food coloring in the toilet and telling you, my little fireman to “quick, use your hose to put the fire out” or saying “hey did you know #2’s love to go swimming in the toilet pool? Let your #2 go splish spash!”

Potty Training teaches me IMPULSE CONTROL as I try, try, TRY my hardest not to yell when you have an accident. Again. And Again. And again. When you look at me and say “I pooping” and you are nowhere near the potty. When you look at me and smile and say “I pooped in underwear!”

Potty Training teaches me CLEANING SKILLS as I learn how to quickly stop the pee from going into every single grout line in the floor and how to get the pee off the seat, under the seat, around the seat….

Potty Training teaches me DECISION MAKING as I have to stop and debate, is this underwear soiled badly enough from a #2 that I should just toss it or is it cleanable? I read in a parenting magazine once that an experienced mom finally realized that sometimes it is easier and saner to just toss the underwear. Have to admit, 9/10 times, she is right.

Potty Training teaches me MULTI-TASKING as I figure out how to cheer you on while you’re on the potty all while keeping your baby brother not only out of the toilet but also away from the stairs and out of the line of fire from your two older brothers.

Potty Training teaches me PRIORITIZATION as I have to drop everything I am doing this week to focus on the task at hand – helping you feel good about yourself and your successes and not to feel down about the accidents. Suddenly, it is clear to me what matters. The to-do list can wait. Your pee pee cannot wait. Literally and figuratively.

Potty Training teaches me to SEIZE the MOMENT, even if inconvenient. Right now, the last thing I want to do is potty train. I’ve got other mountains to climb. But guess what? You want to train now. And as I have learned with your older brothers, when a child wants to potty train, you go with it. So while inconvenient now, it is better in the long run. It is way easier.

But at the end of the day, perhaps the #1 thing Potty Training teaches me is how to RELAX, something I am NOT good at, at all! That despite my desire, yelling at you to go, pushing you to go, shaming you to go, won’t do any good. That if I relax, you’ll relax. And if you relax, you’ll go! All I have to do is chill out and go with the flow. (No pun intended.)

I love you and am so proud of you. We’re making progress, one moment at a time.

Mommy Orange Rhino

Bottled up emotions do me NO good…

177 days without yelling, 187 days of loving more to go!

Dear Computer Keyboard,

My mind is full of so much that I want to say, that I want to get out, that I want to write about yet I can’t because my mind is too overwhelmed. It doesn’t know where to start. What to process first. Because I am too stressed to process what I need to process in order to start writing and feel better. Does that make any sense? So I implore you, can you please pull the words out of my head and help remove the writer’s block? If not, I swear I am going to lose it and by that I mean I am going to scream at my boys and that is the last thing I need right now.

Thanks for your help,
The Orange Rhino


I want to write about my baby turning one, about being in denial that I no longer have a “baby” in the house, about being disappointed that I didn’t spend as much “quality” time with my last baby as I hoped, about being frustrated with myself that I am not good at fully enjoying the quality time that I do have.

I want to write about loving my 4 boys but how I sometimes think it would be great to have a girl TOO. Not instead, but TOO. About how smelling a little girl’s Strawberry Shortcake doll just now brought tears to my eyes because I know that some of my most favorite childhood pastimes I probably won’t share with my boys.

I want to write about how I know in my heart 4 kids is our family but that I still dream of having another child. But we won’t because right now my three eldest are each struggling, really struggling, and I am at my wits end which makes it blatantly clear to me that 4 is our limit (because #4 isn’t old enough to give me problems!)

I want to write about how with 4 kids, I can’t seem to figure out how to adequately give each one the help they need right now. How frustrated I am that I have been told by speech therapists and occupational therapists what I should do to help my kiddos yet I can’t find the time (scratch that, that I don’t make the time) to help them.

I want to write about how I love having 4 kids, but how it has ostracized me from lots of things that I knew it would, that I wouldn’t change it for a world, but still sometimes it gets me down, sometimes I feel alone and lost and like no one understands me or my challenges.

I want to write about how having 4 kids is wonderfully…hard. How I don’t have it all together like people think…but that I wish I did. That I was truly the “wow, you are such a patient mom, you always seem so pulled together to.” Ha, as if!

I want to write about how I constantly question my boys’ behavior and worry if it is just a phase, if it is a boy thing, if it IS normal or not, if it is a result of my parenting and then I worry about what others think about their behavior and what others think about my parenting. And I know no one’s opinions matter per say, but I still worry.

I want to write about how I haven’t yelled lately but that I’ve used a firm voice an awful lot to try to get said behavior in line. And that I don’t like that. At all. And that even though I haven’t broken my Orange Rhino Challenge rules, I am still not pleased with myself because I know I can do better.

I want to write about how despite all the craziness in the house I love my boys SO much and that I wish I could enjoy the good moments more, yet it is near impossible because the minute I find myself enjoying the moment BAM someone starts screaming.

I want to write about how I want to actually seize the moment and go on adventures with my boys, yet how I feel stressed most of the time and can’t help but wonder, is it worth it? Is it worth it to push myself for a few hours of fun? (The answer is always yes but still at the beginning, I always wonder!)

I want to write about how excited and proud I am that #3 decided to potty train himself while on our recent adventure, but how sad I am that he is growing up and that I will yes, miss changing his diapers. We always had such great chats during diaper time, seriously, and it always gave me 30 seconds to stop and stare at his beautiful baby face and cherish his adorableness.

I want to write about how #3 still screams an awful lot and that as much progress as we have made in a year, I still feel like we are dealing with the same issues and I worry that something is wrong. That either I am parenting wrong or that there is something else going on. Autism has been ruled out but still, I worry.

I want to write about how we feel #2 is being bullied and we don’t know how to proceed. He is only 4. That’s right people. 4. Who knew kids could be so mean? Who knew that watching my son being excluded and then laughed at would bring back painful memories of my own childhood?

I want to write about how #1 is always anxious and worried. That he gets it from me and I feel awful about it. Awful that he experiences these feelings, awful that I get frustrated by the 100th question driven by concern. What is a boardwalk? If it is on water, will it fall down? Will I fall in the ocean? Will I drown? Will a lifeguard rescue me? All he needs to hear is “you’re safe” instead he hears frustrated and short responses to his questions.

I want to write about it all. Every last bit of it and more.  I want to write about all that is clogging my mind and putting me on edge with my kids, yet I fear that if I sit down and truly, deeply write about what’s on my mind and then read it on the screen it will be real. Which I know is actually a good thing, but still.

I want to write because keeping all my feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, disappointment bottled up inside is leading to one thing…a not nice mommy. I might not be yelling but I am not necessarily as nice as I want to be either. Not even close. I need to let these feelings out because my boys deserve better. Full. Stop. Period.

Note to self (1): After I wrote this, I instantly felt better. I felt a weight lifted. I felt a teensy bit of patience and love come back into my body. Don’t keep things bottled up. It does you NO GOOD.

Note to self (2):  When you start to feel overwhelmed, tackle the stress bit my bit. You didn’t write anything because you felt the need to write the whole thing. You didn’t know where to start. You wrote a little bit about each feeling and felt like you made progress. Kind of like getting through the day without yelling. Take it one step at a time…