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

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2 thoughts on “What Potty Training really teaches…

  1. It is so true the part where you write about chill out and go with the flow. That is something I try to teach myself every day.
    You really know how to put words into this challange. I like. Heart 🙂

  2. Potty training is one of the most difficult things I have done as a parent. My first potty trained like a pro. She just stopped using diapers. One day no accidents. Imagine my surprise when it took 6 month to train my 2nd. I kept trying and he wasn’t ready. I finally went with the take him to the bathroom every 30 minutes and as he stayed dry the times got further and further apart. That approach took 2 weeks, but it was a LONG two weeks. About ready to embark on our 3rd journey soon. I am hoping my youngest daughter figures it out on her own 🙂

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