She was supposed to be potty trained. But what does that even mean? I wanted to believe she was. That’s the thing with potty training, it doesn’t exactly have a sharp ending, per say.
There’s not a final turning point, or test, or blessing, where you can say, “Yes! Now it’s done. Let’s enjoy our pee free life.”
It’s more of a drawn out gradual thing like a Netflix series that may go on for two seasons, or ten seasons, the creators don’t really know because it’s all based on downloads, so they just keep giving short moments of resolution at the end of each season, along with a cliffhanger, never really answering the pressing question: “When will it all end?”
I simply didn’t know, but I must admit, I was stupid enough to assume it had ended when she began preschool.
Norah was our second child, so I’d potty trained another child. Her older brother. He was pretty good by the time he began preschool. Well… all except for number two.
He didn’t like that too much, so he’d hold it until someone forced him to sit down on the toilet. If no one intervened, well… you get the idea. He’d loose it in his shorts, and we’d find it in his socks.
But that only lasted a couple months. But with Norah, I kept thinking she was good to go, and then suddenly she’d slide back into peeing her pants.
We got so frustrated each time she slid back into having accidents while potty training.
I can remember having multiple stern conversations where she’d sit on the toilet, wet Hello Kitty underwear around her ankles, me telling her that I can’t do this for her, and that she needs to figure it out.
I used words like ridiculous and I told her she should have it down by now. She always looked up at me with these big soft blue eyes, not sure exactly what I was getting at, but obviously feeling like I was angry with her.
And to be honest, I wasn’t angry. I was frustrated. I wanted her to be over this so badly. I wanted her to just put her pee and poop into the toilet, like a good human, and the fact that she hadn’t figured it out yet made me feel like a total parenting failure.
And you know what, that’s probably the most frustrating thing with potty training? Each child has their own schedule.
Some kids pick it up, no problem. And then their parents feel it is there duty to brag about it at play dates. “Little Marcus was potty trained at two. Can you believe it? Two. It was so easy. Now he’s four and doing calculus.”
And although everyone listening secretly wants to wants to punt that mother in her baby button, we all go home and wonder what’s wrong with our children. But the fact is, even wonder mom’s child was still having accidents.
I guarantee it.
She just isn’t as open about it. And back then, when I was still a pretty new parent, I felt like Norah should be further along than she was, and all of that culminated into me putting too much pressure on Norah, and her really going off the rails.
It started with her room smelling funny.
She stopped having accidents, but at the same time, I almost never saw her use the restroom, and for some reason I couldn’t find all of her underwear.
I’m no detective. I’m just some dad with an English degree, but when I read the above paragraph, it seems almost too clear to me what was going on. However, the dominos didn’t actually fall until my wife, Mel, found a stash of soiled underwear crammed behind the camping gear we kept in Norah’s closet.
That’s the tricky thing with potty training. It seems so basic.
It seems like one of those things that children really should come out of the womb knowing how to do. But honestly, newborns don’t even understand how to sleep or latch properly, so what makes using the restroom any different?
But it’s right there, in how simple using the restroom is, that I think parents often get lost in understanding that potty training is pretty stressful on a young child.
Each time we got frustrated with Norah. Each time we were at our wits end with the little girl going in her pants, she obviously felt like she was doing something horribly wrong.
She couldn’t understand how to stop it from happening, so she hid the evidence, and now, suddenly, her bedroom smelled like a nursing home.
We could’ve gotten mad at Norah, showed her the evidence, which would’ve probably only make the problem worse. We could’ve ignore it, and done the laundry, and hoped the problem went away.
What we ultimately ended up doing was showing her the underwear, and then calmly discussing with her that she didn’t need to hide her mistakes from us. In fact, that was the last thing we ever wanted. I could tell that she was expecting the worst, but ended up finding two supportive parents.
I can’t say that this moment was a turning point.
She still had a number of accidents in the days after, but what I can say is that it changed the way we approached Norah. We became more supportive of her, and more understanding of her mistakes.
We took the pressure off ourselves, and off her, and eventually, like all children do, she figured it out. And as smelly as this situation was, I think it was a good lesson for us as parents to not give into the pressures around us, and not to allow those pressures to cause us to push our children harder than we should.