Ode to Potty Training

If you awaken upon gray Sunday morning puttering down the stairs until that first cup of coffee is ready relishing in the slower pace where the whole family can stay in their pyjamas a little while longer. If you wave a hand towards your children allowing them to watch a few morning cartoons after they gobble down a bowl of cereal leaving droplets of milk across the kitchen table and you do not rush to wipe it up. If you decide to snooze on the couch for five (okay twenty) minutes keeping one eye partially open in order to ensure your kids do not fight over the remote control. If you have your own slow routine on Sunday morning where for a few precious hours you cocoon yourself and your family inside your home then you are part of our group. The people who survived the first week of back-to-school. We are those tired souls who looked forward to Sunday morning all week. The one day where we did not have to remind our children to lace up their shoes, close their water bottles and put on a pair of tight leggings because yes, it is cool outside. There are no planned activities. Today there are no tennis lessons or swimming classes. However, with three or more children and one potty training that blissful quiet turns into a frenzy of activity in a heartbeat.

Mr. L had vacated the premises quite early for a planned bike race so it was just us, until Jacob had to deal with potty training. Yes, potty training is underway at our house. Having gone through this twice before (albeit it with girls) I was not sure what to expect when potty training a boy. I heard lots of tips and words of advice.

“They take longer.”

“Sit them backwards on the toilet so they get used to seeing that view of the toilet.”

“Just put a pull-up diaper on when battling with #2.”

“It’s easier with boys, they can go anywhere.”

“Have the Dad do it. Boys need to learn from boys.”

I did a bit of reading and a lot of listening. Then proceeded to just go with what I know. Potty training in three-ish days. Leading up to “Potty Day” we talked a lot about going potty. Jacob followed everyone into the bathroom to observe. He repeated the steps. I set up the various potty stations around the house complete with stacks of books. Put wipes, extra training underwear and pull up diapers at every potty location. The Potty Book Set complete with Henry, his little potty, DVD and book arrived a few weeks prior and I spent every day sitting Jacob in front of the television to watch Henry learn to go potty and then we would read the book. So when “Potty Day” arrived, we took his sisters to camp (this was last week of summer) and spent ten minutes saying bye-bye to diapers and being introduced to the potty. In our house, Smarties work very well as an incentive the first few weeks. I worry about weaning them off the Smarties later. I grit my teeth, told myself to look ahead to diaper free days and we commenced.

Jacob first potty day.

Jacob first potty day.

What I know from past experience:

1. You cannot make a toddler sit on a potty until they are ready.

2. Have bleach on hand for accidents.

3. #2 always takes longer than #1 for most children.

4. Celebrate the small victories.

5. Don’t get frustrated and repeat to yourself, “No more diapers. No more diapers.”

6. Do not make appointments or plans. You will be housebound for three-five days.

I had not realized, potty training with three kids at home is hard. When I trained Elizabeth, I had a part-time nanny to help and Audrey was a baby so staying homebound was much, much easier. With Audrey, I had a full-time nanny and Elizabeth was at full-day kindergarten so lots of support. This time, I am at home. Alone during the week/day. With three kids. The upside was that the girls took it upon themselves to help and applaud their little brother of course, requesting the same treat when we successfully hit the potty. They were both at camp the first crucial week. (You know that week where you decide if you are pushing your little one early and need to take a step back or progress is made and you forge ahead?) So I did get that important one on one time for a bit. I remember sitting on stools reading books with a toddler or a magazine of my own while we “waited.” It is a little trickier when you have two other kiddies running around. This time around, sometimes I sit scrolling through my iPhone and other times I tell Jacob, “just sit still, Mommy has to check on sisters. Don’t move!” praying he does not follow me.

Boys are different from girls. You have to teach them to keep a certain body part pointed down and repeat, “It is not a toy. Don’t touch!” He is excellent at the routine and never forgets to wash his hands. He also likes to help flush it all away and I have to admit, seeing a two and a half-year old boy clap and wave, “Bye-Bye Pee!” is darn cute. Being the end of summer, he is running around naked a lot or just in training underwear. The girls have gotten used to seeing his bare bum in sight.

Boys like to emulate other boys. His second day of full-day preschool last week, he stood up to go pee and now refuses to sit on the potty. So I hold his hands to steady him, got little stools so he can reach the toilet and secretly applaud my good fortune.  I have scored now that he learned how to do number one so fast lessening the number of times in a day I need to clean a potty.

Number two is taking a bit longer, and the girls are getting frustrated when on the weekend we cannot get up and leave because I know he needs thirty-ish minutes to dance around before he finally sits on the potty. I also learned last week that being a mom of three or more, you sometimes forget your last child is only two and a half meaning back-up clothes and wipes are a necessity. An impromptu park visit is cut short when we have to run home to change clothes and the girls just have to deal with that reality.

But we make progress. The girls have learned it’s best to let me spend time with Jacob so we can get on with our days. The older kids also help the younger ones which is really great. One day, I found all three of them reading in the bathroom. One on the potty. One on the toilet and one just hanging out. Our powder room on the main floor has become the communal bathroom for all sexes and ages of the kids. Thank goodness Mr. L and I are lucky enough to have our own bathroom! Also, when you ask them if they have to go. They say yes but want to try later because they are busy playing. Do not believe them. This has always resulted in an accident.

Yet, I see it in the distance. A flicker of light wherein my life will not revolve around potty times and diapers. No more cleaning training underwear in bleach or holding a little bare-bummed toddlers in front of me as I speed race towards the closest bathroom. Hearing my voice pleading with older children to be patient, he must go potty before we leave!! That flicker of light will grow and how I will celebrate.

“Bye-Bye Diapers. I am through with you!” (From The Potty Book)


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