Fickle, Thy Name is Toddler

My son asked to use the potty yesterday! Please take a moment and celebrate with me. Three years ago I couldn’t have imagined being so excited about such a mundane thing. In fact when he sat on the potty nothing even happened, but It’s a major breakthrough for him. Until yesterday any mention of using the toilet would send him running and yelling, “no, no, no!”

My son will be three in January. I started trying to seriously potty train him when he turned two. I switched from diapers to the ridiculously over-priced disposable training pants. I went out and bought the fanciest potty chair I could find. It looked like a real toilet, and it even sang and talked. I thought surely this will be so much fun to use my intelligent little boy will have it figured out in no time. Well it was fun, for about three days. He quickly grew tired of this game of going-potty-like-a-big-boy. Some people told me it was just to soon for him. Others made it seem that the only reason he wasn’t potty-trained was because of my inadequacies as a mother.

I tried many methods. Each one seemed to make him angrier and less interested in good bathroom habits. His doctor told us to forgo the disposable training pants and even the plastic pants. “Just put regular underwear on him, let him feel what it’s like to be wet and dirty a few times, and he will want to use the toilet,” she said. When she first told me this I thought it was insane. However, in desperation, I tried it. His grandmother bought him some underwear with his favorite characters from the “Cars” movie on them. I thought this too might rouse his interest a bit. When we told him he was going to wear big boy underwear like Daddy he took one look at them, scowld and told us angrily, “Those not like daddy’s. Daddy’s white.” Well you couldn’t argue with him there. My husband gave up Underoos years ago. So we bought him some traditional briefs. He put them on, and wet them and wet them and wet them. It would run down his leg, and he’d keep playing. He didn’t care if his pants were wet. He just played through the discomfort. After steaming the spots on my living room carpet several times, and washing loads of soiled underwear daily for a week, I gave up on this theory.

A rewards system I thought. Surely I could find some desired object to bribe him with. I tried candy, toys, stickers and even money, offering as much as a dollar for number one and two dollars for number two. He turned up his nose at all my offerings. He would say, “I don’t want it. I don’t need it. I don’t want to use the potty.” They say everyone has a price, not a stubborn toddler. For ones with such short attention spans, and so little self-control, they can exact an amazing amount a resolve when they want. 

Too much pressing made him cry. I didn’t want to make him scared of the toilet, so I backed off for a few weeks. Then one day I asked him if he wanted to try using the potty again. He told me that he didn’t like his potty chair. He wanted to use the big toilet. I went and bought one of those child toilet seats with Elmo, his favorite Sesame street character, on it. Again the interest only lasted about three days, and when sitting on the big potty wasn’t new anymore, he went back to his usual complaints at any suggestion of it.

I checked out books about potty-training from the library. Most of them didn’t tell me anything I hadn’t already heard. One book likened toddlers to the un-evolved caveman, and suggested treating them like cavemen. It said I should grunt at him and bang on the wall to communicate instead of using words. Granted dealing with a toddler often feels like you’re banging your head against a wall, but really? I had a good chuckle over that one, and quickly returned it to the library. I wonder what the librarian who purchased that book was thinking? Perhaps it was there as comic relief for over-stressed parents like me.

When the calendar turned to August and school started I went into full-on panic mode late one night. “He will be three soon. Next fall he could go to pre-school. He can’t go if he isn’t potty-trained. Two more years he’ll be in kindergarten. He’ll be the only kindergartner in size 7 diapers. Do they even make size 7 diapers?” These unreasonable thoughts actually woke me in the middle of the night and kept me up ’till dawn. Tired, but with new resolve, I rose to hit the potty-training trenches once again. I decided I didn’t care how much he cried or complained, I was going to make him sit on that toilet every half hour, no matter what. I did this for an entire day. He cried and threw a fit each time. By the time my husband got home from work all that I had accomplished was making my son very, very mad at me and myself very, very mad at him. That night the guilt kept me up. “I”ve probably scarred him for life. He’ll never use the toilet now. What have I done?”

I didn’t try again after that. Once in a while I’d quietly suggest it to him, and he’d run screaming and that was that, until yesterday. He asked for his potty chair, he pulled his pants down and sat for a few minutes. I’d not even mentioned it for days. Like I said nothing came out, but the sheer fact that he wanted to use the toilet at all is a miracle. This is so like my stubborn little son. Everything must be his idea. If it’s his idea, then he’s game for anything. I should have known it would be this way. It will be this way for the next 16 to 20 years. To his future wife out there somewhere, figure out how to make everything his idea and you will skate through life with him.

He asked again today, and we tried a few times. Still nothing come out, but I think his interest just may last more than three days this time. Fickle, thy name is toddler!

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2 Responses to “Fickle, Thy Name is Toddler”

  1. Mindy Says:

    Just saw your comment on my blog. You caught me in a blogging frenzy. Kevin’s gone and I have the computer to myself and lots of new pics so I went crazy! 🙂 I’m going to catch up on all my friend’s blogs now including yours. But…my mother in law got the antique quilt pieces from a shop in Shipshewana. I don’t remember the name of it. She was so excited. 🙂 They really are so beautiful.
    -Mindy

  2. acupofjoy Says:

    Hang in there, Colleen! Aaron and I are praying for you all as our dear nephew masters the toilet. We love you! – Deborah

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