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How To Potty Train Your Child

Let me start by saying that I never gave this much thought prior to having children. Who does? As an adult, I’ve had to deal with my own bouts of incontinence but those usually ended with a solemn vow never to drink again. I’ll save those adventures for another story. So when it came time to teach my son how to use the potty, I turned to my mother for advice. She started the conversation by informing me that all her children were trained by the age of one. I hung up on her… accidentally, of course. Seriously though, when you’re hanging on by a claw, who needs that sort of boasting? Indeed, she had my five brothers in the space of eight years so she likely didn’t have time for much crap, pun intended. She was out milking cows and working in the field for heaven’s sake. According to my brothers, when they were toddlers they only stopped pitching bales long enough to slurp back a bottle and change their own diapers. The hike back to the house was also uphill, both ways. But that’s stating the obvious. Regardless, both versions of the story are highly suspect.

Our journey through this unchartered territory started just before the birth of our second child — my husband and I wanted to potty train our son before the new baby arrived. Jack was 2-1/2 years old at the time, and much like us, I can’t say that he was entirely interested, although the promise of a sticker or a mouthful of Smarties was usually enough to get the both of us to sit down and have a think about it. And we would sit, and sit, and sit, and sit — me on the floor, and him on his little wee training potty. For the record, I would have found the entire stint cruel and intolerably boring were it not for the constant stream of commentary that would pour from his mouth. Here’s a sample of one such conversation:

“Jack, just focus and push already. There’s something in there for sure.”

“There’s no poop in there, Mommy.”

“Yes there is, Jack. You just have to push harder.”

“No, Mommy. There’s none. It’s all gone. We’ll have to get some at the store. Can I go now?”

Clever and creative — Jack one point, Mommy zero. A little while later, after taking a break to explain to him that we didn’t need to purchase said goods at the store if we happened to run out, I upgraded to sitting on a tiny stool beside him. We were chatting away, passing the time, waiting for amovement of any sort. At one point, he was staring at me really hard, and I was certain that this intent look of concentration meant we were on the cusp of a massive breakthrough. Sadly not — rather, he wanted to play a game. “Open your mouth, Mommy. I want to count your teeth.”

“Uhm… OK. Let’s practise counting while we’re sitting here. Great idea, Jack!” And I smiled really wide and he started counting them off. “One, two, three… you got supper in there… four…” I’m not sure about him but the whole quality time in the bathroom thing wasn’t doing a whole lot for my self-confidence.

And so, weeks passed (at some point, we did leave the bathroom), accidents happened, negligible progress was made. When our daughter was born, there seemed to be less time in the day to focus on making sure Jack was getting to the bathroom on a regular basis. In fact, the only time he sat still for any period of time was to watch me breast-feed his baby sister, a process he found fascinating. Little did I know he was intently watching and doing research for what was about to become his new excuse for not being able to go sit on the potty. One day, shortly after nursing Isla and putting her down for a nap, I urged Jack to go to the bathroom. I told him there was no way he could hold anything in for much longer without having an accident. He turned to stare at me with an air of motherly grace and stated, “Jack can’t right now, Mommy. Puppy needs milk.” And with this, he picked up his mangy,stuffedtoy, cradled it to his chest, gazed down with immense pride and satisfaction and proceeded to breast-feed.

Tell me please, where does one go from there?

I’m not sure exactly when, or what, the turning point was, although after a few months of effort he was successfully potty trained. Now that he’s older, the constant battle has stopped, although the drama and commentary continue. He still deems it necessary to comment on each creation, with declarations ranging from, “Whoa. That’s a big poop to put in a little bum,” to a more recent occurrence whereby after dolefully examining a rather paltry bunny-like dropping, he shook his head and muttered, “That poor little poop has no family, Mommy. That sucks. He’s going to fly back in to find his mommy and daddy.”

When your three-year-old utters these profound statements with the clarity of the Dalai Lama, there’s not much one can do other than find a piece of paper and write them down for future reference. Truth be told, I’ve been thinking about this whole potty-training production again lately as I’d love to have my daughter trained before our third child arrives in early June. And that news, my friends, was a little something that happened in Vegas that apparently didn’t stay there.

JanitaVandeVeldegrewuponafarmnear Mariapolis,Man.Sheholdsabachelorof sciencedegreeinagriculturaleconomicsfrom theUniversityofManitoba,andhasworked forafinancialinstitutionsincegraduating. ShelivesinRegina,Sask.,withherhusband RoddyandtheirchildrenJackandIsla.Her firstnovel,PostcardsNeverWritten,was therecipientoftheSaskatchewanReader’s ChoiceAwardandalsolistedbyCBCasone ofthetopfunnybooksin2009.Shedonatesa portionofproceedsfromthesaleofherbook toWorldVisiontohelpthoselessfortunate. Formoreinformation,ortoorderherbook,visit herwebsiteat www.janita.ca

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