Fair warning: This is not a “Potty-Train your Toddler in 3 Days! With Pictures!” post. There are enough of those and, personally, I would like to punch those people square in the throat. (Also, I call bullshit that your child was fully, big-kid potty-trained at 17 months, no matter what your oft-pinned blog post says. If your kid can’t say, “Excuse me, Momma – would you put down your gin and tonic and help me locate a restroom, please?” and then have the sphincter control to actually hold it until you arrive at the restroom, wait in line, and finally set him/her on the strips of toilet paper you carefully arranged to cover up as much Ebola-covered toilet seat as possible, then, no. Sorry. Not potty-trained.) Instead, this is a from-the-trenches account of lessons learned.
It started off innocently enough. I was blissfully wandering through Target by myself when K called and asked me to buy something normal like razor blades or windshield washer fluid or bananas, and then threw in, “and maybe a potty seat.” Looking back, that moment seems like the first time someone suggested to Oedipus that maybe he should just go see the Oracle: “I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? It’s not like you’re going to end up killing a guy you don’t know is your father, marrying your mother, fathering your half-siblings, and then gouging out your own eyeballs in angst… LOL, AMIRITE?!?!”
But, after a little eye-rolling, I decided I could make room for a $6 hunk of plastic among the cartful of my own impulse purchases and tossed the least-ugly seat in.
It was fine for a while. We decided that we wouldn’t do the “potty-training bootcamp” (and by that, I mean that I told K in no uncertain terms that I am pregnant and exhausted and will not be pouring energy I don’t have into something that I’m not sure the boy is really ready for anyway. Hello! He still thinks my drink of choice is “teeeeeeea”). So we came up with a little compromise involving lots of talking about the potty, and “trying” to “go” on the potty at certain times (e.g., after diaper changes, before and after nap, etc.), and, naturally, lots of M&Ms.
I quickly learned, however, that potty-training a boy is just code for watching your child play with his penis. On the plus side, it has helped my vocabulary: I used to think that I would only use the proper anatomical terms for my kid(s)’s bits, but somehow “quit playing with your testicles!” sounds really weird. These vocabulary decisions need to be made ahead of time, though, because “quit playing with your balls!” should only be said to a child in a gymnasium regarding basketballs. So far, I’ve settled on “bottom,” with the exception of the phrase, “Stop! Point your penis into the toilet!”
… And this is where we’re stalled. He’s only interested in the potty for three reasons: 1) stalling before bed/nap; 2) “treeeeeeeeeeat??”; 3) flushing an empty toilet 17 times in a row while Momma cries softly in the corner.
Which brings us to last night, when I came to the conclusion that only the same-sex parent should have to potty-train the child. J had gone back and forth between the potty (“treeeeeeeeeeeat??”) and bathtub probably 7 times, each time involving much “I must dry off every single drop off water before I sit on the potty — No! With the hand towel!” drama, along with many admonitions of, “if you have to go potty, hurry and sit on the potty.” I finally thought to ask him if he was “all out” of potty, at which point he knocked on his penis with his knuckles, and leaned over as far as possible as if to listen for urine — what? Sloshing?? I yelled downstairs to K that our child would be going off to college in diapers and that I, for one, was totally fine with that arrangement. He asked what was going on that was so discouraging for me, and I ended up crying on the stairs with my head in my hands telling him that J was knocking on his penis. To which K replied, “oh — it must’ve been because we watched the episode of Curious George about ‘tapping’ maple trees to get syrup, because George gets confused and thinks that means that you have to knock on them and then it just comes out. Haha – he was trying to ‘tap’ his bladder.” How could I have possibly missed that? Oh, right – probably because nothing involved in my potty training resembled a cedar tree.
So where does that leave us? J’s preschool teachers told me last week that he is the only one in the class interested in the bathroom, which can only translate to, “Congratulations! You get to clean up tons of messes!” For now, I’ll continue on this Sisyphean task, randomly crying on the stairs, and trying to decode subliminal potty-training messages in every episode of Peg + Cat and Curious George (I’ll probably even eye J’s nativity scene with suspicion – you never know. Baby Jesus could be in on it.). Or, maybe I’ll just start researching slim-fit Depends.
(Also, in case anyone was wondering: Yes, I use allusions to Greek tragedies to make me feel learned, like my entire life doesn’t revolve around a 2-year old and his adventures with excrement.)