The time has finally come to take the step from wiping the bottom with child laid down to trying for the life of you to wipe them standing.
For those embarking on this journey for the first time or those without kids, potty training seems like a pretty standard and easy positive reinforcement exercise.
Child needs toilet, you show child where to do toilet, child does toilet, you make a big old song and dance of it, kid thinks “ooh this pissing in a pot malarkey is great” and after a few days the conversion from nappy to happy is donesies.
Oh no. No no no. You have it wrong.
First of all you have to get your head around the fact that your kid may not even know they need the toilet. They may have spent 2 or 3 years pissing and shitting but despite this the reality is they still probably don’t even know they are doing it!
The likelihood is you will spend several weeks making your child sit down on the potty “to try” and pee and they will adamantly swear they really do not need to go, and literally seconds later you will see them stand still and piss a river all over your carpet.
It’s real hard because you need to keep upbeat, reassure and encourage but I can tell you from experience, it’s pretty hard to not be seething inside after weeks of this.
You know the signs, you are pretty certain jiggling on the spot with legs twisted is a sure fire sign they need a piss, but you can pop them down and be sat 20 minutes with no sign of anything.
It becomes like waiting for a bus for a short journey. You invest a certain amount of time waiting and although you could have walked by now, you’ve waited so long if you give up now one will surely come within moments.
You are faced with the conundrum to either abandon having invested and waited so long and run the risk of the avalanche of piss coming the moment you move or having your child sit on the potty all day!
You give up. They promise they don’t need to go. You remind them to tell you when they do. Invariably you have things to do. You’ve spent forever sat by a potty after all.
Maybe you put the kettle on.
Maybe you take a pee yourself.
But when you return they aren’t there.
Where are they?
I will tell you where they are. Hidden behind the armchair or under the table taking a piss in their pants or just straight on the floor if you’ve kept them bare bottomed.
In my experience with my two, the mastery of the bladder comes first and that doesn’t take too long, but the poop. Na they like to drag that one out.
This baffles me, because I know what doing a poop is like. You KNOW that’s coming. A pee can creep up on you and you may laugh and a little comes out (yup, I’ve had kids!), but a poop? Your whole body feels the poop.
But for some mysterious reason the potty training toddler doesn’t seem to have the bowel sensor. Hey, they don’t even seem to have a sphincter because my daughter could be sat with a full on turtle head and swear down she doesn’t need to go!
This is the worst. Because lets face it. Pee on the floor aint good, but poo on the floor is unacceptable.
You can easily rinse urine out of clothes but poo….. oh that’s a whole nother level!
I’m currently past the pee stage with my daughter, she will happily take all the wees on the potty but a poop? Uh ur! 4 weeks in and every single day she will wail and cry and protest she does not need to go. And then suddenly you see her.
She is standing absolutely still.
She barely blinks.
And then you see the bottom bulge with the weight of an enormous turd!
Sometimes you even see the red straining face and the grunting of them clearly pushing one out.
RIGHT NEXT TO THE DAMNED POTTY!!! Just why?
Surely when it’s hanging out your ass and you are squeezing one out you must know you need to go? Come on now!
The poo is like the final stage of your little one finally accepting responsibility for their own toileting and I think this is hard.
Back when doing my psychology degree I remember reading about children sometimes viewing their poo as an extension of themselves. In a way that their wee isn’t. For them, putting a poo in the toilet and flushing it away means something quite disturbing and upsetting to them.
In my many years working in Child and Adolescent mental health, it is very common for children, especially young ones, to express themselves or experience their difficulties in a manifestation around soiling. The bowel and emotion kind of go together.
Anyone that has read my previous blogs may recall my very brutal reminder of the power of the poo protest with my son when his sister was born! (Have a read of one of my early posts: Having a second baby- sibling rivalry and regression).
In some ways this is kind of obvious. I know when I am stressed or worried my tummy can hurt, and before an exam or other event I always seem to need to poop. In a basic fight or flight response your body will evacuate your bowels. Hey even before childbirth this happens.
Perhaps the unwillingness to let go of the poop is quite symbolic. It clearly does translate as a step in independence as we as parents no longer physically have to change their nappies. No nappies means no longer a baby.
My daughter has been really upset about the idea of not being a baby anymore. She constantly tells me she is still a baby and this is perhaps her telling me she still needs me to see her as one.
It’s a tough one though, because reality is preschool requires your kid to be fully toilet trained and there is only so much you can take of finding turds on your living room floor (thank goodness for laminate, when Ravey potty trained we had cream carpet 🤢).
If you are in the process of potty training then keep strong.
They will get there eventually and then you get the pure joy of realising that in actual fact nappies were kind of easier!
You now get to spend your days on high alert watching for the warning signs of impending pee and poop. The game of getting them to a toilet quick enough when you are out and my all time favourite…. At what fucking age do I get to stop carrying a change of clothes?!
My son has been toilet trained since he was 2 and half. He is now 5 and half and I’ll be damned the one day I don’t have spare pants and trousers he will be having too much fun playing and will not make it to the toilet in time.
You dream of the day when you can get back to having a normal size bag again and not have to carry half the house whenever you go out, but as the nappies and mat are removed, bigger clothes replace them.
And the funniest part of finally reaching the end of the training process and your little one being independent on the toilet? Haha.
They aren’t independent at all!!!
They want you THERE! THE WHOLE TIME!
You have to stand there whilst they poop and yammer on. It becomes a new dance of ‘how much housework can I do whilst you poo’. In the space of your kid squeezing one out you will do all your housework for the day. The desperate dash to make the most of that glorious window of opportunity before they announce “I’m done!!!” and require your services to wipe their bottoms.
Because toddlers cannot wipe their booties for shit (great pun there!). They basically unravel approximately 50 squares of tissue, bunch it up, wipe once, get poo all over their fingers, throw all 50 squares in the loo with one tiny dot of poop on, then pull up their pants. It’s the preschooler way! My son was nearly 5 before he could realistically even reach enough to wipe adequately.
So to summarise, potty training is challenging. Even when your kid learns fast you may find yourself with a whole new issue. The constant fear of being caught short in public and the very real threat of ecoli poisoning.