Goodbye Diapers, Hello Potty:  What I Saw in 5 Days

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child on pottyAt 18 months, my son ran up to me and said, “I poop, Mama!” and I thought, I’m not ready for potty training! You’re too little.” By 27 months, I was scraping his dirty diapers into his portable potty because he insisted on it. What? Yeah, gross. Potty training? I’m still not ready.

A month later, he looked at me while taking a bath and exclaimed, “Mommy! No more diapers!” I replied, “Not today, buddy. Soon!” To which he quickly yelled, “NO! I wanna do it riiighhhtt nooow.”

I froze. 

I’M NOT READY! I have no idea what to expect or how to actually train you. My excuses grew: diapers are easy, I have a tiring four-month old, I don’t have time. While I was a clueless first-time potty trainer (and had some anxiety over that), my son was telling me that he’s capable of listening to his body and pulling down his pants to defecate or urinate in a private area. 

Feeling overwhelmed from vague stories by parents and diaper companies, I explored the child-oriented approach, the training pants transition plan, and the 3-day method. Full of skepticism and doubt with all three, I finally committed to Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right by Jamie Glowacki. 

Glowacki breaks down potty training into six main learning blocks to help raise your child’s awareness about what’s happening in his/her body. Her approach was more manageable for me and seemed more empowering for Gordon. 

Getting My Head on Straight 

Two months before starting, we talked about saying good bye to diapers and hello to the potty. We read Daniel Goes to the Potty and My Thomas Potty Book over and over and over. A week before, I made this countdown because my son does better with preparation and forethought, and he loved crossing off the days leading to kick-off.

Training can be messy because their little bodies are learning a whole new skill. I rolled up the rugs and stowed away anything I didn’t want stained (blankets, pillows). To alleviate stress in the kitchen, I had easy meals on hand and quick snacks ready with plenty of cold juice to keep him hydrated. 

Block One:  Peeing and pooping while naked, with prompting or without (days 1 & 2)

After a final trip to Target for the week’s essentials, I set one portable potty (tip:  buy the cheap, 2-part chair. You’ll thank me later!) in our main level powder room and another in our living room where we spent the majority of our time. I also filled up a pail of water with Thieves cleaner and another with a bleach mix to clean up those accidents! 

While still in a diaper (because I was still too nervous to just take it off!), Gordon ran to the potty in our living room yelling, “I HAVE TO POOOOP.” I calmly said, “go sit on the potty.” Five minutes later, I was changing a diaper.

Oops. I gathered my courage and told myself that this diaper really is coming off and we are starting today. 

So, to encourage lots of practice running to the potty and emptying his bladder, I let Gordon guzzle down Bai coconut water, black cherry sparkling water, orange juice, milk, water–whatever he wanted to drink–all day.

A naked bum scooting and jumping on my furniture kind of grossed me out, so I encouraged lots of floor play with his legos, blocks, puzzles, and books while trying to watch what touched what. We had a blast. I only smelled the floor two times to see if it was black cherry water, OJ, or pee. He really knew his sensation and became more confident with each successful trip to the potty. It was fun to cheer him on! 

Block Two:  Peeing and pooping with clothes on (but no underwear) with prompting or without (day 3) 

While lounging in bed around 8 AM — I was SO TIRED — I noticed Gordon standing, frozen, looking down at his legs, so I asked him if he was okay. He asked, “What is dis?” His pants were soaked. 

Accident!

We talked about how “Pee goes in the potty, not in our pants” and how when we get that feeling of needing to pee, we need to run to the bathroom, push our pants down and sit. 

Then the resistance started. He wanted to visit the bathroom on his terms, not mine. With any prompting– “Gordon, time to sit on the potty” — he responded by plugging his ears and whispering gibberish at me! What?! He’s NEVER done that before! 

Lunch was a disaster: lots of screaming, crying, and lunging into the island. He was overtired and overloaded with processing all of this newness. But, after a three hour nap, he successfully used the bathroom the rest of the day – on his terms! It was magical. 

Block 3:  Peeing and pooping with clothes on (but no underwear) and in different situations, with prompting or without (days 4-5) 

It was Halloween morning, and the power struggle continued. I’d casually say, “Gordon, you’re crossing your legs; its time to sit on the potty.” He’d snark back, “Okay, Mommy, I won’t do dat any more.” 

Losing all hope he’d self-initiate after three unsuccessful prompts, I backed off hovering and waited for an accident. Instead, he quietly interrupted his play with a plop on the potty because he knew he had to go. #2 was a little messy, but hey! I had bleach ready! And I didn’t really care because I was so excited that he self-initiated. 

He did Trick-or-Treating commando until 7 p.m. when we put on a Pull-Up to visit our friends. An hour later, sure enough, he sprinted to me with hands on his knees, and whispered, “I pooped my pants.” Rather than saying, “Accidents happen,” we talked about how poop goes in the potty, not in our pants. The next time when he gets that feeling of pressure, he needs to run to the bathroom and push his pants down and sit on the potty. He agreed.

The next few days, I tried to normalize our daytime play as much as possible. We made our “practice staying dry” trips out of the house fun (e.g. driving to Kwik Trip for Nature’s Touch Vanilla ice cream!)

We still have blocks 4, 5, and 6 to go, but understand that this is a work-in-progress, building on each success. We may have set backs. We may have accidents. But, he didn’t learn how to crawl, run, or hold a fork overnight, so I can’t expect him to conquer potty training overnight either. 

Block 4:  Peeing and pooping with underpants, with prompting or without

Future Goal 

Block 5:  Consistent self-initiation (child goes potty without prompting)

Future Goal 

Block 6:  Dry nighttime and naps

Future Goal 

I’ve accepted that Gordon’s really going to listen to his body and do it on his terms, while taking my prompting with a grain of salt. After all, he’s the one who knows his body best. May be a glimpse into my future. 🙂 Regardless, I’m so glad we finally STARTED the process. He’s shown such independence and growth in just 5 days.

For those of you who like me are dragging your feet to starting potty training— look at your child. Are they capable? Then you are, too!

What’s holding you back? What made you start? Tell me in the comments, because we’re in this together! In several years, we’ll be talking about more challenging things other than potty training. 

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Marnie Kopischke
Marnie and her husband, Brent — Minnesota natives and high school sweethearts — call Rochester home with their two boys, Gordon (born June 2017) and Crosby (born July 2019). A stay-at-home Mom, Marnie finds herself babbling, giggling and singing like a baby all while teaching her sons how to grow. To stay sharp and connected, Marnie freelances for marketing communication services where she exercises her brain in new ways. A passionate do-it-yourselfer, she finds herself behind a pair of safety goggles, prepping for wood, tile and art projects. Marnie loves designing spaces and shopping for home decor and her pantry is full of homemade canned goods. Her happy place? Up North at their family cabin on Lake Carlos near Alexandria.