What Potty Training is REALLY About

5 years ago

Dear #3,

Since you declared last week in the middle of the restaurant, and rather loudly I might add, that you wanted to use the potty, I’ve been “teaching you” how to do so. You have absolutely no problem peeing in the potty. GREAT!  

But oh my sweet son, pooping in the potty, well let’s just say you prefer pooping in your underwear. Like me, you were of the theory to go straight from diaper to underwear which is great, but the constant accidents in the underwear? Not so great. In fact, the accidents are starting to drive me nuts. And it’s only been seven days! You’re using all your willpower to get your pee in the potty and I am using all my willpower to not scream when you poop in your underwear. Somewhere between wiping your bottom (again) and washing dirty underwear (again), I realized something.

Sure, potty training is about teaching you. Teaching you the obvious: to go to the bathroom in the potty, not in your underwear, not on the floor, not in the car seat, not on the rug, not in the tub, not in the pool . Sure it is about teaching you self control, confidence, independence. But really, it’s about TEACHING ME.

Potty Training TEACHES ME.

Potty Training teaches me  PATIENCE, LOVE, FORGIVENESS, and UNDERSTANDING as I clean the seventh pair of soiled brown underwear. Of the day. You are not even three. You are just learning. You didn’t have an accident on purpose. I love you no matter what “mistakes” you make during this process, and in life.

Potty Training teaches me PHYSICAL ENDURANCE as I grab you and run with you in my arms across the beach, up the dunes, to make it to the bathroom before you have an accident.

Potty Training teaches me MENTAL ENDURANCE as I force myself to remember to ask you every 5 then 10 then 15 minutes if you need to go, as I force myself to keep asking even after four days of success since accidents do happen…for years to come.

Potty Training teaches me CREATIVITY as I have to come up with new ways to make peeing fun, like putting red food coloring in the toilet and telling you, my little fireman to “quick, use your hose to put the fire out” or saying “hey did you know #2’s love to go swimming in the toilet pool? Let your #2 go splish spash!”

Potty Training teaches me IMPULSE CONTROL as I try, try, TRY my hardest not to yell when you have an accident. Again. And Again. And again. When you look at me and say “I pooping” and you are nowhere near the potty. When you look at me and smile and say “I pooped in underwear!”

Potty Training teaches me CLEANING SKILLS as I learn how to quickly stop the pee from going into every single grout line in the floor and how to get the pee off the seat, under the seat, around the seat….

Potty Training teaches me DECISION MAKING as I have to stop and debate, is this underwear soiled badly enough from a #2 that I should just toss it or is it cleanable? I read in a parenting magazine once that an experienced mom finally realized that sometimes it is easier and saner to just toss the underwear. Have to admit, 9/10 times, she is right.

Potty Training teaches me MULTI-TASKING as I figure out how to cheer you on while you’re on the potty all while keeping your baby brother not only out of the toilet but also away from the stairs and out of the line of fire from your two older brothers.

Potty Training teaches me how to PRIORITIZE as I have to drop everything I am doing this week to focus on the task at hand – helping you feel good about yourself and your successes and not to feel down about the accidents. Suddenly, it is clear to me what matters. The to-do list can wait. Your pee pee cannot wait. Literally and figuratively.

Potty Training teaches me to SEIZE the MOMENT, even if inconvenient. Right now, the last thing I want to do is potty train. I’ve got other mountains to climb. But guess what? You want to train now. And as I have learned with your older brothers, when a child wants to potty train, you go with it. So while inconvenient now, it is better in the long run. It is way easier.

But at the end of the day, perhaps the #1 thing Potty Training teaches me is how to RELAX (something I am NOT good at). That despite my desire, yelling at you to go, pushing you to go, shaming you to go, won’t do any good. That if I relax, you’ll relax. And if you relax, you’ll go! All I have to do is chill out and go with the flow. (No pun intended.)  

I love you #3. Keep up the hard work and I'll keep trying to be relaxed about it all. I promise.

The Orange Rhino


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