Potty Training the Stubborn Child – a Slacker Mom’s Saga

Author’s note: If you’re looking for potty training advice or tips, I’m afraid you have come to the wrong place.  If you’re looking to commiserate with another unsuccessful mom, or perhaps you want to feel better about yourself, read on…

Potty training a testy toddler is my least favorite parenting task.  Seriously, on the Scale of Crappy Parenting Tasks it falls after public temper tantrums and cleaning up after a sick kid in the middle of the night.  I have yet to master the art of potty training, even though technically two of my kids are potty trained.  (Thank the Lord, since they are 6 and 8.)

I like to joke that I’ve never actually successfully potty trained any of my kids.  But it’s more a truth than a joke.  My oldest was a rule-follower to a fault, would ask me what the rules were whenever we went somewhere new, and would freak out if another child wasn’t following the rules.  But when it came to potty training, all the rules went out the window – she was NOT interested.

I tried all the typical mom-tricks: M&M’s, stickers, play dates with potty-trained friends, shaming (“Your friends are doing it!” Classy.)  Nothing worked.  Months went by and it became clear she had no intention of doing it on my timeline.  And then one weekend I went away for a kid-free girls’ trip, and came home to a fully-trained toddler.  I was a little peeved at the obvious You-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do message, but I was nonetheless thrilled that we were finally done.

Then came along my second child.  One day, not long after she turned 2, she realized her big sister didn’t wear diapers, and she potty trained herself.  Just like that.  Not one accident, straight to underwear even at bedtime.  I can take credit for absolultely none of it.

So here I am with my third.  She’ll be 3 in November, and the train’s been slowly making its way toward Potty Town for months, but a big household move and a trip abroad this summer kept us from really focusing on the issue.  A few potty successes had me feeling optimistic, cocky even… but parenting of course has a way of smacking you upside the head.

“NO!!”  This is what I hear these days when I suggest going to the potty.  OK, fine, we’ll take it slow.  We’ll go at it again when she’s feeling more amenable.  Could be later today, could be later this week.  Whatever, this is not my first rodeo, I know enough about parenting to know not to sweat the small stuff.

And then this dreaded email:

“All children must be fully potty trained before starting preschool in September.  If your child is not fully trained, we will hold their spot and they’ll be able to join us at school when they’re completely trained.”

Oh, hell no.

Why, you ask, did I not know this information before?  Simple answer: I have 3 kids.  I don’t have a complete grasp on any of them.  One of them could have a tattoo right now and I might not even know about it.  The luxury of knowing everything about all of my kids ended with the words, “Honey, let’s have another baby!”

The email from my toddler’s preschool put me in an immediate state of panic.  I have waited so patiently for September to come.  I’m thiiiiiiiiiiissss close to having free-time again.  Three hours a day, three days a week: sounds like Heaven to me right now.  I can’t lose this.

Operation Potty Bootcamp started immediately.  Apparently Phase 1 of the Operation involves me freaking out while my 8 year old calmly consults What to Expect in the Toddler Years.  Seems apropos for how things work around here.

After calming down, I start Phase 2.  (But first I pray… Come on, Grandma, you did this 10 times.  Help a girl out.)  Phase 2 involves putting reluctant toddler in underwear 100% of the time, except for naps and bed.  Let’s just say so far not many M&M’s have been dispensed.

No matter how much we place her on the potty and playfully cajole and reasonably explain and offer rewards, my toddler still yells “NO!” and runs away.  I am at a loss.

I’m not sure yet what happens in Phase 3, but when I daydream about it, it involves Super Nanny and a stiff drink.

I used to be the kind of mom who breezily offered the old, “Oh, no kid has ever gone to college in diapers!” with a wink and a chuckle.  But now that my valuable free-time is being threatened, I’m in panic mode.

But really, no kid has ever gone to college in diapers… right?!?!

Katie Mardigian

Katie is a freelance writer living in Richmond with her husband and three young children. She finds the joys and insanity of chasing around 3 little ones provide constant hilarious inspiration for her articles on motherhood.

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