Motherhood

When Potty Training Gets Dramatic

See that beautiful photo of a waterfall? It’s a visual representation of how potty training has gone so far for our family. A sheer rock face that is impossible to climb because you will be drowned, knocked down, or at least soaked by massive amounts of liquid coming from the other direction.

My daughter, who is two, decided on her own that she wanted to learn to go potty. This was several months ago. Observing the joys involved with her big brother’s potty training (a Shakespearean level production that would make the most stoic observer laugh, cry, and despair), she felt the desire to jump on the bandwagon.

At this point, I’d say she’s 25% potty trained. We are making zero forward progress. I’ve come to terms with it and decided that we’ll conquer the remaining 75% at a later time… when I have the mental bandwidth to handle it. In other words, when she’s 16 I will make her get a job to cover the cost of her own Pull-Ups.

Back to her brother, though. His potty training experience has also been anything but zen. I started too early with him; I’m aware that’s the problem and I regret it. Since we started too early, we stopped… then started again later. It was still too early. So we stopped… and started again later. The poor boy has probably been so traumatized by the whole experience, I can only hope he doesn’t share the story with a therapist someday in the future.

We finally finally seemed to achieve victory a while ago, after it took him 3 months to reach five accident-free days in order to earn a beach trip with his daddy. The euphoria experienced on that trip made the whole thing take a turn for the better and we lived with dry pants and happy hearts for many, many weeks.

But then we backslid. Around the end of June, he started have problems again; these were easily diagnosed. He simply didn’t have time to go potty; when a boy is playing, he can’t hit pause and run to the bathroom! That’s utter nonsense. It wasn’t until his dad informed him that the next time he peed his pants, he would not get chocolate milk the next morning that he started to take it seriously. Chocolate milk is worth more than gold around here. It is a vital part of our day. In the morning, I drink coffee and my kids drink chocolate milk. It’s what keeps us happy.

It was on the way to a Fourth of July fireworks show that this verdict was handed down: “no chocolate milk in the morning if you wet yourself tonight!” Fear was struck into that little three-year-old heart, and a solemn vow made to control his bladder.

Later that night, after the fireworks were over, I had all three kids buckled securely into their car seats and we waited in the dark van for my husband to finish his conversation and drive home. Suddenly, a panicked voice came from the back: “MOMMY, I HAVE TO GO POTTY AND I HAVE TO DO IT RIGHT NOW!”

Mentally taking inventory of the multiple pieces of watermelon he’d eaten in the last hour, I jumped out of my seat, turned on the overhead lights of the van, and whipped out the empty water bottle we reserved for these types of emergencies. Climbing into the back, I unbuckled the frantic little boy and helped him get situated to do his business.

But then my husband returned to the van, and, having no idea what was going on, turned the overhead lights off, plunging us into darkness.

My son panicked.

In the magnificent fashion of the Bellagio Fountains, he jerked away from the water bottle and sprayed down one of the seats of the van… and a window… and his very startled 9-month-old sister.

To help with the visual:

I’d love to tell you that I didn’t panic, but my voice hit a really high octave as I tried to reign the situation in.

At the risk of sounding sadistic, I’ll tell you that I’d give anything to have a photo of that moment. My husband’s confusion, my horror, my son’s panic, my daughter’s exhilaration at the sudden excitement; it was perfect. Because it, quite frankly, is an excellent example of how motherhood has gone so far: best intentions gone seriously awry. I hope it gets better. But I can’t guarantee anything.

The baby got a bath the SECOND we got home and chocolate milk was dispensed the next morning, in case you were worried. Thank God for happy endings.

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