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Potty Training Purgatory

My son had just turned 3 and had to poop, but was resistant.  In the bathroom, he had a toy fishing pole in his hands:

Tye – “I can put this in my butt.”

Me – “Why would you do that?”

Tye – (quite seriously) “So I could catch the poopy.”

Potty training.  Every mother has an opinion about how and when it should be done.

Every mother, I think, except me.  Personally, I think potty training is about as easy as it might be to repel down a volcano, be shot up with hot lava, and land on two feet, unscathed.  When it’s easy, I wonder if it’s a fluke.  Or if someone was maybe Mother Teresa in her last life and is being rewarded by the universe in this one.

A friend of mine was describing a situation in which another friend of hers (who had 8 children) bragged that every child of hers was potty trained by 18 months.  She wondered what she was doing wrong until she agreed to babysit for those children.  The youngest one came over and promptly squatted down to pee on the floor.

Just because your child does not wear a diaper, does not mean they are potty trained.  Just saying.

If you are one of those rare individuals that has been gifted with a child who truly began emptying the tank IN the tank at a young age, count your blessings.  Quietly.  This might be attributable to your fantastic potty training skills or your child’s superhuman control of his/her tiny bladder.  If it is, however, please… ssssshhhhhhhh.  I don’t want to hear about it.

Potty training has been the bane of my existence in one way or another for about 5+ years running, and I have only two children.  My youngest is 5 ½ years old, and he still wears a pull-up at night and has occasional accidents at school.  He WANTS to stop having accidents.  Just not as badly as he wants to keep playing.  Or sleeping.  And I mean… I can’t exactly blame him for that.  Sometimes I am so tired I think he might be on to something.

People will say, “But he’s a BOY.  Boys are harder to train.”

Yeah.  So let me tell you about my GIRL.

Cassidy did not speak until she was about 2 ½ and could complete full sentences.  Before then, however, she knew over 200 signs.  You’ll see why this is important in a minute… bear with me.

Both my children were on delayed immunization schedules due to my medical history.  Because of that, Cassidy had her first MMR at the age of 24 months.  Again, this may not seem to have anything to do with potty training, but for me, it started my highway to potty hell.

Within a few hours of getting that shot, my sweet, affectionate little girl began running a fever.  She ran a fever over 103 for 8 days.  She broke out into a full-body measles rash.  She stopped signing.  She stopped trying to communicate at all.  She began running in circles, banging her head against the floor and the wall.

She was a completely different child, and we were terrified.  Our pediatrician had never seen this kind of reaction before, but informed us that we had to rule out everything else before he could file an Adverse Side Effect Report with the CDC.  Proving that a vaccine causes scary side effects is like licking your elbow or tickling yourself… hard to do.  Perhaps impossible.  Cassidy eventually had bloodwork done (I cried more than she did), an ultrasound, and, of course, a urinalysis.  The key to a urinalysis, however, is that one needs to pee.

In a cup.

IF one cannot pee in a cup, one must be catheterized.  The thought of someone catheterizing my baby literally ripped my heart from my chest.  I was determined.  She would pee in that cup.

Our nanny at the time, Hacacia, and I stripped that child naked and proceeded to sit her on the potty every 10 minutes. We gave her water constantly. You would have thought we were trying to turn a raisin back into a grape.  We followed her around with a cup the way a new mom might follow a toddler who has just taken her first steps near a staircase. We cleaned up dozens of trickles on the floor, praised her each time she sat down, encouraged her, bribed her with M&M’s… nothing worked. I watched the time tick away on the clock like a deathrow inmate on his final day. I. Was. Terrified.

Finally, Hacacia went out to get cupcakes. That child loved nothing more than sugar, and to her, cupcakes were the end-all, be-all of the sugar world.  She came back around bedtime, and we still had no urine sample.  Finally, in our last-ditch effort to collect some liquid gold, Cassidy began to pee in the training toilet, in the cup that I was holding beneath her… which I promptly dropped because I was so nervous.  I screamed.  Hacacia screamed.  Cassidy tensed up and stopped peeing.  I quickly regained my composure as we told her how good she was, and finally we got the result we wanted.  A cup of pee.  SCORE!

So we did it, right?  She was trained, right?


Cassidy actually did pretty well with peeing in the potty from that point, to be honest.  I thought we were set.  Had reached the finish line and could celebrate.  But noooooooope.  I knew kids could be resistant to pooping in the potty.  But resistant is not nearly a strong enough word for my little toddler.

Every night, about 45 minutes after she fell asleep, she would poop.  In her underwear.  She simply REFUSED to poop in the potty during the day.  We finally figured out that we could pick her up between 30 and 45 minutes after she fell asleep, sit her on the potty, and she would poop while she was still asleep.  If we waited too long, she would go in her underwear.  If we woke her too soon, she wouldn’t be asleep enough to go and would protest.  So every night, between 30 and 45 minutes after she fell asleep, we proceeded with this routine.

Every night.

For two and a half years.

My children are 21 months apart.  This means that, by the time Cassidy was fully potty trained, Tye was about 30 months old.  I had tried the same “day of hell” routine with him around 24 months that I had done with Cassidy, but he was not having it.  And boys do not just pee in a neat little puddle like girls do.  They are like fire hoses on steroids.  At 2, peeing is FUN for a boy.  Furniture may as well have red and white circles around it.  Peeing is target practice.

After a while, I decided not to rush it with him.  It wasn’t worth the stress.  I mean, he wouldn’t still be in a diaper when he went to prom, right?

Well, I guess it depends on how sleepy he gets.  Because my prom king is 5 ½ and still wears a pull-up at night.

The truth is that I do know a lot of boys stay in pull-ups at night until they are 7 or 8 years old.  I mean, they make them in that size for a reason, right?

Have I tried putting him in underwear at night?  Of course I have.  I’m just not a fan of putting new sheets on a rocket ship bed at 4:00 am.

Have I tried eliminating fluids after 6:30 pm?  Of course I have.  And when I do, he wakes up with less soaked sheets.  That still need to be changed.

Have I tried waking him to go on the potty when we go to bed?  Yes.  Setting an alarm for 2:00 am and taking him then?  Yes.  Yes yes yes, I have tried it.  It has not worked for me.

What about leaving him in the wet pull-up so he is uncomfortable?  You haven’t met my boy.  Tye will keep a wet pull-up on for hours after he wakes if I don’t make him change it.  He won’t continue to pee in it, but he will pull it down when he goes to the potty, and then pull it right back up again.  So comfort?  Yeah.  Not an issue for him.

My point is this.  For those parents out there who have more than one child, you already know this… every kid is different.  No matter what we do, each child is born with their own personality.  Their own strengths and weaknesses.  Their own little light, which is going to shine however they want it to shine.  I think that the best we can do is to nurture them, love them, support them, encourage them, teach them in the best way that we know how.  I don’t know about you, but unfortunately my “parenting handbook” was misplaced when my kids were born, so I’m just sort of winging it here.

So I guess I DO have an opinion about potty training, just like every other mom.  My opinion is that it is one of the hardest, most frustrating things that I’ve ever done.  And am still doing.

But hopefully, I will be done soon.

Maybe by the time he goes to prom.


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I’ve not entered Vivian Kirkfield’s #50PreciousWords contest before, but felt moved to write this yesterday. If you’d like to enter as well (or if you’d like to comment on my entry), you can do so her


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