March 23, 2011 posted by Lindsay

What They Don’t Tell You About Potty Training

What They Don’t Tell You About Potty Training

It’s time for me to be completely honest with you.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve kept you pretty informed about Bruiser’s potty training escapades. Somewhere around two-and-a-half, he managed to diaper train himself, stepping out of his old diaper, throwing it in the trash, and putting on a new diaper from the cabinet. When I attempted to remind him of the presence of his child-sized potty in the bathroom, I was met with screams and howls that were very… annoying. And so, being a lazy good mother, I decided that at least for the time being, diaper training was good enough for me.

By three-and-a-half, though, Bruiser was still adamantly opposed to all things potty. As far as I was concerned, he could wear diapers for the rest of his life so long as he continued to change himself- but there was one big problem. Preschool wouldn’t accept him unless he was fully potty trained. And so, two weeks before his first day, I did what I had to do… I told him the cashiers at Kroger wouldn’t sell me diapers anymore, because they said Bruiser was too old for them.

When I gave my son the unfortunate news, he screamed. He howled. He climbed the stairs to his room and once there, slammed the door as hard as he could.

Five minutes later, he came downstairs and without fanfare, peed in the potty. And he’s been doing it ever since. He was completely trained and accident-free by the next day. Forever.

Except for one small problem.

He absoutely refused to go poo poo in the potty. And since I wouldn’t let him put on a diaper, he just… didn’t go.

What resulted was a poo poo standoff. Two days passed and my son was unwilling to give in. But by day three, he couldn’t hold it any longer. He attempted to make it to the potty and did– sort of. But there was some major cleanup involved. And maybe some dry heaving. And then the whole process started over again. Bruiser held out for three days… and the bathroom was declared a disaster area for three days after that.

With the first day of preschool less than a week away, I began having horrible nightmares about the situation. I had a feeling they wouldn’t take it well at all if he happened to be at school during one of his three-day poops. In fact, I had a feeling he’d be kicked out if they were exposed to one of his three-day poops. And I had worked so hard to get him into this particular preschool and to have some real writing time to myself that I could not let that happen.

Here’s where my deep, dark confession comes in.

I gave him back his diapers.

“For poo poo only,” I warned him sternly. “And you can only go poo poo at home. Not at preschool. If you say anything about diapers at preschool, they will kick you out.”

Bruiser looked worried. “Will they kick me out with a hammer, Mommy?” he asked nervously.

I had no idea what that meant, but I nodded grimly. “Yes,” I said. “With a hammer.”

Bruiser swallowed hard. “Okay,” he said. “I not say nuffing about diapers at preschool.”

“And you’ll only go poo poo at home,” I prodded.

“I only go poo poo at home.”

It wasn’t perfect, but my plan totally worked. Bruiser would go to preschool, come home, and at some point during the day, he’d put on a pull-up and have some alone time. I had to change him myself, of course, but frankly, it was a lot easier than cleaning up after him in the bathroom.

This went on for a few months, but I knew it couldn’t last. Bruiser was about to turn four, and I could not have a four-year-old in diapers. Even I have some standards. And so I decided that during the week of spring break, we would give it another go. For a few weeks before his fourth birthday, I warned Bruiser that when he turned four, he would no longer be allowed to wear diapers.

“Why not?” he demanded.

“Because they won’t let you turn four if you’re still wearing diapers,” I told him patiently. “Diapers are for three-year-old babies.”

“Then I not turn four,” he said, sticking out his chin defiantly.

“Then you won’t get any presents or a party, either,” I said.

“I turn four then!” he said quickly. “But I will wear my diaper, Mommy. I WILL!”

“No you won’t.”

And so on.

Finally, the fateful day arrived when Bruiser’s diapers disappeared forever from the cabinet. He came to me, outrage plainly visible on his face.

“Where my diapers go?” he demanded.

“They’re gone,” I said. “You’re four now and they won’t let four-year-olds use diapers.”

“I not go poo poo then,” he said resolutely. And for two days, he didn’t. By the third day, noxious smells were emanating from his behind with nauseating regularity and I couldn’t take it any longer.

“Bruiser,” I wheezed. “You have GOT to go poo poo.”

“I not!” he said. He paused. “My tummy hurt, though,” he said quietly.

“It’ll stop hurting when you go poo poo in the potty.”

“I not!” he insisted. He paused again, and rubbed his tummy. “Okay, maybe I go,” he said. Together, we went to the bathroom and I helped him sit down.

“Ac-shully, I don’t need to go,” he said. He hopped down again. But five minutes later, he was ready to give it another try.

Again, nothing happened. He climbed down from the potty once more and fled the scene. A few more minutes passed, two people passed out from Bruiser’s gas fumes, and I knew I had to do something drastic.

“Come on, son,” I said, leading him into the bathroom and shutting the door. “We’re not leaving this room until the poo poo comes out.”

“NOOOOOO!” he shouted.

Yes,” I said. “Whether you like it or not, it’s time. But don’t worry, honey. I’m going to help you through this.”

Bruiser paced back and forth in the tiny room, holding his belly and wincing at the pains.

“Okay, I ready,” he said. I lifted him back onto the toilet. He began straining.

“Push!” I said. “Come on, push!”

“It not coming out!” he howled. “It not coming out!!”

“Push harder!” I said. “You can do this, Bruiser!”

I held his hand as he pushed and howled, howled and pushed. His face had turned bright red.

“I’m with ya!” I cheered. “We’re gonna get that poo poo out!” Briefly, I wondered what my husband must be thinking as he watched television on the other side of the door, but the thought abruptly went away as Bruiser’s face changed.

It was still contorted in agony, but there was also a new sense of purpose, a weird ecstasy shining through his suffering. I recognized that face.

The kid was crowning.

“Okay son,” I said, squeezing his hand. “This might hurt, but you’re going to feel so much better when it’s all over and we have a brand new…” I shuddered, despite myself. “…poo poo in the potty.”

Bruiser gave one last, long scream and then… relief crossed his face.

“It come out, Mommy!” he said with weak satisfaction. “It come out into the potty!” He stood, I helped him clean up, and together, we gazed into the toilet.

“You did it, honey,” I said. “I’m so proud of you!” As we stood there for a moment in silence, I marveled at what had to be the most bizarre moment of parenting I’ve ever experienced. Coaching my child through poo poo labor wasn’t in a single book I’ve read on potty training.

What’s up with that?

Anyway, from that moment on, Bruiser has been done, completely done with diapers. He is officially potty trained!

And I?

I am forever scarred.



Image via Public Domain Photos/Flickr

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