I swear when I was in the hospital having my fourth child, Annabel, that I got a coupon that said something like, “Potty train 3 children, get the 4th one free!” But I must have misplaced it because I can’t find it anywhere.
Oh yeah. That’s because it doesn’t exist.
Wishful thinking will get you nowhere.
I am proud to say that I have successfully potty-trained three children. Well, I've been mostly successful. Henry, 7, and George, 4, have been potty-trained for years, but they still occasionally need to wear Pull-Ups at night. We can’t break the bed-wetting habit with those two. But that’s another topic and blog entry entirely.
I always laugh when people say things like, “You must be an old pro at this potty-training thing by now with all those kids!” Yeah, that’s me, a regular old pro. Hall of Fame Potty-Trainer am I.
With a daughter who poops the carpet.
Annabel has been very interested in doing her business on the potty since before she turned two. She is now two and a half. It’s all fun and games in the beginning, isn’t it? She would go pee-pee on the potty, we’d all clap and dance and have a huge party and praise her for the amazing feat of getting that trickle of urine into that large bowl. But the bloom is now off that rose for her. Now it’s like, eh, I peed on the potty and no one claps anymore. Maybe I’ll pee on the carpet instead. Look how excited Mommy gets when I pee on the carpet! Oh wait, is that excitement in Mommy’s eyes or am I in trouble?
In her defense, Annabel has only peed on the carpet a couple times, and that was probably because Dora and Boots were doing something so terribly exciting and suspenseful that she could barely tear her eyes away from the television, let alone drag her little booty to the toilet and sit there. I don’t blame her. If it wasn’t for the “pause” button on my DVR receiver, I would have a hard time tearing myself away from the latest episode of “the Real Housewives” to do my business. But I digress.
The best way to potty-train, I have found, is to go cold turkey. Just put the child in underwear and brace for the accidents to come. And the accidents will come. But eventually the child will learn the cause and effect of it all, and something will click in their little brain.
Annabel is now doing great wearing underwear around the house, with minimal accidents, so yesterday we decided to venture out in public with her wearing her "big girl" underpants. (Well, underneath her clothing of course.) The destination was a family trip to Costco on a Saturday morning, and I was prepared with backup clothing and underwear. I must have asked her about 27 times on the 15 minute drive if she had to go pee pee or poo poo. After answering “No Mommy,” about 27 times, Annabel just gave me a look, sighed, and impatiently reminded me, “I’m listening to my body mom.”
That’s what I was hoping, Annabel.
Costco was a great success. She stayed dry, went pee on a public toilet (yay!), and made it all the way back home with no accidents. Phew. But as parents, Bill and I are sometimes overconfident, cocky, buffoons; therefore, we decided to push the envelope a little bit. We decided to go to 4:30 mass on Saturday, and take her to church with underpants on underneath her little dress.
What a mistake.
She had to go pee about 3 times during the mass, which was fine, and we praised her for that. But just as we were singing the closing hymn, I looked down and saw her standing with her legs apart, slightly lifting up her sundress. She said to me (a little too loudly for churchspeak), “Mommy, I’m peeing.”
And like a racehorse too. Seriously, what kind of bladder does this kid have?
There was a huge puddle on the ground at her feet. But that was not the mortifying part. It was at that moment that I noticed that the church floors are on a slight incline, presumably to allow the people in the back of the church to have a better view of the altar. And we usually sit at the back of the church. In fact, we were in the fifth or six row from the back.
And I guess I don’t need to explain what pee does at the top of an incline.
I sopped up the puddle on the ceramic tile by our kneeler the best that I could by opening up a diaper (they are super absorbent) and using it like an old dishrag. But I stared in horror at the pee making its way down towards the front of the church. I don’t know where it finally stopped, but I could still see it on the ground about six rows ahead, slithering forward like a shiny, yellow snake. Bill had long since grabbed Annabel to clean her up and change her clothes, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the pee. I was terrified that an elderly person would slip and fall. Or any person for that matter. I could just imagine the crowds gathering as someone fell, hit their head and everyone pondered loudly, "What did he fall on?!? Why is the floor all wet?!?" and then all eyes pointed to me and my crazy family, ready to run us out of the church.
Fortunately, I was in the right place for prayers to be answered, because no one did fall. But the prim and proper older lady sitting next to us in the pew harrumphed a few times and acted like she had never seen anything so disgusting in her life. I offered up apologies to her and explained that my daughter is potty training, but she barely cracked a smile, and mumbled something I couldn’t quite hear.
I'm sure she mumbled something very prim and proper and cranky old-lady-ish like, “Well, I never!” or “Parents these days!” but I don't know.
Hey, we take our kids to church every Sunday. They’re not perfect, but we try. What else can I say? I think I’ll leave a bigger donation in the basket next week.
As if the peeing isn't bad enough, please don’t get me started on poop.
Annabel has pooped on the potty before, way back in the beginning when it was still a novelty to her, so I know she can do it. But one day the fear kicked in. I know I am not alone in having a child who is afraid to poop on the potty. It happened with my boys, and my friends and family report it happening with their children.
Every day like clockwork, I put Annabel down for her nap in a Pull-Up, and every day she wakes up with a fresh little nugget in there for me to change.
Too graphic for ya? Well that’s how this job is. I speak the truth. If you can’t handle it, go read that blog about rainbows and unicorns and how life is always clean and fresh-smelling.
Because it’s not.
I have offered Annabel lollipops, candy, popsicles, and stickers to poop on the potty. But she couldn't care any less about these things. She sits there and cries, afraid to poop. Bill even volunteered to be her "poop coach" this weekend, and he sits on the floor of the bathroom with her while she tries to go, but as of the time of this blog posting, to no avail.
Back to pooping on the carpet.
Recently, when Annabel finally chose not to poop in her Pull-Up, she decided the family room carpet was the perfect place to do it. The toilet bowl must have been too cold, harsh and unwelcoming. I guess the plush family room carpet was oh-so-welcoming and inviting?
Thank goodness for my Resolve carpet cleaner spray.
I know I had this same problem with the boys when they were younger, but I struggle to remember how I solved it. That’s the thing about motherhood. You’re so involved in these issues and problems at one moment, then you solve it and you move on to the next one. It flies out of your brain as fast as it came in. With everything else to remember, there’s only so much room in there.
Of course, I know what I have to do. I have to cut her off cold turkey. Take the Disney Princess Pull-Ups away at nap time, and brace for the worst. Potential pooping in the crib. Tough love ain’t easy.
The great thing that I’ve learned about parenting is that these kinds of problems are not insurmountable. Usually it’s just a phase, and then it’s on to the next thing. I’m sure in a month from now she’ll be walking around full-time in her underwear, proud as a peacock and doing her business where it belongs.
At least I hope.
Sidenote: At what point in my life did it suddenly become appropriate to talk about poop so casually? I just woke up one day to find myself talking about poop with as much nonchalance as the next person discusses the weather or the new restaurant in town. Has anybody seen my dignity? I’d like it back now.