“I have to hide!” my son grabs his tablet and runs into the corner.
I don’t make eye contact as I peek at him watching his tablet. His little eyebrows get all scrunched up, and he looks deadly serious as he concentrates. Yup, he’s totally taking a crap in his diaper. I have to pretend that I’m not watching, or he’ll freak out and tell me not to look at him.
When he finishes, he skips back to what he was doing with a smile on his face. I sigh as I prepare for the next skirmish: changing his crappy diaper. My kid is perfectly happy sitting in his own shit for hours if I let him. He doesn’t love the diaper rash that accompanies it sometimes, but oddly enough that doesn’t stop him from doing it. So I scoop him (and the tablet) up and set to the task. He sits still barely long enough for me to wipe his ass, and as soon as I’m finished, he’s off and running again.
Around the time my son turned 2, people started asking me when I was going to start potty training him. I kind of shrugged it off saying that we would start the process when he was ready, and that I wasn’t going to push the issue — because I’m just cool like that.
I truly did believe in what I was saying — it wasn’t just laziness or unwillingness. Trust me, I hate changing diapers as much as my son hates getting them changed. But I learned pretty early on that my son is headstrong and won’t do anything he doesn’t want to until he is good and ready.
I don’t remember being young enough to wear diapers, but my parents have shared the stories (to anyone who will listen) about the difficulties they had potty training me. My son definitely gets some of his stubbornness from me, so I knew I was in for a battle. I was pretty lax about potty training during his second year, but I vowed to put in more of a concerted effort when he turned 3.
For his 3rd birthday, his grandmother sent him Thomas the Train underpants. He lives for Thomas, but I showed those underwear to a very uninterested little boy. “No Thomas underpants!” he yelled and stuffed them into a drawer. I always let him hang out with me in the bathroom while I pee (I prefer to poop alone, but he barges in anyway), so I knew he understood the concept of going to the bathroom on the toilet. He just didn’t want to do it. Every time we were in a store that sold kiddie toilets, I would point them out and ask if he wanted to get one and give it a try. “No potty!” He would yell through the aisles of Target.
But I told myself that after he turned three, I wasn’t going to take his protesting anymore. We were going to do this if it killed me. I refused to let him get to the biggest size in diapers because they’re nearly impossible to find in a store. I figured that I would get him the pull-up training pants (with Thomas the Train on them) and hoped he would appreciate those more than his birthday gift from grandma. He didn’t fall for it.
So I changed tactics. One night, I just took his diaper off and just let Jesus take the wheel. I let him go nude at home and just waited for him to tell me he needed to go to the bathroom. He was doing well, so I tried to put pants on him over his bare bottom. The fabric threw him, so he had a couple accidents. No big deal. I tried buying him fabric training pants, but he would just pee in them like a diaper. I gave up when he took a massive dump in one pair, and I had to throw them out.
Then we had a bit of a breakthrough. One night, he was playing and didn’t give me enough warning before he began to pee. Going on pure instinct, I grabbed the closest thing to me — a large plastic container — and held it in front of him while he peed. Hey, it worked better than my hand. He looked down and saw what was happening and something just switched on for him.
A few hours later when he had to go to the bathroom, he yelled out, “Mommy, I need the cup!” I dashed in front of him with the container, and he peed with no problem. Finally, he got it. It was a little unconventional, but I was willing to do whatever it took to begin to make progress. So as long as he’s awake and I’m home, he goes pantsless, and when he has to go, he proclaims “I have to pee-pee!” and we run and get the cup. He’s so proud of himself now. He is still weary of the toilet, so I’m not pushing the issue. I know that when he’s ready, he’ll go. When he has to poop, he still asks for a diaper. At bedtime, I have him pee in the cup, and then put on a diaper.
He’s 3 1/2 now, and while this whole cup-peeing, diaper-pooping approach wasn’t what I had envisioned for him at this age, I have every belief that by his 4th birthday he’ll be fully potty trained. Despite people’s prodding, I trusted my instincts and just let him grow at his own pace. I still don’t know what exactly about the cup is so comforting, but as long as it’s working, it’s okay with me.
Just like everything else about toddlerhood, this is a marathon, not a sprint. So, I will slowly begin to introduce the next element, be that underwear or the actual toilet. I have every confidence that at this time next year it’ll be like he was born able to go on the potty. God, I hope so because I need to send this kid to pre-K and the one near our house doesn’t do diapers.