Elimination Communication Is Literally A Crock Of Shit

by Jenny Halteman

Malakhova Ganna / via Shutterstock

My daughter was using the toilet at 3 months old. We were cloth diapering and didn’t have easy access to a laundromat and so when I learned about elimination communication (EC), or infant potty training as it was sometimes called, I was determined that this was something my daughter would do.

Little did I know.

At 6 months, I was able to read her cues well enough that I was actively going out of my way to ensure her diaper stayed dry and clean. Grandparents and friends were amused and in awe.

Little did I know.

We taught her baby sign language, and at 9 months, my little bundle was signing to me when she had to pee or poop. She’s so smart! She’s going to be potty trained by a year! This is wonderful! Look Ma! Look Dad! Isn’t your granddaughter so special?!

Little did I know.

By a year, the struggle began. If I had shown her the sign for “fuck you,” she would have been giving me the finger whenever I tried to rush her to the toilet. She was old enough now to realize that she was a human being, not some little party trick to show off to passersby. But I was determined.

Little did I know.

I still waxed poetic about the joys of EC. I wrote to Internet strangers that my daughter was still using her potty frequently, which wasn’t exactly a lie. She was, but now I was making sticker charts to try to coax the magic to continue while scrubbing the shit off of the floor. I didn’t want to be one of those parents who bribed with candy, but stickers seemed OK.

The struggle progressed throughout the year, and by 2, I had stopped rejoicing the beauty of EC. Grocery trips now included a visit to the once-shunned candy aisle, and I let my daughter choose her treat of choice. M&M’s? Sixlets? Smarties? Anything for you, dear daughter. Please just shit on the potty.

By 3, the diaper shits stopped, but her refusal to pee on the toilet was clearly a positive correlation to our struggles two years prior. I begged and pleaded. I sat down and had serious conversations with her. “Do you plan to wet yourself when you go off to college, dear one?” “Can we call a truce?” I knew that she knew what to do. She knew that she knew what to do. Why had I decided this was ever a good idea in the first place?

So finally, I completely gave up. I stopped telling her she had to use the potty. I stopped asking. I stopped begging. No more stickers. No M&M’s unless they were for a special treat. She got to choose whether she wore a diaper or underwear that day.

Friends younger than her began to stop wearing diapers. I was disappointed in myself for failing so miserably, but I didn’t let my daughter think I was disappointed in her, because I wasn’t.

The magic ticket was a special shopping trip. A brand new dress for a potty-trained girl. This was the motivation my daughter needed, and within two weeks, she stopped the power struggle.

At 4, she still squeezes into that dress. She occasionally says, “Remember Mom? This is my potty-training dress.” Oh lordy, I remember.

I was never so brash as to post photos on Facebook of a diaperless baby, but I do occasionally see friends discussing their children’s bowel movements on social media including the “magic of EC.” I know that it can and does work for some. Good for them. Really. I just hope that if it’s not working, they’ll stop long before I did.

I now have a second daughter. Everyone asked if I planned to do that “baby potty-training thing” with her. I refrained from yelling, “Are you fucking kidding me?!” and politely told them I just didn’t have the time. “It’s just too hard with two,” I’d say. Besides, she was born during her older sister’s second and third years—the years when I considered pissing on the floor to make a point to the most stubborn child on the planet. What that point would have been, I’m not even sure. But no, I’m not putting myself through the ridiculous power struggle with my second daughter. She will learn to use the toilet when she’s good and ready. Thank you very much.