Stop Making Potty Training Out To Be Some Easy Thing

by Clint Edwards
Originally Published: 
Child sitting on the toilet, potty-training
Shutterstock / By Saklakova

Our youngest, Aspen, is 3 1/2. My wife works at our kids’ school, so she has the summers off. During the school year, Aspen is in daycare. But this summer, it was kind of now or never getting her potty trained before preschool. And let me just tell you, she’s fighting it. Mel and I have been taking on this task in shifts, and I feel like my house is literally dripping in pee-pee.

We’ve tried a million different tactics, from stickers, to treats, to movies, to letting her sit naked on the toilet watching a tablet, to having her watch family members do the job, to giving her actual underwear to… well… you get the idea. She knows when she’s going. She announces it. She points down, and laughs, and tells us that she’s “going pee-pee.” She sneaks up behind me sometimes, checks my butt, and says, “You poopy, Daddy?”

“No, I’m not. Thanks for asking.”

“Oh,” Aspen says with a nasty grin. “I poopy.”

All three of our children have been early to walk, and early to talk, and late to use the potty.

For the first few years of their lives, they have been literal walking, talking, bags of poop. And with each one of them, we haven’t really had the option to “just wait for them to figure it out.” We’ve always had work demands, or school demands, or whatever, so we’ve ended up with a small window of time to teach them, and every time, as Mel and I struggle to get these little people to figure it out, half the parents we talk to have some prideful, bullshit story about how easy (and fast!) it was for their kids.

“My daughter was potty trained in a day.”

“My son was using the potty at 6 months.”

“My daughter asked to use the potty at 2, and she figured it out, no problem. Now, at 3, she does calculus.”

And every time someone tells me their potty training success story, it’s always with a little hint of “I’m obviously better at this whole parenting gig than you,” and also “I can’t believe your toddler still wears a diaper.”

And every time, I want to put my pee-pee soaked hands over their mouths and tell them to shove their success story up their but hole. I’m frustrated and my house smells, and you had the audacity to tell me how easy it is and then act like I’m doing something wrong.

Eat shit.

Okay. Okay.

Perhaps I’m overreacting.

I mean, honestly, if your child figured it out, if it was easy for you, congrats. I’m happy for you. But right now, I’m knee-deep in poopy Peppa Pig underwear, and sitting down anywhere in my house I could easily find a wet spot.

So if you are one of those “potty training was a breeze” parents, stop reading now. This post isn’t for you.

I’m speaking to the parents in my situation. I’m reaching out to the working moms and dads who have to get that kid trained in a specific window of time, and by gosh, she’s fighting it. I am speaking to the parents chasing a naked little boy down the hall, pee shooting out from between his legs, all the while you are screaming, “Put it in the potty!”

I know your pain. I know that it sucks. I know that everyone around you is making it sound like no big deal, and that makes you feel like a total parenting failure because you can’t get your child to figure out one of the most basic things ever.

I’ve felt your pain. I’m feeling it now. Many parents have, in fact. You are not alone. And you are not doing anything wrong. Eventually, they will figure it out. Trust me. But in the moment, it doesn’t feel that way.

If you are like Mel and me, you are spending each night searching the internet to find new ways to approach potty training. If you have a supportive partner in your life, you are taking turns with it. You are working together to assist your child in figuring out what works best for them, and for some kids, this potty training thing is a real struggle.

And you know what, that’s awesome. That is real parenting. That is teamwork. And when that child finally crawls up on the toilet, all on their own, and lets it rip right where it should go, you are going to feel incredibly satisfied. It will feel more rewarding than when you first got your driver’s license, or when the love of your life finally said, “I do.” It will feel like a greater accomplishment than graduating from college. I’m not overstating either — the glory really is on another level.

So hold strong. Don’t give up. And realize that all kids are different, and just because your child is struggling with this whole potty thing, they are still wonderful, important, and intelligent. So to hell with the judgy parents. You keep watching for those “I need to potty” signs. Keep the carpet cleaner handy. And keep up the good fight. It’ll work out. I promise.

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