I’m The Mom Whose Kid May Never Be Potty Trained

by Carrie Tinsley
Originally Published: 
potty training delayed preschooler
porah / iStock

My son Tate will soon turn 5. He is brilliant, kind, funny and handsome. Everyone likes him, and he keeps me constantly on my toes with mischievous antics (flooding an upstairs bathroom three weeks before Christmas, for example). But Tate is wonderful and amazing.

And he isn’t fully potty trained.

Before you all gasp and wonder why the hell I would allow Tate to live his life having daily (yes, daily) potty accidents in public, at home, in my car, and at playgrounds and birthday party venues across the Southeastern United States, let me ease your minds. I haven’t allowed this to go on, but it still does.

I feel like such a failure. Over the past three years, I’ve tried everything. I’ve used every bribe I can think of. I’ve punished him. I’ve created reward-based potty charts. I’ve set the timer on my iPhone a thousand times. We have left public places when the telltale wet ring appears on his pants. I have let him continue to play, even with wet pants, wondering if other kids ask him about it whether or not he might finally be embarrassed. He hasn’t.

I’ve also given him some grace. I think Tate was rushed to potty train at his daycare when he turned 2 and wasn’t quite ready. Then, we had a new baby, moved to a completely new state, and began new lives. Poor Tate, the middle child no less, had a rough couple of years. So, I kept giving him breaks, creating potty charts, and trying my best not to freak out, lose my temper, or cry when throwing away yet another pair of Paw Patrol underwear full of pee and/or poop in the local Chick-fil-A bathroom. (I did this two weeks ago, by the way.)

Though my mom friends are aware of this problem (and blessedly sympathetic and nonjudgmental), I haven’t escaped the judgment of moms I don’t know who have found me on the playground to “just let me know” that my 4-year-old has peed on himself and it’s upsetting their snowflakes who were potty trained at 18 months and have never had an accident since. I would genuinely like to throat-punch these moms who snidely insinuate that, if I weren’t so lazy or clueless, my kid would have this figured by now.

In a few months, I will register Tate for kindergarten. It’s so hard for me to believe that my little boy, this awesome kid whom I love so fiercely, will be carrying his own tray in the school cafeteria, learning to read, do math, and write his first and last name legibly next fall.

And I am so fearful that his potty training issue will follow him there.

Kids can be so mean. I know Tate will eventually be teased about something—his clothes, his hair, his love of sharks—or for no apparent reason. I hope the potty thing, something so fixable, won’t be the nickname that follows him to middle school or the way some kid teases him in front of a girl he likes someday. This, we can fix.

I recently (finally, as a last resort) took Tate to the pediatrician about the potty issue, and she diagnosed him with constipation, which, she explained, could dull the sensation for his body telling him he needed to go until it was too late. At this point, I’m glad to have an explanation (and some daily laxative drink mix for him), but more importantly, I just know it will take him time, and I need to be patient.

Tate won’t go to college in a Huggies pull-up. I hope he won’t have accidents when he enters elementary school, but that’s a bridge we’ll cross if we have to. He isn’t the first kid with this problem, and he won’t be the last.

This is a hard thing to explain to people. It’s frustrating and embarrassing, and it often turns me into both a fierce defender of my son and also the person he upsets the most. I’ve felt like the worst mom, the okayest mom, the proudest mom, the most embarrassed mom, the most loyal mom, the least loyal mom, but at the end of the day? I love my son, and I’ll always try to do what’s best for him. As long as he knows that, we’ll be fine.

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