Here’s how I know that I’m a desperate potty-training parent: I just bought a book called Percy the Poop. Yes, a children’s book whose main character is a log of shit. Apparently, allowing the poop to talk and have human wants and needs will help my daughter understand where poop belongs (I mean, where poop wants to go): in the potty.
This month marks a year since my daughter started potty training. A YEAR. It’s been a helluva 365 days—and the end is not yet in sight.
Potty training entered our world quite by surprise. One weekend, my then 2-year-old decided she wanted to pee on the potty. That’s it. That simple. I can count on one hand the number of pee accidents she’s had since then.
“This is amazing!” my husband and I thought. “So easy! What are all of these other parents talking about when they describe the horrors of potty training?”
Poop. That’s what.
While I know that every child’s potty training experience is different and some struggle more than others, for us this nightmare called potty training revolves completely around poop. I never would have imagined that a simple bodily function common to all living creatures would be my utter undoing.
Before you rattle off a list of suggestions, let me say this: I’ve tried them all. To prove it, here’s a few things I’ve tried to get my daughter to poop on the potty:
– Rewarding her with small prizes.
– Rewarding her with big prizes.
– Using a small, toddler potty chair.
– Bringing the small potty chair to the living room (or bedroom, or playroom, or kitchen).
– Using a potty seat insert for the adult toilet. Disney-themed to boot!
– Having a potty money jar. For every poop on the potty, receive a coin. When the jar is full, go buy a new toy with the money you’ve earned. (FYI, our jar currently stands with a whopping one penny).
– Sticker chart. And not just little star stickers. I mean, large Disney princess stickers at $5.99 per sheet.
– Letting her watch videos on my phone.
– Letting her watch an entire full-length movie.
– Rewarding her with special food or candy.
– Reading targeted poop-related potty training books (cue Percy).
– Dumping poop from underwear into the potty while she watches, unfazed.
– Making her help clean her dirty underwear.
– Letting her sit around in dirty underwear to prove that it’s not a comfortable feeling. Apparently, she doesn’t care.
– Allowing her to request a pull-up or diaper to poop in.
– Sitting with her in the bathroom. Giving her her privacy. Leaving her on the toilet for an hour.
– Letting her pick out fun, new underwear at the store.
– Allowing her to go bare-bottomed at home for days upon days. (Sorry to any visitors.)
– Letting her “decorate” the poop once it’s in the potty—sprinkle it with glitter, drop in a color tablet to change the water color.
I encourage her every day. I have broken out in song and dance about poop–sometimes self-written, other times falling back on the familiar (who knew Frozen’s “Let It Go” would have so many connotations). I have resorted to bribery. I have shed tears of frustration. I have yelled. I have spoken in adult terms: “Poop goes in the toilet. Period. Pooping in your underwear is gross.” I have spoken in toddler terms: “Guess what? Poop loves to swim! When you poop in the potty, that means your poop gets to go swimming! You can watch it swim around and around!”
I’ve questioned my sanity after talking so ridiculously about poop. I’ve joined a potty training support group on Facebook, for God’s sake!
Nothing has worked.
Here’s the problem: My daughter is stubborn. And too smart for her own good. She knows damn well that she should go on the potty, but simply doesn’t. Many common reasons for other kids—such as being scared—don’t apply to her.
She has no pattern to when she will go, which makes it hard to predict and intervene. As a result, I have developed a hyper-awareness of her signs. I basically stalk her. Little does she know that while she’s playing, I’m obsessively watching her little body for the facial expressions and movements (read: abdomen clenching) that I know are the precursors to an accident. All of this obsessing is exhausting and anxiety-inducing.
“Relax,” people tell me. “She will eventually get it. Have you ever seen a high schooler still pooping her pants?” My guess is these people didn’t have a troublesome potty trainer. My guess is that people who have been in my shoes would have more of an empathetic approach. Yes, I realize that she will eventually get it. But that doesn’t make the process any less frustrating. Or disgusting. Or smelly.
When I’m washing out dirty underwear for the 236th time and cursing under my breath, I try my best to remember that someday she will poop on the potty and I won’t be elbow-deep in human feces. It’s then that I remember I’ll have another child to potty train and likely many more tiny undies to rinse.