What I’ve learned about potty-training

Lucy is quickly becoming a Potty Master. She has had several days this week where she’s logged not only two or fewer accidents but also a dozen successful potty-sits. What a champ!

In honor of Lucy’s achievements, I’d like to offer a few musings on what I’ve learned about potty-training for Lucy Boyd, age 2 — after one week, at at any rate.

Photo: Optional accessories include a giraffe umbrella and a pink lawn flamingo.

  • Do not underestimate the power of the M&M. After a troubled beginning of the week, I began to suspect that the gold-star awards just weren’t having the immediate motivational impact I was hoping for. As soon as we switched to M&Ms, Lucy had an entire day without a single accident! Amazing.
  • Nor, however, should you underestimate the power of the M&M to keep your child awake and hyper at nap- and bedtime. While the candy-coated chocolate treats did their job in the potty arena, they started to break down some of our treasured bedtime structures. Although we have given Lucy chocolate previously with no ill effects, the steady diet of M&Ms doled out all day long seemed to give her the jitters (from the caffeine?), resulting in many bedtime calls for rocking, drinking water, and eating snacks, topped off by a last-resort hour of crying-it-out one night. Egads. Potty training is not worth all that hollering!
  • Do not underestimate the power of the Jelly Belly as an M&M substitute. After a rocky naptime on Friday, Papa officially blamed the M&Ms, declared a domestic emergency, and ventured out on a Jelly Belly safari. And Lucy didn’t bat an eye, making the switch over to our “special grown-up candy” without a hitch. Her favorite flavors so far are yellow (whether lemon or buttered popcorn), brown (root beer), and pink (tutti frutti, bubblegum, or cotton candy).
  • Do not underestimate the power of the naked bottom. (Well, that doesn’t sound quite like I mean it….) After our successful weekend outdoors (which we highly recommend, incidentally), I was definitely nervous about moving the potty-project back inside into upholstered territory. Logically, I thought that wearing training underpants would help contain messes. While they did help keep accidents off the furniture to a degree, they also gave Lucy the false sense of security that comes with wearing something over one’s bottom. So we went back to our no-pants-whatsoever policy, and the accidents decreased dramatically. I’m hoping that we’ll eventually be a bit more modest in our undergarment needs, but for now, I’m just fine with a toddler who is footloose and fancy-pants-free.
  • Beware of the automatic flushing toilet. Lucy surprised me by asking to use the potty twice on this week’s Target outing, but then she got surprised herself when the toilet began spontaneously flushing while she sat on it. (It was kind of funny, actually.) Hopefully she’ll eventually be willing to venture back onto the scary seat. And maybe I’ll get better at juggling Rosie in the Björn while balancing a toddler on the toilet edge, all while trying not to touch anything in a public bathroom. Ack!
  • Do not overestimate the power of Potty Patty. Perhaps this doll will prove more useful with Rosie, but Patty really didn’t seem like a crucial part of Lucy’s potty-training victories. We were thinking that this tiny role model would really hook our daughter’s imagination. Although Lucy does seem to like the doll well enough, her feeding and peeing mechanisms were so challenging that only Papa could operate it — and at almost $50, it hardly seems worth it. Perhaps an older child would benefit from it more, but if you are looking for a review from the parents of a two-year-old, we say, “Save your money for jelly beans.”
  • Do increase your stores of patience. This week saw some of my most challenging moments as a parent, especially in the areas of anger and impatience. The mess that comes with potty-training is a unique one, both germy and potentially everywhere at the same time. I had to remind myself that Lucy is just a toddler — learning a new skill, eager to grow up, and not trying to send me over the edge of sanity. (Jon says I’ve been amazing at this, but it sure hasn’t felt like it.)
  • Do distribute hugs and kisses liberally. Not that that’s very hard for us! But I’ve been consciously trying my best to relax and stay calm this week, since I can’t deny that we’ve lived with an undercurrent of tension. The moment Jon and I notice we are having a conversation alone, we panic: Where’s Lucy? She must be peeing in a corner somewhere! This kind of anxiety can take its toll on any family, but it’s severely diminished by its most potent antidote: affection. Lots of family hugs and kisses remind us that it’s not the potty that matters — it’s the people on the potty.

This has certainly been an experiential learning project for our whole family! But I think we are all the better for it. Lucy is on her way to earning her black-belt in personal hygiene, and Rosie now has parents with a bit of experience in this area when it comes time for her own Booty Camp. Personally, I hope that the challenges from this week have shaped me into a better Mama — one who is able to take a messy situation, find some humor in it, and teach her baby to clean it up with her. Jelly beans for everyone!

4 Replies to “What I’ve learned about potty-training”

  1. My statistic prof. in college gave out jelly beans when students had math angst! Somehow it made doing a Chi-Square much easier. And I think Dr, Who offered them in dire moments as well.

    Never thought of the toilet seats. That would do Naomi in…thanks for the warning.

    Love this post Ann. I am sure if will be helpful for other on this journey.

    Congrats on a successful week!

  2. Auto flushing toilets still scare the doo-doo out of Kaia. She can’t stand them. You’ve learned a lot, and taught me a lot. Mostly that Mo isn’t quite ready yet, and neither am I ! :)

  3. Evan is also wary of public toilets. Whenever we use the potty in an unfamiliar place, he will consider how loud the potty might be. He often chooses to stand in the far corner of the stall while I flush. I did hear a suggestion once to carry post it notes to put over the sensors on automatic flush toilets while the child is using the potty. I never tried it, so I don’t know if it works.

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