On this day, November 4th, some years ago, I potty trained my youngest child, A. I had purchased the book, “Training your child in Less than a Day.” Her second birthday was to be on November 8th, and I selected this day because it would be a day when I had no outside duties or obligations, a day when it was just the two of us here at home (until the other five kiddos came home from school). I read, no I studied the book and wrote down the pertinent steps and information I needed to make it happen.
My goal was to just train her for the daytime, as I felt that would be wonderful to have her out of daytime diapers. I had no expectations of her being able to control her bowel movements and figured that we would work on that as necessary. I found a doll that wet at a local thrift store, so I could demonstrate to her what was expected when she sat on the potty. As it turned out, I could have used a doll she already had, because instead of putting water into the doll, I just held a saturated piece of paper towel, which I surreptitiously squeezed to produce a little puddle in the potty.
I purchased the treats, especially lots of her favorite juices. You see, the idea is to give them plenty of liquid so they have to urinate often. I purchased the large, oversized (more easy to push down and pull up), thick (for absorption) training pants. There was to be no phone calls, no TV, no radio, no reading—just myself and my child interacting all day, especially focused on learning to use the potty.
I started as soon as the older kiddos were out the door to go to school. We started out in the kitchen, as the book suggested. I did the demonstration with the doll to show her what was expected of her. I repeated to her the steps she was expected to learn and so we began.
However, as the day progressed, I realized I had to be flexible and adapt to my child in order to be successful. She roamed about the house, and so I roamed with her. She loved every minute of it. At one point, she went into one of the bedrooms and patted the floor as an invitation for me to sit with her—and I did.
She began to use the potty. In the beginning I would put my hands over her little hands to guide them as she pulled down the oversized training pants. She was so proud to “perform” and even happier still when she began to pull up her pants by herself. She emptied the contents of the potty into the toilet and proudly flushed the toilet. She loved the treats and the drinks that came afterward.
When there were “accidents” we would practice. Oh, she really didn’t like that part. The book suggested that we go to various points in the house and I went through the dialog that consisted of the steps she was learning. I would say, when you need to go potty, you go to the bathroom (and we would be rushing to the bathroom), then you push down your pants, then you sit on your potty, then you pull up your pants (again, with my help), empty the potty, and flush the toilet. Then we would go to another part of the house and go through the “practice session” again. Yes, she bawled her head off while we were doing this, but I ignored that. I was gentle and loving, never talked in a loud or offensive voice to her, just very firm but pleasant. I was with her every step of the way, with my hands on her hands to perform each step so she got the idea. I modified this part too, since the book suggested many more times than I ever actually did. I think the most I ever did was two “practice” sessions for every “accident.”
During this time, I was so tempted to quit. It was the day after the elections that year, and I was curious as to the election results. I missed talking on the phone. I missed being able to listen to the radio. However, I would ask myself if I wanted to change diapers for another year, and that would spur me on. Now this also was in the days when disposable diapers were a new thing, and I could not justify the expense of buying disposables for anything but trips and other limited occasions. I was dealing with washing, drying, and folding diapers, so I was very motivated.
Other than the “practice” sessions, A was just as happy as a lark to have her mother’s focused attention and she loved that I was so happy with her progress. Because, trust me, I was so proud of her and the quick way she was learning. She felt my genuine feelings of love and joy and pride in what she was accomplishing. It was a day of total bonding for the two of us.
After working at this for four hours, with no let up, we were both exhausted and ready for a nap. We both slept deeply that afternoon. After we both awakened, we continued on. By the time the kiddos returned home, she was well on her way to being completely trained. I do mean completely. Other than a few accidents here and there during the next few days, she was capable of going to the bathroom on her own, including emptying the potty and flushing the toilet. From that day forward, she never woke up wet in the morning. She was also trained with her bowel movements as well.
She knew that she had accomplished something monumental and she knew that I knew that her accomplishment was incredible. In addition, we two had developed a strong bond. It was so worth the effort. Oh yes, I wondered if I would be required to provide treats forever. However, that part of it just seemed to take care of itself. In the days following the “big day” she would ask for a treat every once in a while. If she asked, she got it. But the asking dwindled and disappeared altogether within a day or two and that was the end of that.
I have to share this anecdote in connection with this significant event. A little background: A has a cousin, T, whose birthday is three days later than her own. T walked when she was 7 months old. Now I realize that it was just a difference in their developmental progress, but when A didn’t walk until she was past 14 months old, it created a little bit of a pang when we would travel home for visits. So a few weeks later, when the family was all together for Thanksgiving dinner, just barely two-year-old A announced to me that she needed to use the bathroom. I stayed in my seat and told her to go ahead, which she did. She had graduated to pretty little panties by this time and she performed flawlessly. My brother-in-law immediately turned to my sister and said something to the effect that T needed to be trained. Shame on me, but my heart swelled with joy at my little girl’s new-found independence.