My son is a genius. He’s always been ahead of the curve. He walked early, talked young (and hasn’t stopped), he could kick a ball and throw with accuracy as a toddler. So when he, as a fourteen-month-old, started wanting to sit on his little Froggy potty, and even pooped in it once, I was secretly fist pumping and practicing my sympathetic looks for all the mommies of the boys his age in our playgroup.
Then it stopped. With his sudden halt in toilet interest, came a corresponding spike in my desperation. Meanwhile, one mom I ran into at Target (buying new underwear for her boy), told me all about how she had trained him at not-quite-eighteen-months, by filling him with water and juice and letting him run around the house naked all day with multiple potties set up in different areas of the house. That seemed pretty crazy. I wasn’t quite there at that point. My little monkey was only eighteen months old. There was no reason to panic, yet.
Months passed. He turned two. I started suggesting he use the potty. At first it was just a quick, “Hey, ya wanna try the potty?” every once in a while. He never wanted to. When he turned three, it turned into “WHY don’t you want to go in the potty?” His answer, “I just want to go in my diaper, Mom.” Well, never let it be said that he doesn’t know what he wants.
I started trying to bribe him. I got him a packet of cool underwear. He agreed we should try wearing them. I didn’t even have pants on him, and he went in the potty! Once. Then he discovered that 1) peeing out your underwear feels funny enough to stand there and laugh hysterically while you do it, and 2) Mom freaking out only lasts for thirty seconds until she realizes that she doesn’t want this to be a fight, or about control, or a negative experience, and gets a hold of herself enough to just put a diaper on you and clean up the puddle. In. The. Carpet. Back to the status quo.
Three and a half years old. My sweet boy has had sensitive skin in his nether regions for his whole life. What changed is that he became extremely articulate in describing just how bad his diaper rashes hurt. At the same time, he started thinking it was funny to lie about if he had a wet diaper. At first, I was hypervigilant, making him come get a change even if he said he wasn’t wet. Then, something snapped, and I told him, “Fine. Don’t get changed, but you’ll get a rash because you’re lying.” I choked down my tears at his terrible, sometimes bleeding, rashes, hoping he would learn to either let me change him, or just GO TO THE POTTY! Nope. He won. I went back to changing him at the slightest hint of poo or pee, because I couldn’t handle seeing his pain. Our whole family learned the chant, “You wouldn’t get a rash if you’d go in the potty,” whenever his sensitive skin presented him with diaper rash despite our best efforts.
I kept hearing from people who wanted to give me potty-training advice. All the nifty methods just seemed either silly, or cruel, or somewhere between. The one thing that stuck with me was the statement my sister-in-law said made about “forcing it” with her children, and how sometimes her children still wet. She suspects it’s in response to the way they were potty trained. I just wanted my boy to learn to go in the potty. I was okay with waiting for him to want it, as long as he wanted it before preschool started, because I didn’t want diapers to hold him back. I started pointing out his friends in underwear. We went on a field trip with the preschool his older best friend attended, and I made sure to remind my guy that he couldn’t go to preschool like his buddy without being potty trained. He said, “Well, I guess I can’t go, because I don’t want to go in the potty.” Again, he knew the consequences, and just didn’t want to make that leap.
Then, one magical day, my husband just randomly asked our almost-four-year-old, “Hey buddy, do you wanna wear underwear today?” and he said, “Yes! I would like to!” He wore cool Spiderman underwear, and had one small accident. I put him in little tightie-whities for the rest of the day (so cute, by the way). The next day, I pulled out one pair of Superman underwear, and a huge pile of white briefs. “You can wear the cool ones until you have an accident. Then it’s the white ones.” He agreed, and to my surprise, he hasn’t had to wear white underwear in the month since we made that arrangement.
Angels singing, sun shining in magical rays around our home, it’s a miracle! Once my sweet, smart boy decided it was time for the underpants, he took care of business. We’ve since been on short outings to the store, and recently, a long outing to the zoo. The two accidents he’s had have been the result of either a bad tummy from medicine, or a locked gate blocking the bathroom. We spent the month keeping him in diapers for sleeping, but he never wet the diapers. He climbs in bed with us sometimes, and I haven’t been ready to risk being peed on during the night—but that’s all changing. We told him if he had a month of dry diapers in the morning, he would get to wear underwear at night. Tonight will be his first night in Superman underwear. My fingers will be crossed all night long.
Or maybe not. After all, my son is a genius.