Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Secret to Potty Training

I have it.  Are you ready?  Are you ready for this revolutionary information?  READY?!?!?!

Here it is:  Your kid will be potty trained when s/he is good and damn ready.  The end.

I know.  Shit, fuck, goddamnit, that's what all the other books and doctors and Google were saying.  I THOUGHT YOU WERE DIFFERENT!!!!

Well, friend, so did I.  Until I had kids of my own.  And tried to potty train them.  And they had other plans.  And it turns out some of my friends' kids had other plans, too.  And then I went, "Well, shit.  This is not going at all as planned.  It's as though these little bastards have minds of their own!"

And they do.  They so, so do.  And, while you'd think that they wouldn't have such rock solid control over their bodily functions and how not to use them, they so, so do.

And so... potty training doesn't always go like you thought it would.  Sometimes it does!!!  (And to those people, I say congratulations!  And pppppffftttttppt.)  But very often it doesn't.  And then we, the parents, feel like giant failures who have failed our kids and failed ourselves and fail, fail, fail.
(Oh.  You don't feel that way?  Well, then you are remarkably reasonable.  Congratulations.  I FAILED.)

There are a billion and one methods and a billion and one philosophies and all of them work.  On the right kid at the right time.  You can pick and choose whatever you like.  Best of luck to ya.  But, apart from the actual potty training method itself, there are a great many other parts to this equation.  And we can not leave these out.

Here are the top 4:

#1. Parents.
Parents can be trained.  Parents can be trained really, really well.  Parents can be trained to take their kid to the potty every 30 minutes, or to begin putting their child on the potty at 6 months, or to recognize that look and rush them to the toilet in the middle of chopping raw chicken.  Or to precisely follow the directions in any potty training book on the planet.  And all of that is super great and awesome and uber-effective.  Except that training ourselves doesn't equal a trained child who can recognize the need to go and then go in the toilet.  Eventually it might!  But probably not right away.  So, if you're willing to be in for the long haul and be trained yourself first, do it.  All of these methods will absolutely work.  On the right kid.  At the right time.

#2. Kids.
Hey, did you know these things came with such wildly different needs and personalities?  Did you know they reached milestones in such different ways and on different time lines?  Did you know that, sometimes, they can CONTROL when they meet these milestones?  Like, they're in charge?  THEY'RE IN CHARGE?!?  We're all fucked.

#3. Fear.
Some kids are actually frightened to go to the bathroom in the potty.  Some kids feel ownership over what they "created" and are bummed about flushing it away.  Some kids don't want to stop being babies, and potty training is a clear sign o' the end of that road.  Some kids have painful poop and are frightened of the actual act of pooping... and trying to do it in a new place in a new way is just too much.  

#4. Health/Genetics/Diet.
Sometimes other things come into play.  Some kids take a little longer to recognize the actual feeling of having to go to the bathroom.  Some kids have health issues, like constipation.  Some kids diets are weird because they refuse to eat anything that grew from the ground, or will only eat white food, or hate whole grains.  The genetics and health and diet of the child play a HUGE role in potty training and all of these things can hold it up a good, long time.  Be prepared for this.  And try not to be too pissed off about it.

There's a lot that goes into this.  It's kind of a miracle anyone ever gets potty trained, actually.

Anyhoo, none of this is to say that you have to wait until they saunter up to you one day and say, in perfectly clear English, "Pardon me, Parent Dear, but I do believe I'm prepared to utilize the toilet at this juncture.  Please pass Anna Karenina. "  Cause if you're still willing to change your kid's diaper and wipe his or her butt, that day might never come.  Your kid ain't dumb, friend.  S/he knows that kind of personal service won't roll around again for a good 70 years.

Listen, if your child is developmentally ready and you are mentally prepared to take on this mighty adventure we call Potty Training, then by all means, get 'er done!  Pick your method and run with it!  It'll totally work!!!  (IF your kid is ready.)

I know.  This was no help at all.  I'm sorry.  You had high hopes.  We all did.  I failed.  AGAIN.

Look.  Here's the thing.  I jest and make fun and laugh and act all apocalyptic about potty training because potty training can be one of the most confusing, frustrating, embarrassing experiences of parenthood.  Or it can be super easy and awesome and exciting.  YOU NEVER KNOW.  Because, hey!  Guess what?!?

The kid will go when the kid is ready to go.  The end.


Best of luck to those beginning this Potty Journey.  Don't stop believin'.

And hang in there, comrades in Potty Hell.  We will all be done changing nasty, dumptastic diapers one day.  One day soon.  And our houses will no longer smell like feces.  Damn it.

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