Once again, it’s time to experience that ancient parent-child ritual that’s such a joy for all parties involved: potty training.
I really take issue with the phrase “potty training”, because so far, despite guiding three children through this particular patch of Hell’s real estate, I don’t feel like anybody was “trained”. I mean, I guess I’ve being trained on how to time another person’s bladder, and how to pretend like a faint piss smell doesn’t actually permeate every room of my house. The new trendy term for this is “potty learning”, but the only thing I’ve learned is how many paper towels it takes to soak up an entire bladder’s worth of pee off the floor.
When it comes to learning to use the potty, Surrey has been a case study in zero fucks. She could teach a master class to other toddlers on how to infuriate and boggle the minds of your parents. Even getting her to sit on the goddamn potty is an exercise in working through the various stages of grief: rage (“IT IS TIME TO GO PEE-PEE. YOU SIT THERE RIGHT NOW!”), bartering (“Do you want to sit on the potty and play iPad?), denial (“Oh, you don’t have to go? Okay, just make sure you tell me if you need to go potty!”) and acceptance (“Fuck it. Go ahead and shit on the floor; I’ll be over here making lunch and playing on my phone.”)
We tried all the typical motivational tactics, but this kid proved to be a tough nut to crack. When we made a huge deal over her peeing on the potty, she was equally impressed with herself, clapping and laughing as if to say, “I KNOW! Can you fucking believe I did this?” Then she would walk across the room and pee on her sister’s Barbie. Treats didn’t work, either. I realized one day that I’d passed out about fifty Hershey kisses to someone who sat on the potty fifty times to watch Team Umizoomi yet still managed to pee on every square inch of the house except the potty.
Exasperated, I tried being angry. She didn’t seem to give a shit about where she did and didn’t go to the bathroom, so I thought maybe some tough love would work. Rob and I have been watching that Scared Straight show a lot, so I felt like she could use a little bit of a reality check. Maybe I could have her sisters come and scream testimonials in her face. “YOU THINK THIS IS A GAME?! I USED TO BE JUST LIKE YOU, WEARING DIAPERS AND POOPING MY PANTS.”
So I put my mean face on and walked over to the puddle on the floor. “Surrey! What is this?”
Her face brightened up. She knew the answer to this one. “It’s PEE PEE, Mommy!” she said, with a huge grin.
I keep my mean face on, despite the temptation to smile back. “I know, Surrey. Did you pee pee on the floor?”
“Yeah, I pee pee on the floor,” she agreed matter-of-factly.
“Why did you do that? I do NOT like that at all, Surrey.”
“I know,” she emphatically agreed. She’s on my side. We’re in this together.
“Surrey, I do not like this. Where are you supposed to go pee pee?”
“In the potty,” she told me reassuringly. She then recited the Gospel of the Panties in her best scandalized-to-think-otherwise voice: “I no go pee pee in my panties! I no go pee pee in a diaper! I just go pee pee on the potty!”
“So then WHY DIDN’T YOU DO IT?”
“I go pee pee on the floor, Mommy!”
So basically, just like the other two, nothing worked. Reasoning, bribery, anger, encouragement, threats — she didn’t give a shit. She knew what we wanted, she what to do, she just didn’t give a shit about actually doing it. If you asked her if she was a baby or a big girl, she chose “baby” about 75% of the time. My husband and I were at our wit’s end. One day, after a particularly eventful day of Surrey peeing on every single surface that could absorb urine quickly, he announced that I needed to “figure this out”. MOTHERFUCKER THERE’S NOTHING TO FIGURE OUT. She’s a stubborn redhead who won’t do anything unless it’s her own idea, that’s what’s going on here.
So we left it alone. We went back to diapers when we left the house, and went without them around the house when we were feeling brave or lazy. We suggested she use the potty when she started holding herself, but didn’t push it. We started a two-person support group called “She’ll Do It Someday”, in which we took turns convincing each other that yes, she would eventually start using the potty, just like the other two girls did, and yes, it always seems like it gets worse right before it clicks with them. I still felt anxious, though, because this time around, there’s a deadline looming over our heads: preschool. Surrey is due to start preschool in October, but only if she’s potty trained. So there we were, two months before her third birthday, making pretty much zero progress.
Then, one day, I came home from work and Rob announced that Surrey had started sitting AND PEEING on the potty. By herself. With no one mentioning it to her. The next day, she pooped and peed by herself. And the next. And the next. Are we officially potty-trained? I don’t know, but I sure hope so. Am I kind of sad and nostalgic about the end of the Days of Diapers in our house? Bitch, please. We’ve already started planning what we’re going to do with the space taken up by the Pack ‘n Play that served as a diaper-changing station these past seven years. I don’t even fucking remember what we used to put there before we had kids. Maybe we’ll start stacking our mountain of cash there, now that we’re not blowing it on diapers and paper towels every week.
At any rate, good luck with this kid, preschool.
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