A Potty Story

Don’t you just love how as a mother you feel free to talk about poop and pee like men discuss football?  There’s such drama in the event.  When passing a major milestone like this, I feel the need to reflect on how it was with each of my kids.  Don’t ask me why.  Processing maybe?

With Silje, I was under the impression that kids were supposed to be potty trained at 18 months.  So around 16 months or so I started putting on the pressure.  I spent hours showing working with her and trying to make it a game.  A few times she would go potty on the potty chair, so I switched to “demand mode” and required her to go potty from then on.

She fought me tooth and nail…for 9 months.  She would have accidents multiple times a day.  I would set timers, I would spend countless minutes sitting next to her while she sat on the potty.  We’d read books on the potty, we’d sing songs on the potty.  We lived with that potty chair for 9 long months.

So when it was David’s turn, I was very nervous.  David’s personality is quite different than Silje’s.  If Silje fought me, I don’t know what word they would have if I put David in that situation.  I knew that whatever he set his mind to he would do with all his might.  So my plan was to make sure he wanted it.  I knew that if he didn’t want to be potty trained, I was wasting my time.  Some of you with very strong willed children know exactly what I’m talking about.

So I waited.  I waited and waited and waited.  We talked about the potty chair, and he knew all about it.  Still I waited.  I waited until he was 3, which at the time was getting embarrassing as my friends had started potty training their kids David’s age.  When he turned 3, a light switched and he decided he didn’t want to wear diapers anymore.  2 days of occasional accidents, and we were done.  Potty training over.

I liked that method.  It was so much less headache, and I didn’t feel like I was tied to staying home and sitting next to a potty chair for months.  We were tied to our house for 2 days.  Done.  So for Elias, waiting was my plan.

Well, he’s been 3 for a few months now.  Just before he turned 3, I was able to get him to go potty on the potty chair like clockwork before his bath.  He could go on command.  That was good, but he didn’t like to go any other times.  Bribing wasn’t working.  I honestly had no time to fight him on this, so we just waited more.

It felt like we were going backwards because when we got back from Christmas vacation, he stopped going before baths.  He would sit on the potty chair and say calmly “It’s not working.  It’s broken.”

So I tried to up my game a bit.  David was more than willing to show him how to go potty several times.  The potty chair was brought into the kitchen and I’d have him sit on it where I could talk to him and still do dishes and cook, etc.  He’s sit calmly “reading” a book on the potty for 45 minutes with nothing.  I’d put his diaper back on to eat lunch, and he’d go immediately in the diaper.

So I was telling this to my mom, and she said that was similar to how my sister was potty training.  (Hehe, discussing my sister’s potty training on my blog…I love it!)  My mom said she just told Heidi that the diapers were broken, and there was only the potty chair left.

Ironically that night, we ran out of diapers.  Since I sell cloth diapers, I should probably explain.  I may have said this before, but I have about 3 cloth diapers that still fit Elias.  I should buy/make him some more, but it has the feeling of putting expensive new tires on a car you’re about to sell, you know?  We’re supposed to be done with his diapers, I don’t want to make new ones!

So I’ve been using Elias’ 3 large diapers to round out Solveig’s stash, and have put Elias in sposies for the last little bit.  It has been super annoying because sposies are not easy to ‘spose of out here in the country.  Knut and I practically have to draw straws to who gets to pile weeks worth of stinky diapers in the van and drive the long, stinky way to the dump.  You don’t want to make the trip unless there’s a lot, and when there’s a lot it smells so bad the whole way, and it’s too cold to have the windows down.  Anyway…

In hindsight, I probably should have just gotten him a few more cloth diapers, but I didn’t and this isn’t part of the story anyway.

So I ran out of sposies that night, and Knut was going to have the van the next day so I wouldn’t be able to run into town to buy some more.  I realized I was out about 10pm and really wasn’t in the mood to go then.

So I decided that when Elias woke up the next morning, I would tell him we’re all out of diapers.  We had just enough cloth ones for him to wear during naptime and bedtime.  Otherwise, he had to use the potty.

When he woke up, and I took his nighttime diaper off and told him we were all out of diapers.  He laughed and thought I was joking.  I let him run around with his bottom half naked.  He sat on the potty chair but again claimed it was broken.

About 30 minutes later, he had a small accident.  It was obviously he started going, then promptly stopped.  He was stressed out, and wanted it cleaned up.  I cleaned it up, and put him on the potty chair.  Again, he said it was broken.  So I let him continue to play.  About 5 minutes later, he looked at me with panic and said, “Mommy!  I need a diaper!”  I told him I didn’t have anymore.  He argued while I put him on the potty chair once again that he didn’t need a broken potty, he needed a diaper.  That’s when the flood came out he’d been holding in.  A look of relief came over him, as nothing was broken, and there was actually a solution to the no-diaper problem his mommy seemed to have.

Once he went potty, I rewarded him with a pair of Thomas the Train underwear and a brownie.  Our kids rarely wear commercial figures like that, but for potty training, I pull out the cookies, candies, cartoon clothes…whatever it takes.  He got them a little wet once, but not enough to get on the ground.  He ran to the potty chair and that was a success later that morning that required another pair of undies.  And #2 went in the undies.  We’ll be working on that for a little while longer, I think.

The rest of the day (besides a diaper for nap) he had no more accidents.  The next day, I didn’t even have to remind him to go.  He went there by himself, pulled his undies down by himself, emptied the bowl underneath into the big potty by himself, flushed by himself, (he needs some help getting the bowl back and finishing up potty duties at this point).  Seriously, though.  Not bad for day 2.

I know some people (Knut included) think I’m crazy to let my kids be in diapers for so long.  I’m telling you, though: this is my favorite way to potty train and causes the least amount of interruption to the rhythm of our home.  I’m sure I could have poured more energy into it months ago and saved us hundreds of diapers, but in all reality, I just didn’t have the time to devote to it, nor the desire.

I guess my goal in mind was to get him potty trained the easiest possible way, and my goal was not to potty train the earliest possible.  Different moms have different goals, and they all end up potty trained in the end.  Sometimes changing a diaper is just easier.  Sometimes you really need something in your life that is easy.

When they’re ready, it’s a snap.  When they’re not, I’m just making it worse.  At least, that’s my experience.  Like all things, I’m sure Solveig will have her own way as well.


  1. says

    Someone once told me: if you start potty training when they’re 2, they’ll be dry when they’re 3. And if you start when they’re 3, they’ll be dry when they’re 3. So don’t stress yourself out… I wish I’d listened. My daughter fought all my efforts for 6 months, and then the month she turned three; bingo. Done.

  2. Mom says

    You’re so right, that they all are potty-trained in the end. It’s just a matter of preference on the mom’s part, more diapers to change or more time to devote to training. Good job! I’m sure the #2 problem will resolve pretty soon.

  3. Heidi says

    Thanks for sharing my potty training experience. Yay! Also, I try not to say “potty” to my children because it’s annoying, but it just keeps coming out. That and using “mommy” in third person. Shoot. I’ve crossed over to the dark side. 😉

  4. Anonymous says

    I like how you said at the end, how letting kids wait until they are really ready “causes the least amount of interruption to the rhythm of our home.” That’s how I feel about our attempts to break Katie’s thumb sucking. She is NOT ready. We tried for about 2 weeks and have let it go, mostly because it was upsetting the whole household and it’s not worth it. Thanks for sharing life with us, Gretchen. ~Heather Krupa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *