Surviving The Potty Training Stage And Learning To Trust Myself


Like plenty of other things, ‘potty training’ is one more phase you have to survive as a parent, and in most cases parents get through it with a little bit of drama, and then never look back. For some however this is not the case. As a survivor of the ‘potty training process gone wrong’ as I like to call it, and having three kids, all trained and happily going to the loo instead of weeing on my carpets, I can now say for a fact that – there is no ONE way of doing this. When my eldest was nearly two years old, we decided that it would be a good time to potty train her. She was showing all the signs indicating she was ready - (asking to go etc), she was able to pull her trousers down all by herself and she was very mature, and clearly understood what she was supposed to do.

On top, I was pregnant with twins and the thought of having THREE kids in nappies did not appeal to me one bit. We decided to go for it well before the twins arrive, so that she would have time to adjust and really be confident without her nappy by the time they were born.

I read lots of books about HOW to do it and in the end we decided to follow the approach whereby once you remove the nappy there is no turning back. After a short preparation period, when the time was right (nice warm weather, a week’s break from play group, and mommy mentally geared up for it), we took the plunge and off came the nappy.

Potties were placed in each room (charming) and although there were a few little dramatic moments, I have to say that the system worked and it was within less than a week that she was totally dry and doing all of her business on the potty.

But what happened next was something we could not have predicted – I was diagnosed with Preeclampsia at twenty eight weeks and immediately admitted into hospital where I stayed for the next two months. This happened roughly around a month after my beautiful two year old daughter had been fully potty trained.

Everything went south from that moment. She started wetting herself, almost as if she was making some sort of statement. I can only assume how sad and confused she was, and I sometimes think this was her way to tell me she was also angry at me for leaving her.

I felt awful and helpless and mainly I had no idea what to do. I considered putting the nappy back on which is what my gut told me I should do, but I was so confused by the advice given on this matter that I simply had no idea what would be best for her. She had done so well before I was admitted to hospital that I felt bad to put the nappy back on her, as if to say she had failed.

I decided to follow the advice and keep the nappy off.

Two months later, the twins were born and I returned home with them. I made it a priority to spend as much time as I could with my eldest and thankfully I had help that allowed me to do so. Before long she was dry again and things seemed to have worked out.

Only they didn’t completely, not till very recently that is.

You see, this ‘thing’ - the whole nappy/potty training business, went wrong for my child and has only very recently finally sorted itself out.

What I mean by that is that we have a five year old who until very recently was still wetting herself. Not always, but often enough for it to be ‘inappropriate’ for her age.

There, I’ve said it. It’s so hard to admit but it’s sadly also the truth.

We obviously checked if there was some physical problem. We spoke to experts, we tried everything under the sun (seriously, I’m not even going to list everything we did), but nothing helped long term.

It was hard not to link the problems we were having with what happened nearly three years ago, even though so long had gone by, and perhaps it’s my motherly guilt that wanted me to believe it was all because of me, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that it was all my fault.

Looking back, I regret deeply not listening to my inner instinct all those years ago that told me to lay off her and just put that nappy back on. I feel like such an idiot for relentlessly following a stupid system in a book that was written by someone who hadn’t even met my child. I regret giving a dam about any of the judgemental comments and remarks people made in relation to what was going on. They had no idea what we were up against and they still don’t.

But regret doesn’t get you anywhere, it’s only what you learn from your mistakes and how you do not repeat them that matters.

Which is why, with the twins we took a totally different approach.

To begin with I thought to myself ‘f*** that, they can stay in nappies till they are old enough to rip them off’ but in reality all it meant was that we started the process a bit later.

Dina was two and a half years old when we set off but the process this time was not ‘text book’. It was a combination of ‘I don’t give a dam what the books say’ and ‘I’m going to do it MY way’ as I refused to believe there was one best way to ‘potty train’ a child.

I started putting her in knickers for just a couple of hours a day and the rest of the time she was in a ‘pull up’. This meant that she could still go to the toilet if she wanted, but if she ‘forgot’ - she had the pull up on and it was not a big deal.

She was dry within a week and Ally took two weeks when it was her turn.

The point of this by the way is not to advocate the method that worked for me over other methods, but rather to say that this showed me (once again) how in parenting and motherhood there is no ‘RIGHT way’’. There is no ONE way. There is no ‘BEST way’.

I’m sorry, there just isn’t.

It showed me how despite my endless doubts in myself, in my ability to be a ‘good mother’ (whatever that means), I do have some inner ‘wisdom’ and an ‘intuition’ about my own children, that no one apart from me has or is able to understand. I learnt once again to trust myself and also to ignore the charts and tables that tell me what my kids should or shouldn’t be doing at whatever age they are.

These days I see some of my friends who’s children are still in the training stage, stressing about it, struggling to follow whatever system they’ve decided to follow, feeling crap cos it’s not going well and worrying that something might be wrong with their kid - it takes me back and reminds me of how hard this phase was for me and my husband with our eldest.

I wish that when we were going through this struggle someone had told us that it’s not the end of the world and that it will be okay. Instead most people judged us and even told me us we were doing a shit job.

I kid you not.

As a non-perfect mom who makes mistakes probably every day, but who always has the best intentions at heart, it is always a good reminder when I actually get something right that I might not be as bad as I think.

We have been a nappy free house for a few months now and I took great pleasure in throwing out that good old changing mat that served us well. I can proudly ‘tick’ off one more thing I had to survive as a mom in raising three kids and move on to the next stage, whatever that may be, but hopefully I will do so with a new confidence that I can (and should) trust myself more.

So what I would like to do now, is take this opportunity to tell all the other moms and dads who's kids are still in the ‘potty training’ stage and who are struggling, what no one told me, and that is: You are doing a great job. It will be okay. Follow your instincts. And calm down, your kid will not be wearing a nappy forever!

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