Dear Momma friend — Let’s have a conversation about one of the most glorious and yet also want-to-tear-your-hair-out parts of motherhood — potty training.
But let me be frank…
If you’re a mom who potty trained her kids by 18 months and knows “all the potty training secrets,” this letter is not for you.
If you’re a mom who wants to potty train her kids by 18 months and wants “all the potty training secrets”… this letter is also not for you.
If, however, you’re a mom who has been struggling to potty train, whose kid is pushing (or past) a socially-acceptable age to be potty trained, and who is FRUSTRATED TO THE MAX. Well, friend… this letter IS for you!
Because I’ve been there. *ahem* I am there. Again.
And so to you, momma, I offer you encouragement, solidarity, and some of the best potty training advice I’ve ever gotten.
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I DIDN’T WANT TO WRITE THIS
This has been on my mind to write for months. Ever since our second child started showing signs of following in his brother’s potty-training-resistance footsteps. Yep, we are 0 for 2 in that department.
So, why didn’t I want to write it?
Because I knew as soon as I admitted my 3-year-old still isn’t potty-trained, people would have all kinds of comments or judgments or “surefire” methods.
But trust me, I’ve tried them.
OUR POTTY TRAINING STRUGGLES
So many people told us after we fiiiinally potty-trained Aidan, “The second one will be easier.”
If it’s possible, Andrew is even more stubbornly resistant. And we’ve tried ALL the ways. All of them.
We bought him “big boy” undies. He was excited… but not excited enough.
I told him he’d be a big boy when he went potty on the potty. He just shrugged and said, “I not a big boy.”
We bribed him with chocolate and ice cream. Not motivational enough.
I would ask him in the morning, “Should we go potty in the potty?” He would matter-of-factly respond, “Not today.”
We let him pee outside (#countryboy). He didn’t see the appeal.
We poured warm water over his… you know… while we sat him on the potty to get things flowing. He just giggled and asked for more. (Ummm, not the point, dude.)
We put him in undies and let him wet himself. He just kept right on playing.
We had him go naked and put him on the potty every 10 minutes. I did that for AN HOUR AND A HALF, and as soon as I was distracted with the baby, he peed on the carpet.
I’ve tried those last two methods a few times (because people insist they’re the ticket), and every time, it has only lead to frustration — his and mine.
So I say, “Enough. I’m not doing this.”
Because I’ve been here before, and I remember the lessons I learned.
LESSONS I LEARNED POTTY TRAINING MY FIRST
Our first child was also a late potty-trainer. And for a while, I felt a lot of pressure and embarrassment and failure. When 3 came and went, I truly started to worry he’d be in diapers forever.
But the more we pushed, the more he resisted. And I got tired of fighting him.
Then, older, wiser, and more experienced moms started encouraging me. And they gave me some of the best potty-training advice:
“He will do it when he’s ready.”
“They all eventually learn.”
“When he’s ready, it’ll be easy.”
“It’ll be like a light switch.”
So I finally relaxed and stopped worrying about it.
And wouldn’t you know? It happened just like they said it would.
One day, the switched flipped.
Once he made up his mind to try it, he went from peeing in his pants one day to peeing exclusively in the potty the next. (Going #2 came a couple of weeks later, but that was also like a switch had flipped!)
It truly did have to be his idea. And once it was, it was so. easy.
(GOOD THINGS ABOUT HAVING A LATE POTTY-TRAINER)
By the way, there are some good things about late potty-trainers, I learned!
We hardly had any accidents. I mean, I could easily count them on one hand. Once he crossed over, he was 100% committed. And he was old enough to know when he needed to go and how to communicate that to us.
We also didn’t have to do much wiping! Being nearly 4, he had the arm reach, the dexterity, and the wherewithal to accomplish that dreaded task himself. All we had to do was conduct occasional spot checks. Score!
WHY AM I FIGHTING IT AGAIN?
So, having learned those lessons with my first child, why am I fighting it again?
I wasn’t going to. I really wasn’t. As Andrew passed the 2-year mark and Levon started to stress about it, I kept saying, “Remember how Aidan was? It’ll be fine — he’ll do it when he’s ready.”
And for the most part, I’ve been pretty chill about it.
Someone posts something on social media about their (much younger) child using the potty. And I compare.
Or I see an article about how “All Kids Can Be Potty-Trained By 18 Months By Doing XYZ.” And I feel inadequate.
Or a friend or family member tells me I “just need to…” And I feel shamed.
And all those feelings of pressure and failure come flooding back.
“You’re doing it wrong.” “It’s your fault.” “If you would just…”
IT’S NOT WORTH IT
But after more than a few rounds in the potty-training ring with Andrew, you know what I decided?
It’s not worth it.
It is so not worth frustration and anger and tears. And if that’s what happens every time I try these so-called “sure-fire” methods (effective though they may be), then they’re not for me.
Because so what if he’s in diapers longer than other kids? So what?
Will it have long-term effects on his health and development? His well-being? His relationship with God and others? (All the things that are truly important to me)
But battling and fighting and shaming sure could.
So, once again, I’m letting go. I will continue to encourage it, but I won’t push.
Because my joy and our relationship are a whole lot more important to me than the cost of a box of diapers or other people’s opinions.
ENCOURAGEMENT FOR THE FRUSTRATED POTTY TRAINING MOM
As we struggled to potty train our first, and as we’re here once again with our second, you know what wasn’t helpful? People’s judgment, unsolicited advice, and comparisons (well-intentioned though they may be).
You know what was helpful? Moms who encouraged me, who shared their own stories and told me I wasn’t a failure, who assured me he would get it in his own time.
So, I want to do the same for you.
It’s not a race. There’s no deadline. You’re not “doing it wrong.”
They will get it eventually, it will be like a switch flipped, and they won’t be in diapers forever. No matter how much it may seem like it right now.
And when you come out the other side, you’ll wonder why you ever worried about it.
(Then, hopefully, you’ll pay it forward and be an encourager to another struggling mom.)
Love & solidarity, momma friends. We got this.
Your Merry Friend,
P.S. If you think this might help another mom, feel free to share!
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