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Potty Training Stinks

Updated on March 23, 2012
Some muckraking journalism about the challenges and rewards of potty training.
Some muckraking journalism about the challenges and rewards of potty training.

Potty Training Boys

How old was your son when you potty trained him?

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Boxes and Boxes and Boxes of Diapers

We have two little people in diapers at the moment, and an almost-teen-aged daughter who is obsessed with making articles out of duct tape. I am expecting number four in late September or early October, and the prospect of another one in diapers is so depressing, I can hardly drag myself out of bed. Though on second thought, that is probably just because I am pregnant. The need to get the potty training done is dire, to say the least. But drag myself out of bed, I must, because today is the day.

Every room of my house has a Huggies or Pampers diaper box in it, re purposed for some other use. In the front hallway, a Huggies box with a cute, half-naked toddler adorns the front door. We use it to hold shoes. In the bedrooms, Pampers boxes hold hundreds of picture books and board books we are moving into the kids' bedrooms. Some day I'll get them sorted onto the bookshelves.

Diaper boxes hold junk for the garage sale we're going to have some day, and clothes we might give away if we can ever stop the flow of unexpected pregnancies that seem to keep happening. This after almost nine years of infertility. Our cups truly run over, but our house is flooded with diapers.

Diaper Free Day

Drag myself out of bed I must, because today is the day we've all been waiting for. And this day has been a long time coming. I knew it had to be this week when we took our children to the play place over the weekend. My son is turning four this month, but he is bigger than some five-year-olds. He assumed "the pose" there at the top of the play place, and I felt the stares of the other parents boring an uncomfortable hole in the back of my head. Suddenly the parent of the one child who had been playing with my son announced it was time for them to leave, and they left quickly as we were escorting our son to the bathroom. Not long after a new pull-up was in place, he assumed the position again.

I mentioned recently to my sister who lives three states away that my son still isn't potty trained, and how frustrated I was. The phone was silent for a long time. Then she says "Sheesh, have you told him how gross that is?!!!!" Then she says very sincerely that I should shame him until he gets the idea. Well, now, that's not going to happen either.

Finally this weekend I told my son that he was going to be potty trained for his birthday. So this morning he woke up smiling, and said, "If I'm potty trained today it will be my birthday!" The things kids say! I think silently that this misunderstanding may work to our favor. My husband, who hasn't left for work yet, escorts my son to his potty seat, all the while uttering words of encouragement and praise. My son comes back into my bedroom, beaming, in his Lightening McQueen undies.

My husband leaves for work at about 7:00 a.m. and 10 minutes later, my son is wearing his Mr. Incredible underwear.


Undies by the Truckload

It is now noon, and my son is wearing his last pair of character underwear. So far our plan to set a timer every 20 minutes or so and have him sit on the potty seat has failed miserably. "It" has gone everywhere except in the potty seat. Fortunately we have easy-to-clean tile floors. At about 11:00 a.m. we experience the scene I described at the beginning of my tale. I won't repeat it again.

Little sister, a full two years younger, and almost two-years old, pushes the merely frustrating into the humorously ludicrous. Seeing her brother sitting on the potty seat, she repeatedly takes off all of her clothes and rips off her diaper, expanding her fairly meager vocabulary to include the phrase "I pooh!"

We have tried potty training at least 4 other times. I am starting to wonder if my son has inherited a defective potty gene, and imagine him going to his high school graduation in a pull up.

Remembering it is still day one of our training, and taking to heart our lack of results, I put my son into a pullup and drive him and his baby sister to a nearby school where his school-aged sister is attending a drama camp and has to be picked up. It is 108 degrees outside. Then we drive home and I leave big sister, who is old enough to babysit, in charge for about an hour while I go to the grocery store to stock up on potty treats, milk, and bread.


Gee, Thanks for the Encouraging Words...

I'm a woman, one who has spent her day dominated by a kitchen timer, pairs of character underwear, and young children who I am sure are at least one part orangutan. When I get to the checkout counter at the grocery store, I do a very female thing. I mention I am loading up on potty treats. Now this wasn't necessary, or possibly even prudent. Cashiers at the grocery store are busy people who have to do their job under time pressure. I expected a smile, a nod, and possibly, a "good luck with that." Hey, you get your encouragement where you can.

Instead, the cashier says,

"Well, ya know..." (note that this is always an ominous beginning to any statement)

"My son is now in the fifth grade, and we tried to potty train him 5 or 6 times unsuccessfully. We ended up holding him back from kindergarten because he was 5 and a half and still wearing a pull up.. Finally, instead of enrolling him in kindergarten at age 5, we put him in preschool and THEY trained him for us, but now he is a full year behind the other children."

Remember, I was just looking for "good luck with that." After giving her a look of suprised horror, I nod at her in confusion, and try to avoid the feelings of despair that are playing on my already hormonal, pregnant mind.

"You want help with that?" the bagger says, calling after me.

"I've had all the help I need," I call back, as I burst through the exit doors at lightening speed.

Driving home in the car, I resolve that I will see this through. The pull ups are expensive, my son is showing some signs of interest in being potty trained and being a big boy, and his sister will clearly follow his lead, or possible pave the way. But I begin to pray anyway, hoping for divine intervention.

"Dear God, please help me help my son put a pee pee or poopie in the potty, pleeeeeease!"

It's Potty Time!

Liquid Gold

When I got home, a surprise was waiting for me. Liquid yellow gold, sitting in the bottom of the frog-shaped potty seat. Almost a cup of it. I was so pleased I momentarily thought about taking a photo of it and posting it on Face book.

I didn't.

"Look what I did, Mom!" my son said, beaming at me.

"He went twice..." my daughter said, pleased to have carried out her task with success.

I brushed back a tear, wondering if I would feel this proud of my son on his graduation day, without pull ups. So that's the ticket, I thought, delegate. I just need to delegate.

"Great, I responded, let's do the potty dance!"

Now we are singing and twirling around the potty, in a primitive-looking victory dance.

"Now I'm going to the potty, potty!
Now I'm going to the potty, potty!
Now I'm going to the potty, potty yeah-ah!
do do do do do do do do!"

The next morning, I woke up with achy flu symptoms, stomach cramps, and the inability to move without feeling ill. My husband stayed home with the kids, and 12 hours later, he had completed day two of potty training. My prayers were answered.

Your Thoughts About Potty Training

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  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    8 years ago from Iowa

    Thank you IzzyM-I think it's your positive attitude that helped you raise 6 successfully and happily!

  • IzzyM profile image


    8 years ago from UK

    I love this hub! Rated up! It's so well written and humorous about a subject nearly everyone has experienced (every parent anyway). I'd six kids and they were all potty trained in the summer nearest their second birthday. I just showed them the potty and put them in pants and let them run around the garden all day. Wet pants get cold very quickly outside and is not comfortable and they soon learned it was better to go potty than wet themselves. Kids are all different though. I'd a set of twins and they potty-trained at different times. Kids learn themselves how to control their bowels and bladder when they are ready. I didn't really have any work to do.

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    8 years ago from Iowa

    WildIris, I love the idea of personalized potty thrones. We own a movie called Potty Power that shows a little girl in her own personal potty throne. I agree keeping things low stress and perservering beyond mistakes is an important element. My son doesn't really care about potty treats, we have learned, but he is very responsive to the microwave timer and loves it when we do the potty dance and the wild potty dance after he goes in his potty chair.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    This is a funny Hub, but ouch the thought of three in diapers would keep me in bed too. Consistency is the name of the game, that and no clothes, a vast quantity of paper towels, a shovel and no stress about the whole thing otherwise it becomes a power struggle, and of course the little one always win. We made little potty thrones for each of our four kids. One of the kids wanted a square potty (?) and the girls wanted a round potty painted white with flowers on the seat, and another had arm rests and a comic book rack.

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    8 years ago from Iowa

    Hello, hello it just goes to show that everyone has a different experience with potty training and different children have different temperaments. Also, some children are more mindful of a person outside their immediate family. I know more than one person who has used Grandma to potty train, though if I were Grandma in that case I might not appreciate that type of delegation.

    Granny's House, I agree consistency is important, in fact vital with boys. My son just needs a little more time than average for everything to click, but the kitchen timer routine is working beautifully. The year he turned two we moved three times, bought and sold a house, and, had a baby. For us it made some sense to wait, though now it is past time to get 'er done. Well worth planning into summer vacation and outside school schedules. Congrats on raising 5 children!

    Rochelle, I am so glad I never "had to wash diapers." People probably underestimate this mitigating factor on the women's movement. I agree disposables are more convenient but I actually think that the diaper industry makes it too easy for children to remain in diapers and avoid the transition. I shudder to think how many more diapers and pullups we added to the landfill keeping my little guy in his pullup.

    Thanks all for your comments!

  • Rochelle Frank profile image

    Rochelle Frank 

    8 years ago from California Gold Country

    On the other hand, the prospect of having three in diapers is not a pretty thought. There was no such thing as disposables when I had my first, and they were just starting when the second one came. Only used them for when we were away from home-- and they were far from foolproof.

    I guess you can be glad for that, though I know they are expensive and a disposal problem.

    I wish you luck.

  • Granny's House profile image

    Granny's House 

    8 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

    Funny hub! I have 5 kids, all grown now. I started them at two and in about 2 weeks they were potty trained. You have to be consistent. I kinda knew when arond the time they would go from the changing of diapers. I would sit them on the pot and read a book. After a while they would just go in a pick out a book and sit.Everytime they would walk by me, I would say you gotta go? They get playing and forget. So you have to remind them.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 

    8 years ago from London, UK

    I had a headache of it. We tried everything. He was over three years old and the result were definitely something else. I mentioned it to the Kindergarten Lady and she said to send him there. I dont know what she did but he done it from there on.

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    8 years ago from Iowa

    Thanks Lily Rose, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Humor is hard to get right, even with such a great subject. Potty training does seem to get easier each day, but I won't be suprised if in two weeks we are still setting the timer. Today my son emptied his potty seat into the toilet and said "it's going to heaven, now, Mom!" (Maybe because that's where the betta fish went when we overfed him?) And I'm feeling better. Thanks.

    Rochelle, that is good advice, and worthy of remembering. If it were more socially acceptable for a 4-year old to use a pull up in public, I would probably be less intensely interested in seeing this through. But in the end, we have to remember how our children come through these things, so I will remember your comment and take it to heart.

    Thanks Marcie, I'm glad your last one is potty trained too. That is such a huge parenting hurdle.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Love it! You cracked me up and made me SO grateful my last is potty trained! Hang in there, I doubt you'll be going to graduation with an extra pull up in your diaper bag :)

  • Rochelle Frank profile image

    Rochelle Frank 

    8 years ago from California Gold Country

    When my sons were small. Mom gave me good advice. She said "I never met anyone who didn't learn." I think it was her way of saying that there shouldn't be a lot of stress about the timing.

  • Lily Rose profile image

    Lily Rose 

    8 years ago from A Coast

    Oh, what memories! I clearly remember day 1 of potty training with my oldest daughter. After about the third hour I was ready to throw in the towel, but I didn't because we had made such a big deal about saying bye-bye to diapers. Thankfully day 2 was much better and by day 5 she was completely poty trained.

    My second and last is now 3.5 and she's been potty trained for almost a year, but I sometimes wish she AND her sister were still in diapers because outings now constantly involve dropping everything and running to find a bathroom! ...just can't win...

    You're lucky you have tile floors. When I potty trained my first daughter we lived in a different house and it was pretty much all carpet and that really sucked!

    Best of luck to you ... and I hope you're feeling better!

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    8 years ago from Iowa

    sagebrush_mama, what a fantastic idea. Don't anyone tell my daughter though. She's almost 13 and I haven't paid her for her help. Though I did pay for that drama camp, and get to listen to her singing "In my hour of darkness, mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be!" at all hours of the day.

  • sagebrush_mama profile image


    8 years ago from The Shadow of Death Valley...Snow Covered Mountain Views Abound!

    Love this hub! I hired my daughter to train the youngest the time, she was 13, they were 3 and 4...worked wonderfully...she earned a given sum per trainee, they got trained, I didn't have to be distressed!


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