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5 Things That Shocked Me About Potty Training

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Polite society dictates that, at a certain point, kids should learn how to use the potty. Once my twins turned 3, I realized it was time for us to start pursuing this civilized toilet thing, but I was dreading it. Dreading it. Last month, I wrote in length about all of the reasons why I wasn’t ready to start their potty training, but since then, I’ve come to my senses. We’ve been at it for about three weeks now and, I have to say, it actually isn’t as torturous as I thought it would be. Still, this is going to be a long process. With that in mind, here are a few things that this previously squeamish Mama has learned about potty training:
 
1. You can’t do it in just three days. Have you heard those stories about families who just hunkered down for a long weekend and then, come Tuesday, had a fully potty-trained kid? Yeah, I heard those stories too and have now decided that it’s suburban legend. Who are these children who learn to use the toilet so quickly? I imagine they must be part of the same mythical unicorn clan whose babies have been sleeping through the night since week one, whose toddlers never have tantrums, and whose first-graders prefer kale salad to cheddar crackers. My point is that it doesn’t take just three days for most kids and that kind of expectation is unrealistic. By day two of our long potty-training weekend, I knew it would probably take several weeks until their instinct was to willingly run off to use the toilet.This realization was actually freeing for me, and helped alleviate the time-crunch pressure I was putting on all of us.
 
2. Accidents happen. S^%t happens. And they happen a lot. It’s not the end of the world. Sure, it’s a mess and it’s a pain to clean, but it seems to me that these accidents actually help them realize that, “Yeah, it would have been way better if I’d just used the potty.” These accidents also seem to happen when you least expect them, or after your kid insisted that he didn’t have to go. All you can do is roll with it because even with well-timed potty breaks and M&M rewards, they’re going to make mistakes. And in reality, they’re no more icky than a full poop diaper.
 
3. Preparation is key. In order to get myself all pumped up for potty training, I felt like I had to get the proper equipment. Like a backpacker trekking into the dark, mucky wilderness, I loaded up our home, our car, and our diaper bag with the right gear. Woohoo, Target run! I already had the little Baby Bjorn potty, but I also bought a cushy Prince Lionheart seat to go on our toilet and a Kalencom Potette Plus for our car. I let the boys pick out their own underwear. I also got a mega-size bag of M&Ms to give rewards for potty use, complete with a number system (1 for #1, 2 for #2, and 3 if they just used the potty without us having to cajole). I have to say that feeling prepared actually made me less anxious to get started. And having those two different seats turned out to be a blessing since they both often have to go at the same time, and seem to need varying amounts of “privaseat.”
 
4. There will be regressions. I had been under the mistaken impression that learning to use the potty was kind of like riding a bike–once you got it, you got it. Apparently not. After a couple of days of thinking that my boys were totally nailing this bodily-function thing, they both had moments of total, helpless exasperation, and pleaded to put their diapers back on. When I talked to friends, they all shared that even their own kids, who had been potty-trained for months, had days full of accidents and potty-training regression, as though they had completely forgotten how to hold it. Shockingly, this too was kind of a comfort to me because it allowed me to realize that accident-heavy days weren’t a failure, but instead, part of the process.
 
5. They won’t be in diapers forever. Our pediatrician likes to tease me with lines like, “Don’t worry, he won’t be using a pacifier at his prom,” and “He won’t go to college wearing diapers.” Although, yeah, I obviously know all of that’s true, you still sometimes wonder how you’ll ever get to that point. While potty training can be a tough and dirty job, I know that ultimately they will be completely diaper-free. I’m not the first person to potty-train my kids, and I’ve done enough research to not be a total doofus about the whole thing. So, chances are, yes, this will work. It’s just going to take some patience, some heavy-duty paper towels, and a whole lot of 409.

Photo: Getty