It’s amazing how one milestone can be so stressful and then be so gratifying. Now that Ev can “go potty like a big boy,” my feelings of being a good parent are finally validated. Because for awhile there, it felt questionable.
Personally, I never really doubted my son’s capability of using the potty. He is a fairly intelligent child, pretty good gross motor development and getting better at undressing and dressing himself. I knew it really came down to interest. My husband and I decided pretty early on that when tackling these transitional milestones, we’d follow Ev’s lead. As I’ve talked about before, that system worked well for us. Transitioning from being rocked to sleep to him falling asleep on his own was a breeze, moving from breast milk to whole milk (and cup use) was simple. Even taking the pacifier away was not nearly as hard on Ev as stories I’ve heard. And I really think it’s all because we waited for signs from Ev that he was ready. So why was I questioning that system when it came to teaching Ev how to use a potty?
First of all, you can’t help but compare your child to everyone else’s even though you swear you never ever will. Truly, Ev was one of the oldest children I know to learn to use the potty. I feel like most children can do so by the time they are three and Ev was showing zero interest. I kept telling myself (and my husband) that he just wasn’t ready, but I began doubting myself as he kept joining smaller and smaller populations of children who didn’t know how to use the potty at that age. Also, other parents and early childhood experts loved to give their advice on what worked for them, and most often that involved reward systems, and we just weren’t ready for that at the beginning.
What I mean by reward system is a sticker chart, or giving prizes for using the potty or trying to use the potty. Mostly we were reluctant because we wanted Ev to use the potty because he wanted to, whether that motivation came from feeling proud that he could do it or happy because he no longer had an uncomfortable diaper on.
We also heard about this idea of “potty boot camp,” where a parent or caregiver just takes the diaper off one day and spends the next 3 – 7 days (I totally made that number up), sitting the child on the potty every half hour and then viola – child can use potty. This actually made a little sense to me and if I’d been able to be home and Ev was showing an interest, I may have tried it. But, both my husband and I work full-time and I felt it unrealistic to ask his child care provider to do that when she was managing a class full of preschoolers.
When Ev did show a slight bit of interest in going to the potty, we jumped on the opportunity to begin supporting this transition. It began when Ev went from the 2-year-old room to the 3-year-old room. All of his buddies were using the potty and were no longer wearing diapers, which I think helped. I had heard about putting underwear on underneath the diaper. The thought behind this is that the child can start to feel that he’s gone in his diaper, but the diaper still “catches” the mess. We did this for about two weeks and then thankfully, Ev’s new teacher offered to be a partner in moving forward. She told us that if we were comfortable bringing in lots of extra clothes, she was comfortable cleaning up accidents since we all felt Ev was ready to take the diaper off.
He actually did great. It took about 2 weeks and while Ev did have a few accidents, it went pretty smoothly. He is still wearing a diaper/pull-up at bedtime but mostly because we want Ev to continue feeling successful and don’t want to risk any set-backs with having an accident at night. We also did end up using a sticker chart that resulted in the purchase of a toy he wanted, because he was having trouble pooping on the potty. In an effort to get over that hump, I offered a reward after going five days without an accident. And we needed something tangible for him to track the days, so we used stickers. It worked.
Looking back it seems silly that I was so stressed and concerned that Ev wasn’t using the potty at the typical age. I think to myself, “What was I worried about?!” The pressure we put on ourselves as parents never ceases to amaze me and yet I always do it, even after telling others they shouldn’t stress. It’s just a normal part of being a parent.
The good news is, we keep getting over the hurdles and meeting the milestones with very little stress on Ev. And that’s why I feel like a successful parent.