Disclaimer: This is a post about potty training. It's gonna get, well, messy. If you're not a parent, you probably don't need to read this. But I feel like as a mom, I owe it to the other struggling moms out there to share what finally broke the camel's ass, despite the public humiliation. So, without further ado, here is my anti-training manual. There is one main thing to remember: whatever you do, don't do what I did.
First of all, don't blog about your kid's potty training. You might think it's funny, and it might actually be funny, and you might get some pretty good advice out of it. But you will also be admitting your shame to the world, and since you have no idea when this whole thing is going to resolve itself, you're setting yourself up for more public failure. Better to lie low and let everyone believe poop isn't a major topic in your life. If you've already blogged about it, try to forgive yourself and proceed to step two.
If at some point your child does decide to poop on the potty, don't think that one success means you're home free. It doesn't. It might simply mean that your child accidentally loosened his bowels in the right place at the right time. It might mean he just really wanted that cupcake you bribed him with. It might mean that the moon was full or the tide was right or Mercury was in retrograde. In other words, it means NOTHING. Shortly after I wrote that potty training post (you know, the one I told you not to write), we had a breakthrough that I thought was the beginning of a diaperless world. As we celebrated Jack's accomplishment, I began to write my self-congratulatory blog post in my head. And then it came time for Jack to poop again (like, the next day), and it was as if the previous day had never happened. He simply refused to poop until I gave him another diaper.
And so the cycle continued. Here are some more things that you are welcome to try but which didn't work at all for me: sticker charts, a book about a train made of potties, YouTube videos of cats pooping on toilets (seriously; all this did was confirm that my human child couldn't learn what a freaking cat could master in a matter of days), even cutting a hole in the diaper. At this point in time, you're going to start feeling like you will be changing diapers for the rest of your life. You might even resign yourself to it: "Sure, whatever, I'll just be wiping my grown son's ass for the next 50 years. There are worse things, right?"
DON'T resign yourself to it.
Because you won't really be resigned to it, you'll just accept it for like a week and then have a screaming, crying, flailing meltdown while your preschooler watches you impassively from his porcelain throne (if you can even get him to sit on it, with the lid closed, at this point).
Another thing not to do: allow things like life to get in the way of potty training. Especially if your life involves monthly transnational flights. Because there will never be a good time for this to happen. All you're doing is perpetuating the cycle of terror. You must do what I should have done from the very beginning: take back the control.
A side note: I've known this entire time that for Jack, refusing to
poop on the potty had nothing to do with fear (even though he'd claim he
was scared; he also said he was scared of the smoke detector, the
ceiling fan, and random things he didn't want to do like eating vegetables,
so I called BS on that right quick). This was about control, about
clinging to the last vestige of autonomy in a young man's life. After
all, if you can't decide where you're going to take a crap, what's left?
I got that, and I understood it to some extent. But since I was the one
who had to handle another human being's excrement for four years, I figured my preschooler wasn't really in the
position to make that decision.
What I didn't do, and should have done months ago, was take away the diapers. Yes, as it turns out, my son can simply refuse to poop for days on end. I had heard horror stories of children making themselves very sick by not pooping, and this was part of the reason I hadn't stuck to my proverbial guns before. I'd cave after two or three days, afraid of what might happen if I didn't hand over a diaper. But when we finally arrived in Montana in early December, I was out of excuses. I was in one place for a few months, I was living in the middle of nowhere with not much else going on in my life, and I had access to first-world medical care. So this time I made a decision: I would simply refuse to allow Jack to turn four without being potty trained. I would stop time if I had to, dammit. This was Mara's last stand!
Something you probably don't need to do, which of course I did, because I'm an idiot, was have a diaper count-down. I lied and said we had seven diapers left, and when they were gone, there would be no more (I may have said they don't have diapers in Montana; my memories of that period are a little fuzzy). Jack took all this in stride, clearly not
understanding the reality of the situation. Until D-Day, that is, when
shit finally got real.
There were three anxiety-ridden days where Jack didn't poop. Oh, he had to go all right, but he wasn't going to do it on a toilet. In fact, he had his first poop accident ever, and nobody was happy about that. For another two or three days, Jack didn't go. Every time I'd bring up the potty, he'd say he just wasn't going to poop ever again. Sadly, I am well aware of the fact that we do not, and never will, live in a poopless world, so I went to the drug store and got me some back-up.
A suppository. The magic bullet. I didn't want to do it, you understand. It was truly a last resort. But the only thing worse than an almost-four year old crapping in his diaper is one who craps in his pants. I would not have it. So, on the eve of Jack's fourth birthday, I took matters into my own hands. I knew not even my incredibly stubborn child could withstand the power of the magic bullet.
To his credit, Jack fought the good fight for an entire hour (at which point the directions say to seek medical attention, so I was basically on the verge of a heart attack by then). Here's what you shouldn't do after you finally use a suppository: panic. Because if your kid is anything like mine, it won't be pretty. Jack was hysterical, screaming like a dying animal. I seriously thought I may have killed my own child. It might have been the worst hour of my entire life. But my own hysteria didn't actually contribute to the situation. What I probably should have done was just left the bathroom for a while. So, don't be like me. Don't think you've killed your child. You haven't. You've just done what you should have done months ago. Maybe even years if you're one of those poor moms of a seven-year-old who isn't toilet trained (yes, these people exist, and they have my undying sympathy).
In the several weeks since that fateful day, there have been some hiccups and snafus. I'm not going to go into some of them because even I don't need to humiliate myself that much. But as of today, I am happy to report that my child is pooping on the potty like a champ (or like a damned cat; seriously, why was this such a big freaking deal?). And even though all of you know the truth, I will happily bend it for the next stranger who asks me when my child was potty-trained: "He was three, thank you very much."
At least now I know what NOT to do for the next kid. And I suppose there's something to be said for that.