Potty training: the play-by-play.

No matter when you choose to potty train your little, someone will likely tell you it’s too early and someone else will likely tell you it’s too late. Or many someones. The fact is that only you, your partner and your kiddie really know when it’s the right time to start. I’m not saying don’t seek advice. Seek as much advice as you want! I sure have and will continue to. And, frankly, I wouldn’t have known where to begin without some serious hand-holding. Just try not to let the naysayers discourage you k. If possible, find a few non-judgemental super-positive phone buddies to encourage you through this process. 

I wrote the following while in the midst of the “3-Day” Potty Training Method. I wanted to give an honest play-by-play of my experience to encourage other parents when the time comes. Spoiler alert: we are two weeks in and it has been a success! A huge adjustment, but definitely a success nonetheless. No parent who has been through potty training can seem to remember much of the first few days and they were really somewhat disheartening for me, but I am so relieved we stuck it out! Please forgive my long-windedness.

Disclaimer: the following few entries regarding potty training will likely be of no interest unless you are contemplating it or have suffered through the transition and want to compare battle wounds. 

Day 1:

So the 3-Day Potty Training Method, if you’re not familiar, is of the rip-the-bandaid-off, cold turkey school of thought. We toss the diapers and go full-fledged underwear day and night. The principles of it are all supposed to seep in over the first three intense days trapped in your house together with your wee one. I know a few people, including my sister with my niece, who have been successful with this method. Finger’s crossed.

She is starting part-time preschool in two weeks so I’m hoping it won’t be too much all at once. The rationale behind doing it now is that I want her to have enough time to adjust before the new baby arrives in January and I may not have this kind of time to work on this with her after she starts preschool. Plus, it feels like the first time we’ve really stayed put for more than a week since the summer began. Hence, we’re taking this little window to crush it out.

So what has it looked like so far? Well there’s been a lot of pee. So so very much pee. I think we went through at least 15 pairs of underwear today alone. During the day, she showed little desire to use the potty, although I continued to run her to it every time she had an accident. She did, however, announce when she was mid-pee a few times. She also sat on the potty three or four times voluntarily just before her nap and before we went out to the backyard (that one was a time-consuming negotiation that ended in my favour, although she didn’t actually pee until we got outside. Go figure.). I was very proud of her for trying it out.

During her nap I was expecting her to wake up with wet sheets at some point, but she didn’t make a peep. I woke her up after two hours hoping I could get her to the potty ahead of an accident, but it turns out she did wet the sheets after all. Instead of waking up though, she just slept right in it like it didn’t bother her at all. While I’m glad she had a solid rest, I found this pretty worrisome. How can I teach her not to pee in her bed, if she doesn’t even mind it? I reminded her that she can tell me when she has an accident and we can put her in dry clothes and change her sheets and that she doesn’t have to sleep in a damp bed.

At dinner time, she had a moment where she made her telltale poo face, but when I ran her to the potty she became very upset and refused to go. The next time I saw the “face” it was too late to catch it in time, but we emptied it into the potty and she had a sit to make sure there was no more. Well, there was in fact more, but she finished up on the floor a few minutes later instead. Oh well. By the end of the day, she was willingly going into her room and picking out new panties any time she had an accident so that was some progress at least.

The real breakthrough seemed to be when her dad came home with the toilet insert. I know they use them at most preschools so I figured it might be better to train on one instead of the potty we currently were using. She sat on it right away and within a minute had her first ever pee on the potty! She got a heart-shaped plastic bracelet for that and added another sticker to her collection, which really pleased her. It was also right before bedtime so that was encouraging too.

That night she woke at 2am asking for water and she was still dry. I didn’t give her water (or “doodah” as she still refers to it) of course, but I think I missed an opportunity there to get her on the potty. As a result, she was wet when she got up this morning. I’ve learned my lesson on that one though.

That final bedtime pee was very very encouraging. I was definitely feeling a bit defeated before that little win. Here’s the thing though. It’s a HUGE learning curve to go from diapers every moment of your life to none at all. The fact that she had that success on the first day is actually amazing. It’s the first time she’s ever really needed to pay attention to her body’s signals for when she needs to pee or poo. It’s a lot all at once! It’s so easy to forget that when your curtains are dripping with pee, you know?


Day 2:

Here we are. Day 2. Leni slept through the night except that brief 2am wake up, as I mentioned on Day 1. Finding her in a wet bed in the morning was not unexpected, but I was really kicking myself for not getting her to the potty when she woke in the night. I couldn’t seem to get her on the potty right after she got up either, even though it was one of my goals for the first morning. Low and behold, she had an accident within 10 minutes on the (plastic bag and sheet covered) couch. I took the opportunity to have a conversation about why she needs to pee when she gets up. Hard to say whether any of it resonated of course.

My resolve was pretty shaky this morning. It’s amazing how 24 hours cleaning up bodily fluids can feel like a lifetime, you know? My sister reminded me that she also had similar feelings and her experience was a long-term success. And just in that moment, where i was really wondering whether those folks who said it was too late or possibly too early were right, it happened. Leni said, “I need to go potty.” Surprised and delighted, I enthusiastically raced her to the washroom, not actually expecting pee, but relieved and excited that she wanted to try it out. I’d been singing this Daniel Tiger song that goes, “when you have to go potty, stop, and go right away. Then flush and wash and be on your way,” while she danced along so I figured it had motivated her interest. To my utter delight, she sat on the potty and actually peed! I am so damn proud of her! It also shows that she’s beginning to really pay attention to her body’s signals. She was pretty pleased with herself as well. Rightly so!

Throughout the rest of the morning, I kept asking her to tell me when she needed to potty and we continued to sing the potty song. If it had been a long time or she wanted to do a new activity, I used the opportunity to ask her to sit on the potty. If she agreed to try, it earned her a sticker. Every time I peed—which I do endlessly right now—I told her what I was doing in hopes that it showed how normal it was to go pee in the potty any time the urge arose.

She actually asked to try once or twice, which was awesome, even though she didn’t have to go yet. Before her nap, I asked her to try the potty again. She was a bit resistant so I let her watch the end of  her episode of Sarah and Duck in the washroom. That’s when she had her third pee of the morning and her second in the actual potty! I did notice she was cutting down on her water intake. Hence, the fewer pees. Wondering if she’s a bit weary from all the accidents yesterday. I’m committed to offering her liquids even more frequently up until dinner to make sure she has more opportunities to try the potty today though.

She’s currently napping. Let’s see what the afternoon brings! Seeing her understanding dawn a bit more today is so encouraging. It’s making the long game look a bit less daunting at this point anyway.

The good news is that she was totally dry after her nap. The not so great news is that the afternoon was 100% accidents. We took a short trip to the park and she had an accident on the way, which I totally expected and was not a big deal. I simply changed her and we moved on. After we came home, she agreed to try the potty several times, but the timing was always off and she stopped indicating when she thought she might pee. At one point she was playing and she somehow managed to have a poop in her underwear in front of me without any kind of signal. And here’s the thing, she doesn’t appear to care either.

We had wet sheets again this morning so I’m resolved to wake her early tomorrow and see if she is dry. If she is, then that will tell me it’s a morning pee. If not, well, I’m not sure what I’ll do in that case.

I feel like I have to stick this out, but it’s hard not to feel like she’s not ready. My friend pointed out that waiting would most likely mean potty training in snow suits or layers at the very least and that is reason enough to attempt to stick this one out.

I know I need to find a new way to make it more fun. But how how how?

Day 3:

This was the day. The day we were supposed to see the most progress. A glimmer of hope if not full-on understanding. That is not the case, however. There were 3 accidents this morning. After the last one I totally lost my cool, sadly. Why oh why couldn’t I just keep my composure, damn it?!

That was 10am.

Now my sweet Leni is totally gun-shy. By 1pm–when she went down for her nap–she had yet to pee again. I had successfully coerced her with chocolate (oh yes I’ve introduced candy bribes into the mix), stickers and the iPad to sit on the potty upwards of 10 times over that 3-hour stretch without a drop. She was still drinking water until 12pm, mind you. There was liquid going in, but I think I’ve just traumatized her by being a jerk about cleaning up the pee on the floor. Shockingly, she woke up dry!

The rest of morning I tried to get more upbeat. Dancing to the potty and singing songs when she sat down. The more I coaxed her onto to the potty though, the less time she would agree to spend on it. I have no intention of letting her sit there for longer than a few minutes, unless she’s working on a poop. It’s just that 10 seconds is very unlikely to have any results, you know?

I started offering chocolate chips as a new tactic after she seemed to lose interest in the stickers and she had yet to earn bigger prizes, but she immediately caught on and started telling me every minute she needed to go to the potty. She really has a sweet tooth. As a result, the mini chocolate chips are now reserved for actual pee. All in all I feel the prizes are kind of confusing. She earned one bracelet the first evening and one the second morning and keeps asking for them. I have explained why and when she will receive another, but I’m not sure it’s motivating her even though she clearly wants them. I think I should’ve written a legend for myself. Stickers for x, bracelets for y, mini thomas trains for z.

I guess I’m beginning to feel like I’m doing this all wrong. People say to do it when your kid is ready. Well she shows some signs, but not others. On the other hand, this 3-Day Potty Training Method says I may have waited too long, but if I wait too much longer it’s definitely too late. And if I do it too close to new baby, it will all go to shit. So what the hell? Please please universe, help L have a breakthrough. Even just a very minor breakthrough. I need to know I’m doing the right thing here.

Day 4:

Day 4? But I thought this was a three day thing. I know, I know. Unfortunately, that is not the case for us. I tend to be a slower learner so I probably should always have known it would be going longer than the allotted three. Thankfully for us, we do have the extra days to keep on keeping on. And so we shall.

And so today, I set my alarm for 6:20am in hopes of getting ahead of the morning pee. I went to her room and plucked her straight out of bed and whisked her to the potty. Unlike the other two mornings when she was already up, she didn’t protest. She felt dry still, but there was a distinctive nugget in her PJ shorts. She didn’t poo yesterday and I had worried she might have an accident overnight even though she stopped pooping at night ages ago. The thing is, I figured she’d complain about sleeping in such a state, but no. Not a whimper. Even so, there wasn’t pee so maybe a slightly early wake up may still be a solution in the future. And again she let me wipe her bum and sat on the potty for a bit. No pee, but I was still pleased with the positive start to the day.

The night before I came up with an idea to set a “potty alarm” to go off every 20 minutes or so. While I had been taking her every 30 minutes the first three days when I didn’t see any pee action, she would often resist.

I let her pick the alarm chime she liked the best (crickets) and she actually let me carry her off to the potty each time it sounded. The first one was a success. She sat on the potty and peed! 7am chocolate treats and a bracelet for you! We did it the whole morning with no resistance! Not to say there weren’t accidents. Oh there were accidents, let me tell you! The first was actually what I’d call a “successful accident.” She stepped onto her potty stool a couple minutes before the alarm and said, “is it cricket time?” As I was checking, she peed right there in front of the potty. She was obviously trying to tell me she had to pee, but I didn’t catch it fast enough. So still kind of successful, in a way, no?

The next several accidents happened between the potty alarm. I just continued to repeat that she needed to tell me if she had to go even if the alarm didn’t sound. I think she was starting to think those were the potty times, but otherwise it was a pee-as-you-are free-for-all.

The alarm helped me too. I remained much more focused today as it broke the day up into helpful little segments.

I am noticing a few more interesting habits as we enter into day four too. Leni will often tell me to “go away” when she poops and has done that for some time, but over the past 24 hours she’s started to occasionally do it when she needs to pee. When she says it now, I try to rush her off to the potty with a bit of success. She also seems to have several pees pretty close together so I have to keep that in mind if I’m setting the alarm after she’s had one.

An overall observation on this whole process? It’s all well and good that I read the 3-Day Potty Training Method and prepared many of the details beforehand, but the reality is that every kid (and parent) is different. It was hard to know how Leni was going to react to this massive change and I’ve had to remain super flexible so that I can learn exactly what works for her.

As they always say, it does get better. It just turns out Day 5 was our Day 3…


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