Friday, November 4, 2011

Potty Wars

When Jenna was 17 months old it was summertime, I was off from school and had very casually introduced the Elmo Potty Time movie. She was a mad fan and watched the DVD over and over again and when she asked for a potty we got her one.  The Elmo sticker reward chart was a HUGE incentive and within days I was ecstatic that Jenna was successful so quickly.  We were using cloth diapers at the time but still doing the paper diapers at night for extra absorbency. She did great for weeks and even stayed dry through nap time.  “Our child is a genius,” I told Mike one day when she pooped in the potty for the first time at 18 months.  “Why do moms seem to have such a hard time with toilet training?” I wondered. This is a piece of cake!

Then I herniated two disks in my back, ended up in the hospital and then on bed rest for approximately 3 weeks.  Toilet training became inconsistent and our dry days started to fade even more when I went back to work a month later.  She was barely two years old.  So I figured we still had time. The summer would provide the perfect uninterrupted opportunity to make Jenna officially diaper free.

But what I hadn’t anticipated was a full out halt when our second daughter, Naomi, was born.  We spent the first 6 weeks of her life enduring 14 hours of crying which we later found out was milk/soy protein intolerance. I was in survival mode and Jenna was in full-blown- for the first time I have to share my mommy-rebellion. Once we got Naomi under control and I restarted toilet training with Jenna, I found it nearly impossible!

The sticker chart was seriously laughable, “I don’t like sickers (stickers) anymore, they yucky!”

Skittles worked for a while but I couldn’t handle their effect on her behavior, “Jenna, stop squeaking like a monkey and GET DOWN FROM THOSE CURTAINS!”

A promised visit to Sea World helped a little but was too far of a goal for a two and ½-year-old.

We even gave in and purchased expensive princess pull up diapers with a cold sensor to let her know when she went pee.

But I just couldn’t get her to really commit 100%. Despite putting Jenna on the potty every 30 minutes as the potty training book instructed, I could only get her to pee, not poop. 
I was BIG time eating my words about potty training being simple and instead started to feel like a massive failure at this huge milestone in my child’s development.  The multiple "helpful" comments from family and friends didn't make me feel any better:

 “She’s still in diapers? My youngest was potty trained at 9 months.”

“Well, obviously you aren’t consistent enough or she’d be in panties by now.”

“I’ve heard that’s what happens when you start too early, so now you’re just paying for it.”

“Potty training was really simple for us. I just let my kids run around naked for three days until they got the idea.”

REALLY???!!! In desperation, I gave the last one a go and all I got was some disgusting messes to clean up and an empty box of Clorox disinfecting wipes.

So this evening, while sitting on the play mat with Naomi, I noticed Jenna was suddenly missing from her coloring desk.  That’s when I heard the muffled sound of toots coming from behind the window curtain on the side of the couch- Jenna’s ideal spot to do her deed. I cursed the fact that Mike let her eat the entire bowl of grapes at breakfast, placed Naomi in her pack and play, and removed the drape from the top of Jenna’s head.

Me: Hey Jenna, let’s go sit on the potty.

Jenna: NO! I don’t wanna use the potty! I have to poopy. 

Me: You want to be a big girl don’t you? Mommy is a big girl and I use the potty. Grandma and Nana are big girls too and they use the potty. GG (Great Grandma) does too!

Jenna: No-Me (Naomi) goes poop and peepee in her diaper?

Me: That’s right because she is a baby, not a big girl like Mommy and Jenna. 

Jenna: It’s too heavy (hard) to poopy on the potty. No, I’ll be a baby like No-Me (Naomi). 

Me: You can’t get a gummy bear if you go in your diaper, only if you go on the potty. 

Jenna: That’s Ok! If No-Me (Naomi) can go in her diaper, I want to too. Now please go away Mommy so I can poopy.

To this Jenna grimaces and scrunches up her neck, making a face very much resembling Jabba the Hutt, and pulls the curtain back around herself. I could tell I wasn't just losing this battle but the entire potty war.  I could hear the Star Wars theme music playing and the opening crawl fanning across the screen…
“A long time ago in a bathroom, not so far away from an 18-month-old girl enthusiastically did the potty dance for having once again found success doing “what the big girls do!” Her mother rejoiced for peace reigned in the household as the threat of costly diapers was fast becoming a thing of the past. But whoa be to the mother, for upon the birth of her second child a strange morphing of character took over her firstborn.  She was no longer eager to use the potty but instead shunned it, embracing the diapers of her former self…..”

As I changed Jenna’s diaper bomb for the millionth time, I glanced over at Naomi kicking happily in her pack n play along to the music from her Fischer Price monkey mobile. BRRRRUUURR-Squish!  UGH! Thank you, Naomi, another poopy diaper. Sometimes I feel like I'm working a diaper mess assembly line-one right after the other. If only I could get Jenna trained, life would be so much easier.  Will I be changing diapers every day for the rest of my sanity?  

Just then the phone rang and it was my mom.  I expressed my frustrations. “Jamie, cut yourself a break! It’s not like she’s going to be 8 years old and still in diapers!” I glance up as Jenna runs screaming past the bedroom door wearing a Rapunzel top and no bottoms. I sighed into the phone, “Wanna bet?”

When Mike got home I decided to try some further research beyond the book I purchased, POTTY TRAINING IN JUST ONE DAY (which in case you’re wondering, it obviously didn’t work for us). I found the following questions in an online mayo clinic article

Is your child ready for toilet training?
·         Does your child seem interested in the potty chair or toilet, or in wearing underwear? (NOT anymore!)
·         Can your child understand and follow basic directions? (YES, if she feels like it)
·         Can your child ask simple questions? (YES)
·         Does your child stay dry for periods of two hours or longer during the day? Does he or she wake from naps dry? (YES)
·         Does your child have fairly predictable bowel movements? (NO, only when she eats too many grapes-Thanks a lot MIKE!!!)
·         Does your child tell you through words, facial expressions or posture when he or she needs to go? (YES)
·         Is your child uncomfortable in wet or dirty diapers? (NOPE, happy to stay in them all day if I let her)
·         Can your child pull down his or her pants and pull them up again? (Sometimes)
If you answered mostly yes, your child may be ready for potty training. If you answered mostly no, you may want to wait awhile — ESPECIALLY IF YOUR CHILD HAS RECENTLY OR IS ABOUT TO FACE A MAJOR CHANGE, SUCH AS A MOVE OR THE ARRIVAL OF A NEW SIBLING.
AH HA! The light bulb went on!!! That makes sense.  She totally lost all enthusiasm and gave up trying on her own when Naomi came along. I shouldn’t have pushed the potty training because that was a huge adjustment all by itself.  Perhaps there is hope! Maybe I’m not a total failure at potty training after all!
They also offered some very interesting advice: Know when to call it quits. If your child resists using the potty chair or toilet or isn't getting the hang of it, take a break. Chances are he or she isn't ready yet. Try it again in a few months.
My original goal was for Jenna to be completely trained by her 3rd birthday and I suppose that self-made deadline was stressing me out a bit.  The mayo clinic’s article put my mind at ease and gave my subconscious permission to wait if it doesn’t happen as planned.
To help ease my stress (and to make up for Jenna's grape overdose), my wonderful husband, Mike, offered to get Jenna ready for bed. As I write this entry I can hear the sound of Jenna approaching in her two sizes too big hand-me-down tap shoes that a friend gave her.  Mike was supposed to be giving Jenna a bath but she click-clacks her way into the bedroom, dripping wet and completely naked aside from her feet and Tinkerbelle sunglasses upside down on her nose.  Mike yells from the other room, “Jenna, come get this diaper on NOW!” Jenna may not be 100% trained by January but she will get there someday! Until then, may the force be with us all. 


  1. Hang in there Jamie! Maybe Santa will bring her some fabulous new panties. She'll get there. Luanne

  2. Lauren went through the same thing, so the two of us packed up all of our potty training stuff, books, stickers, potty and put it in a closet and we never spoke about it for a good couple months. When we finally brought it out again, it was kind of like opening a Christmas present and she was potty trained in a week. I've heard the 2nd ones go quicker... :)