The hardest part of parenting…potty training. Well probably not. I’m sure making sure your kids don’t do drugs and that they are happy and making good choices when they are teenagers is probably a lot harder. But in my life, right now, it is potty training. Although this is my second kick at the can (well technically third since we tried potty training this past summer with #2 to a complete disaster) my feelings towards it have changed. I have two boys, born almost exactly two years apart, but their potty-training adventures were vastly different. Of course, I know that “each child is different” (yeah yeah don’t care “child rearing expert mom”) and it would be unfair for me to compare, but I am. Not in the way my boys took to potty training, but more in the way I approached it. This right here is why birth order matters. Things are always different the second (or third of fourth) time around. This is why siblings with the same parents and same home environment growing up can have very different experiences in the way they see their childhood. I know my boys will reflect on their childhood much in the same way because of the differences on how I approach them and their different “milestones”. Although there have been and will continue to be many differences between how I have treated my boys (breast feeding, moving to a big boy bed, bedtime, the list goes on) for now potty training will be the comparison point of documentation when my boys want to later argue how they are so hard done by.
Potty training #1
Roll out the red carpet! This was a major event. I treated potty training with #1 as if there had never, in the history of ever, been anything more important. The preparation, thought, timing of this event was mapped out in charts and Venn diagrams. Now I was on maternity leave at the time with #2, so I did have time on my side. I also had nothing better to do than focus solely on this one particular job while I let my 5-month-old fend for himself in his exersaucer. #1 was exactly 2.5 and my plan literally had nothing to do with whether I felt he was ready or not, it was, according to my research, the optimal time to potty train and dammit, I was doing it.
I bought books about potties for #1 to read (all Elmo based as somehow I thought learning from his favourite character would make a difference). I bought a duckie potty that practically set off alarms and fireworks if you peed in it. I made sticker charts and got Elmo stickers to strategically chart our progress. Notice I just called it “our” progress like it had anything to do with me. I also bought M&M’s and one giant sucker to be given out for the very first poop. I put more thought into this than I did my own wedding.
First step was to eliminate diapers by switching to Pull-Ups, which we would do for exactly 3 days. You know to practice pulling our pants up and down. Then the big day arrived where we switched to undies and I praised my child for literally absolutely anything even if it wasn’t toilet related. I mean I didn’t want to break his spirit and have him piss on the floor out of spite. There were bells. There were whistles. And if I could have hired a marching band to go through the neighborhood, I would have. My child covered himself with stickers, and got precisely ONE M&M for pee, and TWO for poop (plus that sucker he got for the very first poop, which I also captured with a picture and some forced posing). At the end of the first week, we went out in our big boy undies to Toys R Us and got an overpriced Thomas the Train to celebrate one week sans diapers. Then we repeated the whole process AGAIN for an entire week. SEVEN more days of stickers, praise, candy, and then at the end another trip to the store to get yet another train. I swear I spent more money potty training than I did on my first car.
And yes, he did wonderful. And yes, he was fully trained (well minus at night, but good grief that was never in the plans…I mean who cares about that really?). But looking back it seems like a bit of overkill. I also am probably saying that because I’ll explain exactly how potty training went with #2.
Potty Training #2
I picked the one long weekend of the year I knew that we would be at home and just went for it. And by went for it, I just put undies on #2 and put him on the potty every 30 minutes hoping he’d “get it”. There was also no way in hell I was going to ruin my Christmas holiday with potty training either. Sorry not sorry. Since I only had three days I was hoping to condense as much potty training fun into one long weekend, you know because mom guilt. I would have to go to work on Monday and I was expecting my 2.5-year-old to enter daycare a new man who would declare “diapers are for babies”. So, I was using all the leftover Halloween candy as bribery (actually that is genius to do this right after Halloween) and pre-bought a couple of Spider-man toys as “rewards” (there would be no Toys R Us outing for #2, ain’t nobody got time for that). There were zero sticker charts made and even though I still had the potty books from last time, #2 isn’t really into Elmo and could tell I was just re-using things on him once again.
I had given my sitter a few Pull-ups the week before and casually suggested she could use those instead of diapers and you know “throw him on the potty every now and again.” That would have to do. When the long weekend came, I tried to make going on the potty seem super fun and cool and had my 4-year-old tell him ALL about it, like he would take advice from someone who talks to stuffed animals. I basically made him walk around pants-less (in Canadian November….sorry) and then made him sit on the potty until something happened. I will say the 4-year-old was helpful in that he set up the I-pad in the bathroom and played “Let it Go” from Frozen and told his brother to “let the pee pee go, just let it go.” After watching the “Let it Go” scene for upwards of 30 minutes, the magic happened and #2 went in the potty! I then gave him an entire box of Smarties (screw the 1 M&M bullshit) and told him that he could reach into the Halloween bag for his next treat after he went potty again.
He never did poop on the potty that whole weekend. I threw out 5 pairs of underwear instead and possibly caused a poop phobia. I can’t really be sure. Is my 2-year-old trained? Hell no. There is no going back to diapers though and he may be a Pull-Up man until his 3rd birthday. Do I care? Hmmm not really. I had to give it an “honest” effort and by honest I mean we spent a lot of time talking about undies and the potty and had some good cuddle time soaked in urine. Do I wish I had a full 3 weeks devoted to the potty parade and making it the centre of our universe? Not really. #2 will survive and will probably be all the better for it. Plus, I made myself crazy doing all this stuff for #1 and I’m sure he would have done just as fine without it.
The next step is transitioning from the crib to the big boy bed. Yes, I haven’t done that yet. #1 was moved the day after he turned 2. Now I am selfishly keeping #2 in there until he tries to get out. And so the differences between raising #1 and #2 continue. Now if you excuse me I need to take #2’s baby book out of the original packaging and write down a few things.