We were wondering, like most parents, how early we could start potty training. We wondered wishfully if Stella could comprehend and carry out the concept before turning two or at least before our second child arrives. Of course, we expected it to be sometime between thirty months and turning three, after the shock of a new sister had come and gone. This was several months ago, when the idea of Stella pooping in anything but her diaper seemed remote, impossible even, as every milestone seems before it happens.
And then, somewhat to our surprise, at twenty-three months, she woke up one bright morning and asked, as if she had been mentally preparing for this moment as long as we had, “Mommy buy undawear?” We repeated her question back to her, this being the only way it seems we can discern her growing language these days. “You want to wear underwear?”
“Yeah!” she said confidently, coaxing us with her enthusiasm and frantic head bobbing.
We explained that wearing underwear meant not wearing diapers. We described in detail what underwear meant for her life, going over new ideas like the potty and holding it and wiping and the complicated inconsistencies of bowel movements.
“Undawear!” she sang with happy naivete.
Between the research and our accumulated knowledge of our independent toddler, we decided to give the 48 hour potty training method a shot. She has always surprised us with her ability to learn new ideas quickly and we figured it might be easier on her to squeeze several months of back and forth potty training into a nice little weekend package. A diaper intervention.
So we read an eBook, blocked out a weekend, borrowed some cloth underwear for nighttime, purchased a potty and underwear, and decided M&M’s would be a soothing, long lasting reward.
This is my scattered diary of her success, and our efforts, to turn Stella into an underwear clad, prairie dogging machine.
Day 1, Saturday, February 5:
I’m up early to prepare. While she lies in her bed with no knowledge of the coming change, I oscillate between apprehension and confidence. This is not only going to be a long weekend for us, but it’s going to be tough on my little girl, who after several thousand diapers is suddenly going to be thrust into the world of bathrooms. I roll up the rug, crank up the heat on account of her impending nakedness, double check we have enough fluids to keep her peeing all day long, cover the couch, set out the potty and arm myself with M&M’s. She wakes up and I happily declare it to be potty training day. I tell her about the treats and the underwear and remind her that her cousin Evee and best friend Eisley both already go on the potty, something I would repeat a hundred more times over the next week. I strip her down save a sweatshirt and load her up with juice and the day begins in the living room, her playing kitchen, me watching her movements as closely as ever. Thirty minutes in, she begins dancing around and I keep the potty close. She runs excitedly over to a corner, laughing, and starts letting the urine fly. I quickly grab her and set her on the potty where she finishes up with a smile. An hour later we repeat this. The afternoon hours tick by slowly, Kari and I working in shifts, following her around with a plastic potty in hand, words of encouragement spouting forth. She dances around and we calmly make sure her tush and the potty intersect at the right time. M&M. Repeat.
The eBook warned us to not get distracted during this first 48-hour period, stating that the number one reason this method fails is because parents don’t stay close. We learned this the hard way as we cleaned up after dinner, thinking it would be at least another half hour before the next song began playing in her bladder. I look over at her standing in the living room and watch the poop slowly slide out of her rectum and onto the floor. She yells “poooopooo!” and we manage to catch the last half.
Day 2, Sunday, February 6:
Her happy wake up is turned sour by the news that it’s potty training day again. It appears the novelty has worn off. She doesn’t want to be naked, doesn’t even want a treat and wants little to do with the potty. Oh no, I feel internally. Did we start this too early? Is she going to regress? Will this make it that much harder to potty train her later? We arm ourselves with our eBook knowledge and forge ahead as with day one. She seems to be giving in with each morning urination, though reluctantly and with a certain degree of fuss. By 3pm, the start of the Super Bowl, she is back on target, peeing and pooping on the potty as if she has it down. We are delirious with pride and relief. We head to bed exhausted, knowing it’s been 48 hours, knowing that, at the least, we’re not going to have to quit. She is on her way. No more diapers now. Cancel the Amazon subscription. Tomorrow, day 3, will be her first day with underwear.
Day 6, Thursday, February 10:
One accident per day on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, usually when one of us has left her unattended for too much time. We bring the portable potty to the park, out to the yard and everywhere else a potty isn’t close. While Stella isn’t broadcasting verbally that she needs to pee, she is at least dancing around enough that we know it’s time to sit her down. And for the most part, she is learning to hold it in, as much a milestone as actually sitting down and going.
The only fight left in her is when she has to poop. She holds it in as if her life depended on it and cries out, “diaper, wear diaper, wear diaper” when it’s about to come out. Bigger treats, like a bite of a cookie, seem to help the process, as does having her take a deep breath when she sits down on the potty.
She catches me off guard in the evening, when I walk into the laundry room to find her pooping in her underwear. Six days in. I’m visibly frustrated and disappointed with her. I tell her with a few degrees of frustration that poop goes in the potty and carry her into the bathroom for a strip down and bath. I feel sharp pangs of regret as I scoop poop out of her underwear while she stands naked on the bathroom floor crying. I’m so sorry buddy, I gently say to her. Daddy was wrong. Did you have an accident? Yeah, she whimpers. Were you just trying your best sweetie, hoping for quick reconciliation. Yeah, she whispers as we embrace. Lesson learned.
Day 8, Saturday, February 12:
Eight days in and the potty training seems to be over for the most part. She is now loudly announcing her potty needs almost every single time and the poop issue is becoming easier with every fallen log. We resume our normal Saturday and hop on the train to South Pasadena for some cereal, reading and park time. She announces on the train that she has to pee and then manages to hold it until we get to our breakfast destination, where she happily pees on the adult toilet.
She suddenly seems like a kid for the first time.
We are exhausted. Eight days of chasing her around, cleaning up accidents, hoping for her success, attempting to stay calm, nurturing her through bouts of stage fright, carrying toilets on long walks and investing emotionally into every single deposit into the potty has taken it’s toll. We are tired. But we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, getting brighter with each trip to the potty, the bittersweet light signaling the end of our baby and the pending emergence of a little girl.