It has happened. The scariest step of parenting to date, the leap into the unknown, the last bastion of babyhood: we have gone nappy-free during the daytime. My goal with potty training was, as always, to be entirely led by Alex himself. I’ve heard beautiful stories about waiting until a child is absolutely ready, ditching the nappies, and then miraculously all wees and poos take place on the potty from that day forward. My lazy-lady parenting style LOVED this idea. So simple! So stress-free! So clean! Let’s definitely do it that way!
As with most supposedly straightforward parenting tasks (see also: breastfeeding, behaviour management, getting them to wear some bloody clothes for once), my full retrospective assessment and review of this philosophy is: HA, yeah right.
Firstly, how the flip do you ever know if they are actually ready? Alex has been asking to wear “big boy pants” for quite a while now. Some may say this is a sign of readiness. However, he also asks to drive whenever we get in the car, and he’s certainly not ready to do that yet. Secondly, toddlers get distracted by stuff all the time. The entire world is full of impossibly exciting things, like cats and pedestrian crossings. This is a serious disadvantage for potty training and makes it really difficult to understand if they have grasped the basics or not. While they’re still learning to recognise the sensation of needing a wee, I recommend keeping them in an area free from distractions – ideally in a large plastic box with a lid.
For the first couple of days, I really wasn’t sure we were doing the right thing. We were stuck in the house, growing increasingly short-tempered, and drowning in a sea of wee. There was wee in the potty, yes. However, there was also wee in the new big boy pants, in Alex’s trousers, on the carpet, on the sofa, on us… Never underestimate the amount of wee one small boy can produce. And oh, the unexpected directions it can go in! He loved his pants, loved his potty, but had barely any clue when he needed to go. I didn’t know which choice would dishearten him more: making him go back to nappies, or continuing to let him have so many accidents. I agonised over doing the right thing, convinced that my choices and mine alone could be responsible for giving him some kind of lifelong toilet issue.
Then, on day 3, a tiny breakthrough: a few more successful uses of the potty. A request from him to wear his pants to nursery to show his key worker (you lucky lady), and we didn’t completely dismiss it; we thought maybe it might be possible. And here we come to our biggest discovery of all: if you send your child to nursery, they will help you. It turns out that you don’t have to do it all alone, after all. They smile about it and don’t call you reckless and irresponsible for leaving your un-nappied child in their care. They have aprons and gloves. They make you feel better. They tackled the tide of wee with grace and professionalism; they lent us some stories about potties to read at home, they made potty collages with him (yes, really), they talked constantly and incessantly about toilet habits. We followed suit at home. I don’t think I’ve talked about anything else for 3 weeks now. But you know what? It worked.
So it wasn’t a miraculous overnight job. It wasn’t even a miraculous 3-day job. Let’s face it, there is nothing miraculous at all about stepping barefoot in an unexpected puddle, whilst on your way to the washing machine with the sofa covers yet again. But there did come a moment when, very suddenly, the accidents stopped. I got brave enough for us to leave the house without having to ask poor Alex every 20 seconds if he was absolutely sure that he didn’t need the toilet. We’re now in a brave new age of parenting, where the words “MUMMY!!! I NEED A WEEWEE!!!!” are bellowed at me across public spaces; where the potty makes an appearance in all sorts of weird and wonderful places (on the beach, in a lay by, in Aldi car park…); where all poos must be studied and discussed at length. I kind of like it. Just don’t be horrified if the next time you see me, I ask you if you’re sure that you tucked your willy in your pants properly before you pulled your trousers up.