A Necessary Season: Potty Learning as a Step in the Journey
Tonight, I stood in a gymnasium and talked with a mother who was clearly frustrated with her daughter’s potty learning. It’s been months and she has had it. I felt sad that she hadn’t been able to see this stage in her daughter’s life for the joy it could be. It’s a stage, a season, short and in most cases something you only do once with each child regardless of the method you choose to employ.
I started introducing Liam to the potty when he was about 10 months old. He was interested and we had fun for a while. Then, I got pregnant again and it was all I could do to function through morning sickness, much less consider the possibility to spend time cleaning up accidents. When I entered my second trimester, I once again decided it was time to get him out of diapers and on to adulthood. Ahem. I was really excited about how he seemed to be grasping the concept and how dry he was managing to stay throughout the day when my husband’s brother was hospitalized and we spent a great deal of time traveling, so I scrapped the plan again. We continued with diapers for several more months before one day, I announced to him that I was done with him throwing tantrums every time I needed to change his diaper.
The first three days were hard. Learning to understand your body is hard work, and teaching someone to understand how to listen to their own body for the first time is equally hard. Well, it’s hard and it takes patience, so it’s actually harder. It didn’t dawn on me until the third day that if you’ve never had to listen to your body, you wouldn’t know what it was saying to you. And then, I sat in the bathroom and cried. Both of us cried. We were both sitting there sobbing when a look of realization came over his face and he said “I fink I needa pee, Mama.” I grabbed him and helped him onto the potty and, lo and behold, he did.
In the days that followed, he’d tell me when he felt his water travel to his bladder. And I’d smile because he had actually absorbed what I said on the second day when I was panicking trying to help him understand. I laughed because I thought for sure I was the only parent who had sat in a bathroom with a college anatomy textbook explaining the process of digestion and elimination. And then I cried because I had found a way to communicate to him — a language that he understood.
Prior to teaching my child how to use the potty instead of diapers, I read every book in the library on the topic. I talked to experienced mothers, and I read research on the optimal age to begin. I felt prepared. I also had five different options to use as a potty. In the end, everything I thought I knew was wrong. When I stepped back and learned to let him tell me what his body said instead of what I thought it should say, we were able to communicate. When he told me on the fifth day he didn’t want to wear a diaper overnight, I listened to him. I was scared, but he’s been right ever since.
For those that don’t use the Elimination Communication method early in their child’s life, potty learning seems to be a daunting task. I was terrified. I blocked off whole weeks at a time to establish consistency. I worried about the inevitable trips to public restrooms. I did a lot of laundry. In the end, I’m going to tell you that teaching my son to use the toilet was the easiest task I’ve encountered thus far in my parenting journey. We’ve dealt with colic, reflux, sleep issues, Sensory Processing Disorder … all of these things helped me to realize this is a season and it will pass. Perhaps it will be a long season; perhaps, like in my case, it will be a blink of the eye. It wasn’t a perfect experience, but it was one I will forever embrace because it taught me to love my son in a way I wasn’t aware I could.
Photo Credit: Author
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