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Toilet training, about a year down the road

People with children Bun Bun’s age are entering the toilet training fray, and I’ve read several expressions of general angst about the whole thing. Feeling bad that it sounds so easy for other people’s children, feeling pressure to start, etc. Gemini Momma has a beautiful post on this, in which she points out that “3 day training worked like a charm for us!” stories are common, but it’s rare to hear anything much after that.

Which is not surprising. Who really wants to write or read anything about this subject? It’s gross. But such stories create a then we rode off into the human waste elimination sunset impression that may be false for some cases. So I will share what I’m going through roughly a year after we started. Here’s what my sunset looks like.



The facts. Three day training worked like a charm for us. It did. And aside from a few days where she was pissing on the floor to fuck with me*, urine has been no big deal. She had accidents every now and then for a while, but doesn’t anymore. It helped to think of training as a continuum, wherein she’d get more and more trained all the time, rather than a binary thing. Oh, I must remember to say that she’s still in a diaper for naps and at night. Experiments with taking those away did not succeed.

Shit has been another story. At first she was fine! Sure, I’ll take a dump in there! And then…the wind began to whip up…dark clouds gathered.

Phase 2: A week or so after training, suddenly she will only take a shit when I am in charge of her. Not the end of the world. I’m in charge of her often enough. But instead of going every day, it started being every other day or so, and she had the occasional nap dump with her nanny. This lasted for about three months. Really not so bad. I mean, it wasn’t great, but I was sticking with the “training is a continuum” logic, assuming things would get better.

But then…the sky began to turn ominously green and the wind became really quite scary and suddenly TWISTER TWISTER TWISTER RUN FOR THE ROOT CELLAR.

Phase 3: She will only take a shit in her diaper at night. Nothing I can think of will persuade her to shit in the toilet again. I thought of a LOT of things, believe me. Please refrain from telling me how I could have fixed this. I promise, I tried that. I know that my children are easy, and I am grateful. I think this was my first tiny brush with the kind of daily frustration that is a normal part of parenting for some of you. Meaning, those of you with kids who don’t sleep, don’t eat, etc. Which is not to diminish what you guys experience, just to say that it was the most infuriating and distressing experience of my parenting life. Because it was fucking disgusting. And she’d wake up and cry, which would wake me up. Often she’d sit on the toilet for an HOUR before bed only to take a dump the moment she fell asleep. And I had to refrain from losing my temper. Because we’re not allowed to lose our tempers or we will do instant psychological damage that will haunt them forever. OH MY GOD I HATED THAT PHASE.** It also lasted for about three months.

She stopped this eventually.

Phase 4: Current phase. Now she will take a shit every two days, but has to be coaxed into it. Sometimes she will sit on the toilet for an HOUR AND A HALF before it happens. She is relatively willing to sit there, so it’s not that bad, except that we can’t go on with our LIVES. So that sucks for everyone, and it’s only a good situation in comparison to phase 3. We’ve tried not coaxing her–letting her be totally in control of her BMs. She reverts to Phase 3.

So. As far as piss goes, I am glad I started at age 2. That’s a year’s worth of pissy diapers I didn’t have to change. As far as shit goes, I HATE that it’s so hard. OF COURSE I feel like it’s my fault that she has such a hard time with it. OF COURSE I wonder whether it would have been easier if I hadn’t started so early. (Answer = likely not. There are plenty of success stories at the same age, plus there are plenty of failure stories at later ages, so it’s not like age is the cure-all.) OF COURSE I wonder if there’s a book that will solve my problem. But I am holding staunchly to my NO FUCKING BOOKS line.

So, friends, that’s my sunset.


*Solution for us, since I suspect some of you in the fray will face this: Not, as you might think, locking self in bathroom to avoid screaming and throwing things, but rather calmly (if a bit grimly) making her clean it up and take care of her wet clothes and get out and put on clean clothes. Got boring for her pretty fast, I think.

**I asked our ped for advice, and he gave me the standard line about just having to be patient and gentle about it. Which is, you know, FINE, but it’s also such bullshit. Because it’s easy to be patient and gentle when you’re not fucking living through it.

19 Comments Post a comment
  1. What an extremely timely post! Gwen asked to wear underwear this morning for the first time in a month or two, and we even braved the bike ride to daycare in it, for the first time! Of course, there was then wet pants/underwear for me to take home in the evening, but I don’t know when during the day that happened. Anyway, I had been thinking “I should go back and reread what Glumbunny wrote about potty training because it seemed to work pretty well for them”. We kind of let things fall after Christmas vacation was over, and I think what I really need is a good 3+ days to practice, i.e., a weekend just isn’t long enough. My mom is coming to stay with Gwen for a week in May while Joel and I go on holiday. How mean of me would it be to thrust potty-training duties onto her? I mean, after all, she has proven to be a successfully potty-trainer in the past! I am living proof!

    Part of me is also wondering if this is beginning to be like the pacifier: What we need to do is simply say one day “no more diapers! diapers are gone, we’re not buying any more”, and putting her in underwear, and that she’d then adapt within a day or two. The problem with this is that she would still definitely need them at night, and probably at naptime too.

    Hmmm…maybe we could push the analogy and say “diapers for sleeping only”. It’s something to consider…

    March 28, 2014
  2. Speaking from what I know from the children who go with George at the same kindergarten, the average age for boys to be toilet trained is 3 +/- a few months. After a couple of months, they can go without nappies for naps, and around 6-10 months after that, without nappies altogether, day and night. For girls, substract in general two to six months from the boys’ average. I do know personally children who have been toilet trained at two AND at almost four. They are perfectly fine. Well, to be honest, the latter, because the former have more accidents than the average.
    If there is a problem, it is the moving of the bowels part. Peeing is soon mastered, but shit is another matter. Just as a matter of personal observation, no judging, of course, but I would not let Bun Bun sit on the toilet/potty for so long. Not only it creates bad habits, but those bad habits can lead to a lifetime of bad habits (hello, reading on the toilet), and then from that to having to deal with hemorrhoids is a tiny step. And that is BAD. It sucks that it is such a drama, and you have to deal with so much shit day in, night out, BUT, you know that, just as with anything else in childhood, it is a phase. She will learn eventually how to go when she needs to, and she will move on from all this mess. She is not even three, she might see this as a control thing (I personally can’t see where the control part is on this entire matter, but hey, what do I know), she might simply be unable to have control over it, the thing is, the more obstinate you become to deal with it, the less the matter is dealt with in any way. I understand it is a shitload of shit to deal with for so long, and I am very sorry for you. I do hope it is sorted soon.
    But one thing is certain: sorted, it will be.
    Hang on. 🙂

    March 28, 2014
    • Reading on the toilet is a bad habit? This is not good news for me and The New Yorker.

      March 29, 2014
  3. As far as I can tell, no, it would not be easier if you’d started later. Just about the same, plus that year of wet diapers you missed.

    The Bean has recently pooped in his potty! (I know you hate that word.) This had not happened in months and months and months! And then the toilet happened to clog when it was flushed, and now he says he is scared to do it again because he will break the toilet. So.

    But he did poop in his underpants in the pediatrician’s waiting room, so I guess we can always take him there if he needs a safe place.

    March 28, 2014
  4. Very timely indeed. A wakes up in a dry diaper 95% of the time. I know this’s because when he gets in bed with us at 5:30 am he doesn’t stink like pee. Then anout 10 minutes later he tells me he poo-ped from his penis and no kidding his diaper is so full it’s leaking. Also he likes to tell me during the day every time he does 1 or 2 and wants a new diaper right away. When we talk about using the toilet he acts as though I’m asking him to rip out his own finger nails bloody murder. So I just change his damn diaper again. I will say he was on a pretty good role over the summer before we moved. Too many changes caused the regression in my opinion and let’s be honest, at the time I wasn’t even remotely encouraging it. Now everyone is on my damn case about it so I’m starting to feel the pressure. This is where I applaud you for sticking with it and putting up with all of that hard shit (both kinds). I am remorseful that I didn’t last summer. You are amazing.

    March 28, 2014
  5. My parents promised one of my brothers a stuffed animal, a little dog, for when he’d finally manage to take a dump in his potty. I don’t remember if it worked, but I do remember that we lovingly called it “dump dog”.

    March 29, 2014
  6. This is true, now that I think about it. Three day training did work like a charm for us, but it wasn’t roses from then on.

    My son went through the refusal to poop on the potty phase. As far as I could tell, nothing we did made any difference, he just got over it one day–thankfully for us, that was only two weeks. We never really had any problems with him after that. (Yes, the odd accident for a year or so, and aiming issues are still an occasional problem–no small child is toilet trained to adult standards.)

    My daughter has gone in for regressions a lot more. And recently, it’s been poop. I eventually realized she had pinworms, which I felt awful about, but even now that’s been sorted out, she’s either reluctant to use the toilet for that or she’s just got into the habit of doing it in her pants. I have resorted to using sticker charts (and I hate sticker charts) to motivate her to remember the potty, but again, I’m not really convinced if it’s actually working–she’ll manage it for awhile and then she’ll be lax about it again.

    I’m fully convinced that she’ll outgrow this in due time (whatever that is… weeks, months, a year or so?), and I don’t regret getting rid of diapers when we did, but dear god I’m sick of kneeling in front of a toilet, pulling the flush and rinsing gross underwear. And yes, I’ve lost my temper with her over it and immediately hated myself for doing so.

    (She also has a tendency to constipation because she loves her dairy so much, so one weekend we tried her on a dairy-limited and fruit-heavy diet so everything would come out more easily. The result of that was having to rinse underwear four times a day instead of one. But constipation is still an intermittent problem, and having to fret about getting the right dietary balance for that when she’s such a picky eater is killing me.)

    March 29, 2014
  7. Poor love and by that I mean both of you. I wonder why she’s afraid of poo. I wonder why so many of them are. They’re like those tribespeople who afraid of photography because it steals a piece of your soul. Pooing, a whole chunk of ma body is falling awaaaaaayyyyy. Noesssss.

    This too will pass. It all does, as you know.

    Also, I think being a psychomalologist makes parenting harder cause as soon as you behave like a normal human instead of a perfect parent you’re instantly aware of the DAMAGE!!!! Fuck the damage, I say. There’s got to be something for the psychomalologists of the future to help with.


    March 30, 2014
  8. Jessica #

    My LO poops in the diaper almost every naptime. I change it and then the ordeal is done one minute later; I’m not going to fight her on it. She won’t go to college in a diaper. You’re way busier than I am, so I have to ask: how on earth do you have the time to spend an hour and a half in the bathroom?!

    March 30, 2014
  9. My Monkey decided one day at 26 months that he was done with nappies. He’s done with them for naps and night now too (30 months), and has been for a while. He will even sometimes vanish, and I’ll find him pantsless and on the potty of his own accord.

    However. A couple of days ago he stood in his bedroom, looked me straight in the eye, and proceeded to pee on the carpet. Deliberately. Yeah.

    So even when they’re trained, all is not always peaches!

    March 30, 2014
  10. Misfit #

    I have no help. E shits in potty most of the time by now. But, that has little to do with training. At 8 months she started to poop as soon as a diaper came off. It was frustration that just led me to put her on the potty while I grabbed a new diaper.

    It is highly unlikely that she will wear diapers into college, so this ordeal will just be over one day. Shit is tough to deal with especially when you know she is physically capable of knowing when she needs to drop a deuce.

    My sis, her son, was nearly 4 before he just figured it out. I remember her tears and frustration and can only imagine how annoying this is. Bun Bun is just gonna work this out at some point. You are doing the right things. She will catch up to you soon. I know it.

    March 30, 2014
  11. Thanks for this reminder that it isn’t sunshine and roses for any of us! Hope you managed to smile at your ped while cursing silently.

    March 30, 2014
  12. I have vague recollections of feeding Bug oat-bran-applesauce and two prunes at lunch every day (fortunately things he greatly enjoys) so as to encourage the pooping before bedtime. For those very reasons. I hope she gets through this phase before you wish to lock yourself in a closet and scream (and you know how my kids are and I am entirely sincere). Also! WINE!! (For you.)

    March 31, 2014
    • You will never read this, BUT: My husband said that we should buy you a house because of your oat bran apple sauce suggestion. It’s magic. (And it’s not like her diet wasn’t high in fiber before, but there’s something about it!). And he didn’t even know you need a house!

      April 29, 2014
  13. Sorry about the shit-storm, bunny. It sounds very, very trying.

    April 1, 2014
  14. Beautiful sunset indeed, Bunny. This post is really making me look forward to toilet training. And I was SO looking forward to it.
    I’m sorry it hasn’t been so simple with Bun Bun poo-wise. Being on the brink of 3, I suspect that she will start appreciating the value of an efficient shit in the toilet fairly soon. But in the mean time, it looks like you’ll have to endure this. I’m sorry. I’ll bring you more wine when I see you.

    April 2, 2014
  15. With my eldest son I barely had a role in training him – he attended daily early intervention from 20 months on, and it was a case of monkey-see-monkey-do(o) :). Seemed like one day he just was. HOWEVER…. once a day, religiously, he requested a diaper, retreated behind his bedroom door emerging 5 minutes later to have the dirty diaper changed. How long did this go on? YEARS. Right up to when it was impossible to secure a diaper around him (age 31/2 I’m guessing). And then – he just used the toilet like it was no big deal.

    My daughter? The day before her 2nd bday I noticed “the look” on her face, popped her on the potty, and swear on my life that was it.

    Let’s not discuss the 3 boys that followed her. OY!

    April 5, 2014
  16. Arghghg, I can so relate to this!! I read an interesting piece by a pediatric GI who absolutely insisted that children should not be potty trained before the age of 3 because it leads to withholding, which can cause a host of additional problems. I was really conflicted about it because I wanted to wait but his Montessori school pretty much threw us to the wolves with the training. Number 1 took a few few weeks to master but “the other” took over a year. And I was in the throws of morning sickness for four months of that, so sometimes I would have to take a break from cleaning up (I may have thrown away a few pairs of his undies) so that I could throw up. Awful time. Not recommending you potty train your child when you are newly pregnant.

    April 7, 2014
  17. Sigh. Part of the reason I posted this is because I wanted to get in on the feeling of being judged and doing things wrong that everyone else is having fun with. And it totally worked. I know I’m not supposed to make an issue of this, but the alternative sucks so hard. See, her shitting herself while sleeping is not something that takes a minute to deal with. It wakes us all up, for one thing, if it happens at night. And if it happens during the day, it ruins their nap. And the cloth diapers are a bitch to deal with, plus they always leak all over her bed (I mean, it’s not like she’s covered with shit, but there’s a…compost tea…sort of effect… So the sheets have to be changed. And then there’s the miasma. It’s a fucking nightmare. So I don’t want to turn it into a huge control thing. I just want to not have to deal with the alternative.

    (And it’s not like it takes an hour EVERY NIGHT. It’s normally 15 minutes or so. It’s just that sometimes it isn’t. HATE.)

    Okay, alleviated my need to justify myself, I have to say that shortly after posting this, literal shit got way better. I decided to have her go every day instead of every other, so that it would be come a normal part of the routine, like tooth brushing, and not a dreaded nightmare. And I tried Jenny’s laxative cocktail of oat bran apple sauce and prunes. Bun Bun loves those things, just like Bug. Much like any prescription, it took some tailoring to get the dose right–turns out she needs the oat bran applesauce and not so much the prunes, but every day at lunch and it’s now super fast and happy. (The other random thing that happened at the same time is that she started using the Big Toilet. Which is fabulous. I tried it because I got tired of her moving the little one around while sitting on it, and she loves it.)


    April 29, 2014

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