I spent a lot of time agonizing over how to potty train my kid.
Like, a lot.
I asked my mother how she potty trained me. She said she didn’t. My aunt did it over a weekend as a surprise while my parents were taking a short vacation from parenthood.
So I asked my aunt. She didn’t remember the details, and she was dying of cancer, so I felt it inappropriate to press her on the matter, even though I wanted to grab her and yell “DON’T LET YOUR SECRETS DIE WITH YOU! HELP MEEEEE!”
All I know about the process is that apparently for weeks afterwards, whenever I used the potty I would ask, “is Auntie Helen happy??”
Then I asked my mother in law how she potty trained her kids (of which there were five).
Unfortunately, my mother in law is the ONLY mother in law in the history of mother in laws who absolutely will not give advice.
I have asked her for her thoughts on everything from sleep training to hair cutting, and received nary a tidbit of experience from her. She doesn’t shut me down, she doesn’t REFUSE to give advice. But she usually gives some sort of bland “Oh, I don’t know…” and shortly after the subject changes, very naturally and organically, into something else and eventually it dawns on me that I’ve been sidetracked yet again.
And don’t tell me that she doesn’t like to instruct, because the woman is a freaking teacher.
I suspect that the experience from having four daughter in laws and ten grandchildren has made her a little gun shy about the whole parenting advice thing.
Or maybe she genuinely trusts me to figure it out on my own.
Everyone envies me my mother in law.
Anyway, I bought and read some potty training books and agonized for a while. My son was two now, and I felt that I had really changed enough diapers, but I just didn’t know how to get the whole process started.
I think the part that freaked me out was the equipment involved.
Puppies don’t need potty training equipment. You know what it’s called? A yard. That’s all you need. Sometimes condo owners have to settle for a pee pad on the porch. That’s as fancy as you can or should get.
But there is EQUIPMENT involved in potty training a human child. You either need a special seat for the grown up toilet, or a special mini-toilet for the child to use instead.
My own toddler was convinced that both pieces of equipment were spawned by the devil to suck him into the depths of hell.
So I decided to start with a basic desensitization program, which in parenting circles is called “Pre-Potty Training”
When a dog is scared of something, you need to introduce it to him often with great casualness. Nothing terrifies a puppy like you trying to force him to go up to something that strikes him as inherently evil, like, say, a shiny kitchen floor or the neighbour’s trash can.
After all, if someone tried to grab you and force you to go up close to your neighbour’s garbage can, wouldn’t that strike you as deeply sinister?
Instead, you just make sure that it is AROUND a lot, and you praise any kind of interest. You can make it more tempting by scattering treats and toys around it, so that he gets rewards every time he goes near the thing.
I toyed with the idea of scattering candies all over the potty seat, but dismissed this for fear of setting up poor hygienic habits. I had visions of him licking the side of the toilet some day.
I settled for the traditional book instead. I went out and bought two books about using the potty and told him that these were special books that could only be read by little boys who could sit on a potty.
Then I went about my business.
Soon he would sit on the potty seat or his plastic potty for the duration of a story. Then for several repeats.
It took a while longer to get him to do so with no diaper on, with his danglers bared for all toilet monsters to grab.
Most of the time, no actual productivity occurred during these sessions. The two time that he did happen to pee a bit while reading I threw him a massive party, convincing him that this was the best thing he had ever achieved in his life up to this point (which, admittedly, wasn’t saying a whole lot).
But any emissions were purely accidental. He had no sense of how to urinate on purpose, how to even know when he might have to urinate, and I had absolutely no idea how to teach him.
Pre-Potty Training complete… and stalled.