From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

The Potty Predicament

Whoever is out of patience is out of possession of his soul.

Sir Francis Bacon

I bought a potty seat for my son before he turned a year old, a colorful, deluxe model with removable parts, front-loading plastic bowl and sure-grip sides. I’d had glorious visions, almost since I left the delivery room, of my brilliant progeny fully trained and diaper-free by eighteen months. Heck, make that fifteen months.

We’d be the envy of all my friends, whose deficient toddlers remained untrained at age two.

I kept the commode in the closet for a few weeks, not wanting to place unrealistic expectations on my son. When I finally placed it, with much fanfare, in the bathroom, the child seemed delighted. He examined it closely, giggled and squealed while I beamed as I planned how to spend the money I’d save on diapers.

Over the next few months, however, the potty was transformed into a nagging symbol of intergenerational warfare. The first skirmish—over positioning—raged throughout the house and left me exhausted and demoralized. I would place the potty in the bathroom, only to return a few hours, minutes or even seconds later to find it missing. Various “removable parts” would appear in closets, under my bed, in my husband’s underwear drawer, in the sandbox—even floating in the birdbath.

The bowl—the heart of the contraption—was chewed and colored on and used as a collection bin for toys, books and even feminine hygiene products unthinkingly left within reach.

Something about the seat aroused my son’s creative energies. It elicited intricate crayon drawings and doubled as a playpen for his stuffed animals. As his strength, coordination and evil intent grew, the fruit-of-my-womb figured out how to fill the bowl from the bathtub and drained it in a trail across the carpet.

I launched a new campaign.

Every hour on the hour, I dragged my son, kicking and screaming, into the bathroom. I’d read his favorite stories in animated voices. I sang his favorite song, “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.” No luck.

Thinking a target might help, I floated Cheerios in water to challenge his competitive instincts. He scooped up the soggy circles and crammed them in his mouth. I invoked the dreadful specter of peer pressure. “Do you want to be the only two-year-old still in diapers?” While I nearly wept at the prospect, my son was impervious to public opinion.

His second birthday came and went, and I lost sleep, picturing him at high-school graduation in Huggies— Extra, Extra Large.

Desperate, I played my trump card—bribery—promising him candy for each success. His eyes gleamed in sweet anticipation, but still, the kid wouldn’t give in. Frustrated beyond words, I resorted to coercion, holding him, squirming furiously, on the potty. I did it only once. He deliberately baptized me in righteous indignation.

As the three-year mark approached, he was upstaged by younger children who pranced proudly to the potty. Despondent at my failure, I deployed a final weapon. I put away the potty and bought a large supply of Pull-Ups. When he informed me that he needed to be changed, I acted deliriously happy.

After all those agonizing months, this strategy succeeded in exactly two days. My demon seed started using the toilet as if he’d been doing it all his life. Now, more than a year later, I can’t get him out of the bathroom. He has in-depth conversations with himself or an imaginary friend. Walking by the bathroom one day, I heard him say, “Would you like to see what a penis looks like?” Dazed, I continued down the hall, wondering what I’d created.

My daughter recently turned two. When I get out of therapy in another year or so, I might try to train her. Or maybe I’ll just invest in Huggies—Extra, Extra Large.

Jackie Papandrew

“Why do I need to learn potty training? Is it something I’ll use later in life? Will it help me get into a good college? Do chicks dig guys who are potty trained?”

Reprinted by permission of Randy Glasbergen. © 2002.

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