Potty training in 3 days? Seriously? Have your child move from the diapers he’s been wearing for two or three years to underwear in just three days? And then what? Will there be accidents? Well some programs GUARANTEE no accidents after this super speedy technique. Amazing!
I think only parents who have been through potty training will know how ridiculous this all is. I’m not saying that it hasn’t happened. It’s actually happened to people I know very well. Some kids will just decide they want to throw out their diapers and trade them in for big boy pants, and that’s that! Some parents will give potty training a shot, fail, then try again a few months later and succeed in “just” three days. Some will have accidents, and some, believe it or not, won’t. But just because it happens to some kids does not mean you can guarantee a specific potty training program to work on all of them! These promises that are thrown at us by supposed experts will just make an already difficult task, or rather, journey, all the more difficult. It will make you feel like a failure, and worse, it will make your child feel like a failure.
And I just love the rules of potty training. You should never start before the age of 2, and you should ONLY start when your child is ready, and you know you can’t get them in school at the age of 3 unless they’re perfectly potty trained, so they’d better be ready before then. And if they’re not, you either force it on them, which you’re not supposed to do, or have them wait at home for another year, and deprive them of the opportunity to go to a place where they can learn, socialize, and grow, just because they weren’t ready.
The other day I received the minutes of the last Parents’ Representatives Meeting of the school that my son goes to. Apparently during the meeting there were some complaints about the fact that there were too many “younger kids” who still needed diapers, and that this was creating a workload that was too big for just two teachers per class. Fine, that’s understandable. Running back and forth to the bathroom to change the diapers of 10 or so kids can be too much, although today I learned there are only two in diapers, but whatever. The good thing was that the people in charge said they would look into this problem and either hire someone to take care of the diaper changing problem or revise the way the class is made up to reduce the workload. What got to me though was that they had to throw that “school policy” at us in there. They couldn’t just leave it at that, no, they had to remind us that it is school policy that kids should be at least 3 years of age and potty trained. So why did you accept them into the program in the first place? If they are not old enough or mature enough, why did you open your doors for them and then make their parents feel bad about it? You just can’t do that! Before school starts, we get to fill out an endless application that goes into detail about who our child is, what he eats, what he does during the day, what he is capable and incapable of, whether or not he has siblings, allergies, illnesses, physical limitations, and the list goes on. It took me about 5 days to fill out my son’s application and I was a little scared that based on the information I gave the school, that they might not accept him for this year. But they did. And once that’s done, you can’t come and act surprised if my son refused to go down the slide at the playground for example, because I already told you that he hates the playground, and the slide even more so. That’s it. I told you about him, and you let him in. If the school policy says that children have to go down the slide when they’re in the playground, well that’s just not my problem anymore, and I don’t appreciate you trying to make me feel bad about it.
Potty training isn’t an issue for us anymore, but it was, and for a very long time. When it comes to the parenting challenges we have been faced with, this one was by far the worst for us. Luca was 2 years and 10 months old when, to our surprise, he was accepted into a school we had applied to literally just days before the first day. The story of why that is is a long one I won’t go into. He wasn’t potty trained then although we had been trying for a few months unsuccessfully. But now it was time for school, and that meant he had to be potty trained within a few days. I had made it clear to the school that he was still in diapers, but they reassured me that I could easily get him out of them in a few days, and that if I needed a few more, then that would be fine. “How nice”, I thought. “Of course I can do this! I’ll give myself a week! That should be enough! I’m smart, I’ve read books, I know how to talk my child into doing things. This will be a cinch.”
Well guess what. Turns out potty training success has nothing to do with how smart you are or how many books you’ve read. It’s all about your child, and whether or not he or she is ready. That’s it. I tried talking to him, letting him run around naked, buying him super cool underwear, rewarding him with gifts and treats. I bought him a red potty, a blue potty, a singing potty, and a potty for every Disney character he loves. And then school started. For months he either held it in all day and then had an accident in the car on our way home, or just wet himself at school, which seemed to upset the teachers. My feelings of failure were made worse by the disappointed looks on their faces when I picked him up, followed by the lectures and the blame: “We’re trying to work with him here, but you have to help us out at home”. That unfortunately only made me go harder on my little boy who clearly wasn’t ready. I would get angry, I would yell, and I would cry when I was finally alone after having cleaned up a big, ugly mess. It was depressing for both of us. And it dragged on for a year. That’s right, a year! Not three days, not three weeks, not three months either, but a year. And we’re not entirely there yet.
For a while I was really worried about why Luca was resisting the process with such stubborn determination. After I spent a lot of time and energy blaming myself, I started seriously considering the fact that there might be something wrong with him. And then it hit me. I don’t know why I hadn’t been looking at the whole picture. It was only after I spoke to our pediatrician that I started understanding why this had been such a difficult process. Not only is Luca a highly sensitive child and incredibly aware of and affected by what goes on around him, but he was also put in school before he was three, with only a few days of moral preparation; the school was a French school, French being a language he didn’t understand; his father moved away for work a month after that; we followed him four months later, leaving our home and our families and everything familiar to him; and one month later, we had a baby. Not only did my highly sensitive son have to go through all that in such a short period of time, but I had to go and force him out of his diaper with very little consideration to whether or not he was ready, because the school required it.
When I think back to the beginning of this whole ordeal, it makes me sad that I handled things the way I did. But then again, what was I supposed to do? My only other option would have been to make my son wait for another year before going to school. That was it. He could read at the age of three, but of course that didn’t matter to the school because he refused to tell me he needed to go to the toilet on time. It’s only right, because according to school policy, a child has to be potty trained by the age of three, regardless of what he is capable of, and regardless of his readiness. This educational institution which is largely responsible for nurturing our little ones and helping them to develop into physically and psychologically healthy people, is willing to have a child miss out on year’s worth of exposure to structured intellectual stimulation and social play with other children their age because they still wet their pants occasionally. That just doesn’t make any sense to me.
And now, a year later, we still have little accidents occasionally, we still use pull-ups at night, we still struggle to pull him away from the fun he’s having to go to the bathroom, and that’s all fine. We don’t sweat it anymore because he’s a happy, healthy, smart little boy, and we’ve never seen or heard of a teenager who still wears diapers. So it’ll just have to happen when it happens. I just wish our schools could also find a way to let it go, for our children’s sake.
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