We Survived Potty Training Prison…But the Learning Process Carries On…

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Well, folks. We did it. We took the plunge. We started potty training our almost 23-month old, and we’ve lived to tell about it. This week has been both the most tiresome and yet the most rewarding week of my parenting thus far, and as I reflect on all we have learned, I wanted a place to write it all out. So you’ll get an up-close and personal look at our week of Potty Training Boot Camp (or Prison, as I affectionately refer to it). If potty training your toddler is anywhere in your near future, maybe you’ll learn some things to do (or most likely not do) along the way…

Disclaimer- Please excuse all the “potty” language. There’s really no way around it, and after a week of this, I honestly don’t even notice I’m saying it now…

Before:

-Fairley was “showing signs of readiness.” She is very communicative, she would sometimes tell me immediately after she went in her diaper and want to be changed immediately, etc.

-She loved the idea of big girl panties. So much so, that when I purchased them in Texas preparing for potty training upon our return to NY, she freaked out and wanted to return home instantly to start wearing them.

-We prayed. We tried to look at the “signs,” but I really asked that God would lead me and help me to back off if this was not in Fairley’s (or our family’s) best interest. I honestly didn’t want to deal with this until after we’ve had this next baby and “settled” back into life again, but once I saw these signs, and remembered the advice a friend had once given me about 22 months being the perfect time to train, I decided I would at least think about it. The more we thought and prayed about it, the more sense it made to start as soon as we returned from Texas. (Which was actually a week later than we had planned and gave me my first lesson in flexibility and trusting the Lord’s plan since I had already cleared my schedule for three days and didn’t want to have to readjust the whole plan…but I did.)

-I reached out to a friend who had recommended the Potty Training in 3 Days method and sought out all of her advice about the whole experience (so some of the things I mention here can be credited to Becky Mason).

-I made all of the preparations, as recommended by this method, and talked it all up with Fairley. By the time we got back to NY, we were all ready to just get this whole thing going (and over with).

-I also just tried to “prep” my apartment to minimize cleanups (which will happen often during your three-day adventure.) For example, I put away all rugs (because we have hard wood and that seemed easier to clean), I covered the one rug I didn’t want to roll up with a vinyl tablecloth, I put up all dresses that Fairley would want to play dress-up in (because I couldn’t monitor her bathroom activity if she was all covered up), I had cleaners and rags ready in every room, and I encouraged Fairley to stay off the furniture when possible.

During:

-So we basically followed the method as prescribed, without pushing the whole nap time and nighttime thing. I totally get the author’s idea to go ahead and do it all at once, but we still have Fairley in her crib (not converted to a toddler bed yet) because we want her contained for awhile as she will be sharing her room with a new baby brother soon. This poses a problem to the whole “they should be able to get up and use the restroom as needed” thing. Also, she also was waking up pretty wet every after every nap and in the morning, so we just didn’t feel she was ready for this part yet. (Since then, we have had some victories with her wanting to go down for nap in her “big girl panties,” so we bit the bullet and just let her do it. It’s fun to let her lead and feel in control of some aspects of her life. So far, she’s woken up dry from her nap for a couple of days. And at night, she’ll sometimes call us to take her to the potty, too. And she’s great about “holding it” in the morning until we come get her to go. These are all great signs, so I’m sure we’ll do nighttime training as she seems ready.)

-An extra resource we used was this book:

It just seemed to be a great introduction, and it really got Fairley excited, so I recommend it.

-I think my greatest asset in this whole process (besides a loving God and friends who prayed for me), was my husband, by far. I feel like this week has encouraged the most amount of teamwork required in our parenting. Freeman read the materials, supported me as I bought silly things like the book above (and only slightly teased me about the fact that he received an email saying, “Your shipment of Big Girl Panties are on their way!!”), and he jumped right in and helped in this whole process. (He works from home two days a week, and any time he was available, he was giving “pop quizzes” on dryness, offering rewards, running her to the potty, helping clean up, giving me a break so I could do something like wash dishes, etc. etc. etc. I could go on and on, really, about how much Freeman was a team player in this whole thing. I am absolutely beyond blessed that he is my husband and father to my kids.

-So what did I learn during this whole thing?

  1. The first thing stems from what I mentioned above – if possible, have support! I know not everyone is lucky enough to have a spouse who works from home, or who can even be there at all during the day/evening, but try to enlist others to help if you can. Just having an hour to run out for a few errands or a doctor’s appointment was a saving grace because it is three. long. days. cooped up inside with a little one attached to your hip. (And you’ll need to run those errands during nap time or when your child is already down for the night unless the help you enlist is around during the PT process and/or knows exactly how you are doing it. The author doesn’t recommend involving lots of adults just for consistency’s sake.) Even if you can’t get outside help, just make sure someone (most likely your spouse) just reads up on and understands the whole process. I’ll be honest, it seems a little crazy until you do it. But it is extremely helpful to have someone who understands the whole point of it all and can just be a support for you.
  2. I am sooooo thankful for the prayers of friends and family during this time. I seriously felt like God answered our prayers to provide me with love, patience, and grace during this process. (It was so beyond myself that it was evident that it was God working in me.) What I didn’t anticipate and pray for, however, was endurance beyond my daily tasks and patience with others than my sweet girl (namely, my sweet husband). At night, I was so exhausted (and sinful) that I would completely let down my guard with Freeman, acting in a super selfish way, not controlling my tongue, not being thankful for all he had done that day and not recognizing that he was tired, too, etc. So my advice is to pray against this if you use this method. You WILL be tired at night. It’s inevitable. But we shouldn’t use that as license to not love our husbands (or friends or family) well.
  3. Ok, so here is my favorite thing I learned through this whole process – three days of  intentional (no-chore, no phone, no email, minimal TV) time with my sweet girl was priceless. I’ll be honest, I dreaded this aspect of this whole process a little. Selfish, I know, but I couldn’t imagine giving ALL of my time to playing all day long. (It energizes me to keep the house picked up, to do the dishes, to keep up with my email, etc., and it entertains me to check Instagram throughout the day, etc. I couldn’t imagine doing none of this because I had to give Fairley completely undivided attention for three days straight.) But I’ll tell you what – these three days have taught me that my apartment won’t crumble if it doesn’t get it’s weekly dusting. Dishes will get done, eventually. Instagram is still super fun to check, but can happen during nap time. And most importantly, Fairley deserves some undivided attention, and I’m hoping to give her as much as possible over these next two months because come on or around March 12, I will have my hands full and my attention definitely divided. I’m so grateful that we had these few days to connect, and I’m looking forward to more intentional playtime in the future.

After:

-So we’ve survived the “teaching” part, but what does life look like now? I’ll tell you – it looks like a mama who takes thirty minutes to prep our bags for our outings, complete with an emergency pull up (author doesn’t recommend this), a whole new change of clothes, and a bag full of “rewards.” It also constitutes lots of prayers that Fairley will go potty before we leave the apartment because I don’t know what I’ll do if she tells me she has to go while we’re on the subway. Or in any other place that does not have access to a public restroom. (And we’ve only left the house once, so far, people.)

-I’m learning that the “three-day” thing does well to teach them. Fairley truly understands the concept of going peepee and poopy in the potty, but it doesn’t keep her from being an almost-two-year old who will have accidents, I’m sure. I’m just preparing myself that this is inevitable, praying for continued patience as we continue on this journey, and thanking God that we are working on this during a season that doesn’t beg for us to be outside often or for extended amounts of time. I’m praying that by the time J.D. arrives and we re-enter society after the early newborn weeks, that Fairley will be more proficient in this whole potty training thing.

In conclusion, I’m definitely glad we did this, but I’m understanding that changing less diapers doesn’t make life “easier.” Potty training just opens up the door to more anxieties and reasons to rely on God. I’m guessing that’s a good thing, though, so I’m thanking him for his help with the new challenges that this new era brings and asking for his grace to deal with each day (or each accident) as it comes…

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