Last summer, my husband and I decided that it was time to venture into uncharted (for us) parenting territory. More than a year later, I can safely say that we still haven’t tackled anything quite as frustrating, harrowing or infuriating as this. Parents who have been there probably already know what I’m talking about. Those of you who aren’t parents yet are probably wondering what could possibly be worse than the act of giving birth.
My friends, I am talking about potty training, AKA the worst thing in the world. Now that my daughter has been potty trained for about a year, I can reflect on my experience and laugh; but while it was happening, I wanted to break everything and throw myself in front of a bus on a nightly basis. Here’s how it went down.
In the beginning, she was pretty uninterested in the whole peeing in the toilet thing altogether. We tried several different methods, like being enthusiastic with potty dances and songs (nothing like a dance party on a Saturday night to try and get your kid to poop), telling her about all of the cool people who use the toilet (Iron Man. Rapunzel. Dinosaurs! Cats! That jaguar you saw at the zoo!!! THEY ALL PEE IN THE POTTY!) and leading by example.
Nothing worked, and it was all pretty frustrating; but after several weeks, she finally got it. Peeing on the potty clicked, as parents who have gone through the worst thing in the world before you assure you that it will. I figured that once she got peeing down, pooping would be a breeze. Riiiiiiiight …
It all began one night after she’d been in bed for a while. We were sitting on the couch watching a movie when we heard wailing coming from her bedroom. We opened the door to see that our little daughter had removed her pajamas, peeled off her Pull-Up ... and had taken a big dump right on the floor of her bedroom. It was all over her hands, the carpet, and there was even some on the wall. We all stood there staring at each other; and finally she cried, "LOOK WHAT HAPPEN!" while waving her finger at it. Thanks, kid. LIKE WE CAN’T SEE IT AND ALSO SMELL IT. One incident would have been bad enough, but oh, no. No, no, no. It was not just the one incident. It was not even two incidences. It happened EVERY NIGHT FOR ALMOST A MONTH.
It evolved past her just taking the Pull-Up off and doing her business on the floor. She eventually began to understand that her poop needed to go in the potty, so she decided to take matters into her own hands.
We were sitting on the couch again after putting her down for the night when we heard the sound of her bedroom door creaking open and two stealthy feet shuffling down the hallway. I got up to see what was going on and spotted my daughter hunched over the toilet. It wasn’t until she turned around to face me that I realized what she had done. When she saw me, she outstretched her hands (which were brown) and proudly declared, "Look, Mama! I put my poop in the potty!"
Night after night, variations of this ritual continued. She’d either poop on the floor and wail or creep out of the bedroom with crap-covered hands. Clean the kid, clean the carpet, clean the door handle, pour bleach on all the things, burn the apartment, perform the cleansing ritual, I need an old priest and a young priest, yadda yadda yadda. The whole time this was going on, there was a sharknado of rage rampaging around in my head, but I kept calm on the surface so as not to traumatize my daughter. They always tell you the last thing that you want to do while potty training is frighten your children, or else they will NEVER, EVER POOP IN THE POTTY, EVER. Welcome to Harvard, HERE’S YOUR PULL-UP.
My husband and I were careful to clearly express our displeasure without shaming her. We’d say things like:
—"I am very disappointed that you took your Pull-Up off again, even after we told you not to. You need to come and tell us if you poop, and we will help you take it off."
—"I really wish you had sat on the potty and pooped instead of using your floor as a toilet."
What I really wanted to say, though, was more along the lines of:
—"DUDE. CRAP IN THE TOILET. IN THE TOILET. THE TOILET. CRAP IN IT. CRAP.IN.THE.TOILET!!!!!!!!!!!"
—"I’M GOING TO STAPLE THAT PULL-UP TO YOUR ASS."
—"IF YOU TOUCH ME, I WILL THROW UP. OH GOD, SHE TOUCHED M-"
—"YOUR BEDROOM SMELLS LIKE A ZOO THAT IS ALSO FULL OF DEAD THINGS."
As I said, this continued for a month. Not exaggerating. One entire month. I was on the brink of a nervous or psychotic breakdown. My daughter finally stopped pooping on the floor and began pooping in the toilet, and all was right in the world again. I wish I could tell you what turned the horrible brown tide, but there was honestly no turning point and no magic secret. It was like one day she was just done crapping on the floor. Out with the crap, in with the no crap. Or something.
So parents, never fear. As they say, it gets better. But in the meantime, pour yourself some vodka and settle in because you’re gonna need it.
Natalie Green is a Chicago girl living in Chattanooga with her husband and their 3-year-old daughter. When she’s not working full time outside of the home, she enjoys reading, writing, singing, zombies and running. From zombies. And also beer. You can stalk her blog, Mommy Boots, or follow her on Twitter @mommyboots; or you can email her directly at email@example.com. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
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