Welcome, Mamma Crew, to another chaotic, exciting, but always beautiful day of an older mom like you!
So, my least favorite thing about the toddler years was teaching my kids potty training. I didn’t like that. Why? I don’t know… Because I didn’t particularly enjoy changing diapers, especially as they got heavier and heavier when the kids started eating normal food. And boy, there were stinky ones in there! But it’s just… I don’t know! It seems so daunting to me that I approached it like a marine going to battle. I was going to be ready! So, rather than asking anyone for help, I over-thought it. Go figure, right? So, what did I do?
The first thing I did was I went out there and found a book because that’s just the way I did everything. I do everything in my life. I turn to books. I found this book called “The No-Cry Potty Training Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Child Say Good-Bye to Diapers.” And I consumed it! I read cover to cover several times before I was ready to go and buy my supplies.
I got the girls’ pull-ups. Not just any pull-ups. Princess pull-ups. Pull-ups with all these kinds of little designs, to make them want to wear the pull-ups. Want to give up the diapers. Put on their big girl panties. And they loved them! They didn’t fight the transition from diapers to pull-ups. Not a problem. Easy peasy!
I got them a book. A book that had Elmo on the cover because, well, Elmo was all the rage back then. It’s called “P is for Potty.” And every time they sat on the potty, I read, “P is for Potty” to them. Which invariably meant that they spent a lot of time on the potty because they really enjoyed the book. For some reason, they were not bored hearing it for the fifty bazillion times in one day. I, however, got to the point where I knew it by memory and was just looking at the pages, no longer actually reading it.
But that kind of didn’t work very well because honestly, I would forget to take them to the potty as often as I should. This was before we had Apple watches, and Apple phones, and so on and so on. So, I got “Potty Time: The Original Potty Watch,” which is water-resistant. It’s a toilet training aid, and it sets automatic timers with music for gentle reminders. The kids ignored the watch, but it really helped me because any time I heard it, I was like, “Okay. Let’s try to go potty.”
It kept them from having accidents in their pull-ups. Our goal was always to have a dry pull-up all day. And that really helped me, but it wasn’t incentivizing the girls.
So, I got an incentives chart. It’s been discontinued now, but there’s one called “The Princess Potty Training Gift Set” with a potty book, potty chart, star magnets, and a reward crown for toddler girls. And I’m sure you can find one for boys. That worked amazingly for Emmi! You can check out our blog, and you can see the picture of herself the first time she ever told me that she needs to go poop in the toilet. We got it all taken care of, and she was so proud! So was I. I was so proud of her! She really came around quickly. I mean, she was so fast. She was so easy when it came to potty training. She was a superstar pupil!
Of all the things that I purchased to potty train my girls, I highly recommend the “NextStep2” toilet seat with a built-in potty training seat. Because it’s just a regular toilet seat with this little lid that you pull down, and then you push it back up. It’s not something that you have to take on and off. That was a real hassle for me. I didn’t like that. I’m a germaphobe, and that just really grosses me out. So, that just didn’t work. But this little thing, you just pull it up and down, and it’s just really nice and easy. It’s available for long toilet seats and comes for rounded ones, too. Eventually, it also made it possible for the girls to go to the bathroom very easily, independently, anywhere in the house. We put them in all of our bathrooms. They were very confident, comfortable doing it by themselves
The other thing I would recommend is the “Dreambaby Step Stool” for toddlers and kids. In the beginning, they used it with the toilet seat because, well, my girls were very, very small. They’re very petite. They definitely take after my maternal grandmother, who I believe was 5’2, and she was just always very small. My girls are like that. They were wearing first-year clothing when they were two and a half. It wasn’t just that they were preemies. We have a family history of petite women and big-boned women in our family. So, they used the stool for the toilet seat, and then they would just pull it over to the sink to wash their hands. It allowed them to have a lot of independence, which was really nice.
So here, after reading my book, I thought I knew what to expect in the toddler years during the potty training season of our lives, right? I had all the tools. It wasn’t going to be so hard. And as I said, Emmi was so easy! So was Dora, for that matter, who at that time I would have for summers. I mean, that girl, one bag of pull-ups, and she was done. Actually, Emmi was the one that ended up using them because Dora was done so quickly!
And then there was Andy. She refused. She refused to be potty trained. She made no bones about the fact that she had no reason to stress out about this. I mean, after all, wearing a diaper was fine. Mom was the one that had to go and find her, and mom was the one that had to clean her bottom and take off her diaper and throw it away. She was good with that! She could just keep it going. It was not a big deal! And that chart? Yeah, that didn’t do anything for her.
She was like, “Chart smart. I have a lot of toys. I don’t need to get another toy. I’m good with this. And it’s far more fun when mom has to chase me around the house to change my diapers. Why do I have to go to the toilet? Pull down this thing! (The girl is also a germaphobe like her mother). I don’t wanna touch the toilet seat! Me? With my hands? I don’t think so. What are you thinking, lady?”
Andy was in total denial. Absolute denial. So here, the following year, they’re going to be four, and they’re supposed to be going to preschool, but preschool won’t take them unless they’re potty trained. I really wanted them to go to preschool because I wanted them to be around other kids. It wasn’t that I wanted them to learn anything. I wanted them to play. That’s what I wanted for my preschoolers—playtime. And I found a great school that believed in play too.
But darn it, the girl would not budge! She wouldn’t do it. We tried cajoling her. We tried bribing. We tried to look at her sternly. I tried talking to her with the mom voice. Nah! That didn’t work. She was not interested. She looked at me and laughed. She wasn’t laughing with me—she was laughing at me!
So, of course, I turned to handy-dandy Amazon. Amazon was not as big then as it is today, but it still had many books to share with me. And, of course, I consumed book after book on potty training a challenging child. And at one point, I even broke down, and I asked my mother’s advice. That was a disaster. Her advice was not very good. I wasn’t going to spank my child to get them to go potty.
So, what to do? I didn’t really have girlfriends, and this is where the challenge of being an older mom comes in, that still remembered potty training, right? My girlfriends had their kids’ ten, fifteen years before me. And they were like, “Ahhh. Sorry, dude. I just don’t remember!”
Or they would say, “It was so easy!”
I didn’t know whether to believe them or to think, well, everybody’s child must be an Emmi, because everybody had such an easy time. And I tried asking some of the younger moms who had children my age, but they looked at me like, “You’re an old lady. Figure it out.”
They were like, “You’re a college professor.”
I don’t have a Ph.D. on how to potty train a child! I have a Ph.D. in public health, okay? I have no idea how to deal with this!
They were like, “But you have faced many challenging situations.”
Yes, I have. But I’m not asking you about my professional background. I’m asking you for some tips, some advice. They wouldn’t go there. They wouldn’t do it. They just kept pointing out my degrees. Because you know, having a Ph.D. in public health is so helpful in convincing your child to potty train. And that Masters in Sociology? Yeah, it came in so handy. I could have wiped her bottom with my degrees, and she would not have cared. Or maybe she would have because it would have been a little rough on her bottom.
But no one was helpful. I remember sitting down and crying, not because I couldn’t figure out how to potty train my child but just because I felt so lonely. I’m not a crier, but it felt so lonely. I didn’t know any other older moms, and the internet wasn’t what it is today. It wasn’t like I could just search and find tons of blogs. I didn’t even know what a podcast was. I had no place to turn. And if Facebook was around, I didn’t know about it. So, I had no place to turn. I didn’t know what to do. I was super frustrated, and I knew I had this hard deadline. My child had to be potty trained before going on to preschool.
Since I couldn’t find any help, I was looking at the very real possibility that my child would not start preschool. I would have to make the decision of, “Do I send one kid, and I don’t send the other? What do I do here?”
I was going to have to pay for both: preschool and daycare. And at that point in our marriage, we couldn’t afford to do both. We had to choose one. So, my husband and I kept going and looking at the preschool and looking at the preschool. And all of a sudden, I see the playground. It’s not that I haven’t seen it before. It’s that a light bulb went on. And I was like, “Okay. I know what we’re going to do.”
So, the weekend comes, and we take both girls to the preschool. And we say, “Look at this school. This is going to be your new school.”
And where we thought we were going to start them, we actually didn’t start them there, was this very classical brick building. I now realize it must have been intimidating for the girls. They were not that excited until we turned the corner and they saw the playground. It’s this magnificent playground with all this really cool stuff. And I unbuckled Emmi, and I said to her, “Okay. Go play with daddy!”
And Andy says to me, “I wanna go too!”
I said, “I’m so sorry. But you know that the playground is only for big girls. You’re not a big girl. Your Mama’s baby.”
She’s like, “No. I’m not a baby!”
“Yes, you are! Look, you are wearing baby dipeys. And baby’s can’t be on the playground.”
And she’s like, “Mama, I can! I can!”
“Nooo! Only big girls that wear pull-ups and potty trained can go to the playground.” I said, “Your sister is not even wearing a pull-up anymore. She’s wearing panties.”
“I can wear a panty.”
“You think so? I don’t think so. I think you’re still my baby. I wouldn’t want you to get hurt. I couldn’t do that to you. You’re just my little baby.”
“No, mom! I can do it! Put on some pull-ups!”
I said, “Well, tell you what. We’ll see what happens this week. If you can keep up the pull-up dry for the day, then next weekend we will come, and you can try the big girl playground.”
She was like, “No, mom! Now. Now!”
“No. I’m afraid not… See, I know she’s a big girl. I know she can handle it. She’s wearing panties.”
Guess what Andy did the next week? Magically, the moment we got home, she no longer wanted to wear her dipeys. She wanted the pull-ups. And the entire week, the entire week, okay?! She kept the pull-up dry! Meaning she had been capable of doing this for quite a long time! She kept them dry. And come the weekend, guess what?
“Mommy. Let’s go to the playground. I’m a big girl now.”
So, we took them to the playground. We let Andy get off, and she had a blast. Then when she came back to the car, I said, “Well. This was just to give you a little taste. So you could feel what it’s like to be a big girl. But we can’t come back until you wear panties, and you keep your panties dry.”
Miracle of miracles! Hallelujah! Guess what happened that week? Andy wore panties and didn’t have a single mistake. And we never looked back. Never looked back.
Now, here’s the interesting thing. Andy potty trained herself in those two weeks. Not just during the day but at night. She never had an accident at night either. Emmi continued to have accidents for a few years at night, but not Andy. Andy never, ever, ever had a single accident! Which just goes to prove how stubborn that girl can be. She is so much like me, it’s amazing!
So, we went to a lot of big girl parks from there and out because Andy was a big girl. They were both big girls. They wore their panties. They had no accidents during the day, and we started preschool that year without a problem.
Now, I always put in an extra set of clothes in their backpacks, an extra set of panties. There was only one accident, and it was when one of the kids laughed too hard, and I’m not going to say which kid because I don’t want to embarrass someone. But it was only that one time. Other than that, they sometimes change because they got dirty, got in the mud, or they painted on themselves. Whatever the case, it might have been, but it had to do with the play, not to do with potty training issues. We really had an easy time with them after Andy decided to cooperate. Still, it took us a while to get to that cooperation.
So, the toddler years, you got to love them! They are so much fun! But really, how did you enjoy the toddler years when you’re faced with these little challenges that can seem so daunting? You start meeting up with those hard deadlines like having your kid potty trained to go to preschool?
I’m going to tell you what. Have faith that you can handle the situation. The wonderful thing is that there are so many social media options today where you can meet older moms. Definitely check out the Mamma Crew. It’s a group of great ladies. We’re always willing to help one another and support one another through our older moms’ journey.
But be confident in yourself. Be confident that you can handle the challenge, whatever the challenge might be. Whatever your kids might throw at you, and they do get interesting in the toddler years.
Understand that kids move at different paces. You know, as it turns out, Emmi’s potty could handle being potty trained really quickly during the day, but she didn’t have as much control over her bladder at night. On the other hand, Andy was physically ready to make that move, but she wasn’t psychologically ready to make it. She needed a little push. So, I had to get her there. Know that they’re different. Accept that they’re different and that what worked with one child may not work with the other.
And be creative. Don’t forget to be creative. Innovate. Know that an idea that worked for one child could work with the other child if you just tweak it a little bit. For example, one thing that we’re going to be talking about is how picky of eaters my kids were. It was an incredible challenge during those years for me, and I had to learn to tweak to get them to eat. But we’re going to talk about that in another episode. In any case, just a little tweaking goes a long way. And don’t forget, if you need additional support, hit up the Mamma Crew on Facebook.
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