Whiz Kid

I have spent the last four years of my life potty-training people. Potty-training girls, potty-training boys, night-training, re-training, you name it. Few breaks. No vacations (unless you count childbirth, which I can tell you is a terrible way to get a reprieve from the drudgery of potty training). Constantly reminding, asking, changing Pull-Ups, shuttling a probably-too-late child at warp speed to the nearest toilet.

Potty training boys, it seems, is particularly hard for most moms. First, there’s the fact that we don’t have the necessary equipment to demonstrate proper peeing form. And, more importantly, they’re BOYS. Why take the time out of our days, they reason, to use a toilet when we can play trains in the comfort and convenience of warm, wet Pull-Ups? And James, who wails, brokenhearted, for more train time when I suggest a lunch break after hours and hours of train time, might be the toughest potty-training case yet.

When we broached the subject of potty training last year, James was more than happy to wear the colorful Diego Pull-Ups we bought for him. (Diego, as it happens, is only slightly less awesome than trains.) But as much as he loved his “big boy pants,” James did not love the idea of sitting on a toilet with his bare bottom. Once he was bribed and praised into some semblance of acquiescence, it seemed like we were almost in business. Now, if we could only get him to pee in the potty.

Here’s how that went:

Me (in a super-excited imitation of those manic people on children’s shows): “James, let’s put some PEE in your POTTY!”


Me (doing best impression of pee going into a toilet): “Sssssssssssssssssss”

James: “Pssssssssssst! Go ‘way, kitty!!”

Me (pulling up James’ Diego pants): “OK, James, we’ll try again later.”

James: “Mommmmmyyy! I SO SOAKED!”

And then, of course, there was the total evacuation strike. James was totally against waste elimination of either kind, but he was especially determined never to poop. And indeed, he went days and days without pooping. But inevitably, I’d be doing the dinner dishes after the kids were supposedly asleep, only to hear what sounded like a calf being slaughtered upstairs.

“I so pooped, Mommy!” James would lament, all sweaty and bug-eyed, thrusting faintly stinky hands in my face for (totally unneeded) emphasis. On legs as stiff as a new fawn’s, he’d totter into the bathroom for a change and a totally-beside-the-point half-hour on the potty.

But over the past six months, James’ Pull-Ups have been drier and drier, and many of his poops have made it into the toilet. With his big sister’s preschool graduation approaching, and James eager to join her in school while they’re still in the same class, I decided that spring break would be the week it would all happen.

A personalized cup was bought. A backpack was ordered online. We talked about classroom rules and school clothes and who he’d see on the playground. And on Friday afternoon, we pulled on a pair of tractor-themed underwear James purchased himself.

The poor tractor undies were thoroughly irrigated about 20 minutes later. Their package-mates hastily met a similar fate. James said adios to the green Diego undies. And the orange ones. And the blue ones.

There was much washing of undies and baking-powdering of wet spots on the floors. Potty-using did occur, but just as often, we could expect to hear Maddux wail, “Mommeeee, there’s pee all over the floor near the traiiiiiin taaaaable!”

Every 20 minutes, we’d have this discussion.

Me: “James, it’s time to go potty!”

James: “NOOOOO, Mommy! I playing (diggers/trains/dump trucks)!”

Me: “Let’s pee in the potty and then you can play some more.”

James: “NO MOMMEEE!! I stay DRY! (Slight pause) Mommy, I so peed!”

But finally, on Sunday afternoon, something clicked. Following his afternoon nap, James spent the entire evening dry. I was giddy with joy. On Monday, he stayed dry all morning. I fairly vibrated with pride as I put him down for his nap. After naptime, he ran to the potty himself and exclusively used the toilet — somebody pinch me! — until bedtime. Could it be that he was finally potty trained?

Alas, that was not to be. He had four slips the next day and one today. However, not one of those has been No. 2 and for that I am profoundly grateful. Because, frankly, cleaning a lump of doody the size and shape of a softball out of my darling child’s cloth underwear is not my idea of a fun time.

And this evening, James topped all his previous accomplishments by finally working up the courage (and coordination) to take a whiz standing up. And not a drop missed the toilet! (Grown men everywhere, take heed. IT CAN BE DONE!)

With another week and a bit left in our spring break, I think I can safely say James will actually make it to preschool this school year. It is the dawn of a glorious new era! James has already picked out all the toys he plans on using and what he plans to eat at snack time. Maddux, in turn, has taken it upon herself to tell James that he will not be wearing a tunic like hers, but pants. (I suppose, given that he thinks he will be in her ballet club as well, her specificity may be justified.)

Most importantly, though, I now have only one kid in diapers. And he’s an almost-18-month-old who yells at me while he’s pooping. There is a very real possibility that Thomas will be ready to potty train this summer. Which means one thing: After what will be five solid (and liquid) years of diapers as of May 6, Mama is getting a break!

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