“Batman or Superman?”
“NOOOOOOOO!” My three-year-old runs out of the room screaming, as if he’s a comic book villain and I’ve just threatened to unleash the Justice League on him.
But that’s silly. He’s not a Bad Guy (except at bedtime) and I’d clearly be sending Firestorm after him at this point if I had my choice of superheroes on speed dial.
I chase him and hold up the two pairs of underwear in front of him again. “Batman or Superman?” I repeat, this time through gritted teeth. I read somewhere that parents are supposed to give kids a choice so that they feel more in control of their lives.
These same experts are silent about what to do when a kid wants ALL of the control.
“I HATE UNDERWEAR! I WANT A DIAPER!”
“But you love superheroes,” I remind him, trying to keep the desperation out of my voice. If mass marketing to children can’t save this moment, then what’s it good for?
My dear son grabs both the Batman and Superman underwear out of my hands, runs to the kitchen, and throws them into the garbage can. “I wear diapers,” he says calmly, looking me in the eye.
I really wish I could say that this was Day 1 of our potty training adventure, but this is probably more like Day 54. Okay, okay, Day 94. Trust me, I’ve been through all of the tactics. When we started this adventure, my husband and I were armed with tricks and positive thinking.
1. Daniel Tiger
I promise that I’m not so naïve that I assumed that my two kids would be exactly alike and that what worked for one child would automatically work for the next. But still, it doesn’t hurt to try, right?
When my daughter was 20 months, she watched an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood that was dedicated to potty training. After it was over, she simply walked to the bathroom and asked to sit on the toilet. I hadn’t even thought about potty training her yet. But hey, why not? So I sat her on the toilet and she went.
It was as easy as that. She was completely trained before she was two and only had a few accidents the whole time. In fact, she was so stress-free in every way that Kyle and I thought we were amazing parents. We became those annoying people who, when others complained about their kids, especially when it came to potty training, we told this story with relish. “Just show the Daniel Tiger potty episode!” we bragged to them. “Works like a charm!”
I’m sure they wanted to murder us, and it would have been justifiable homicide. The universe, however, has other ways of humbling us that aren’t quite so quick or painless.
“We’re going to watch Daniel Tiger today!” I announced to my son.
“No, I want to watch Ryan’s Toy Review.”
“But honey, there’s something I want you to see. It’s about potty training! Isn’t that exciting?”
“No, I want to see surprise eggs!”
“Yes, but Daniel—”
“Ryan opening eggs! Pleeeeeeeeease?”
YouTube has ruined my child. We never even made it to Daniel Tiger.
2. Shameless Bribery
I remained in a positive mood and continued on to more typical ways of convincing my child to sit on the toilet. This involved going to the store and buying a large variety of gummy bears, worms, frogs, etc.
“If you go potty like a big boy, then you can have some gummy candy!” I exclaimed brightly.
“Okay,” he agreed.
But not only did he refuse to sit on the potty at all, he also became such a stubborn child during this time that I found myself becoming tricked into giving him candy just for acting like a normal human being. Example:
“I want my new socks!” exclaimed my angelic child one morning when I was already running late.
I looked into his sock drawer and thankfully, there was still one more pair of new socks left in the pack. After stuffing them on him quickly, I led him downstairs so he could eat breakfast while I got my daughter up.
But while I was back upstairs, I heard “oh no oh no oh no!” from downstairs. I raced back downstairs (my morning cardio) and saw my son sitting in a puddle of milk. It was all over his pants and yes, his socks.
“I need new socks!” he wailed.
“Okay, I can change your socks, but we don’t have any new ones,” I warned.
“No, I need MY NEW SOCKS!”
“Can’t you just be okay with different socks? Please?” I pleaded. Because everyone knows that three-year-olds are totally reasonable.
Instead of answering he slid to the floor, preparing to launch into full-mode meltdown mode.
“You’re not getting your way,” I said. “I’m prepared to stand here all day until you agree to the socks we have on hand.” I glanced at the clock. We had exactly three minutes before I was supposed to be backing down of the driveway, and somehow he knew this.
“Here, I’ll let you watch some YouTube if you’re a good boy and change socks,” said 2016’s recipient of the Mom Fail of the Year award.
“What about a gummy worm?” I asked in despair.
3. Camping Out
The positivity I’d been feeling was starting to wane a bit at this point, and of course this was exactly the time when daycare noted that he was such a good boy when it came to going potty at school, but if we weren’t doing our part on our end, well, he was going to pick up on the inconsistency.
Right. I was totally trying to sabotage the potty training. That was my evil plan.
Daycare suggested that we just camp out in the bathroom and read to him, play with him, sing to him, etc. and keep feeding him liquids during this time so he would eventually pee on the potty and we could make a big deal out of it.
Miraculously, my son agreed to sit on the potty. For two seconds. “All done!” he announced and started to get off the toilet seat.
“No, honey, you have to try.”
“Errrrrrr,” he grunted theatrically. “Okay, all done!”
“Let’s just sit on the potty for a few more minutes. You can have some juice while you sit.”
He drank juice and I read books to him for an hour. He only tried to escape a dozen times, so this was progress.
“I’m tired, Mama,” he said eventually. “I want to take a nap.”
I should have been on alert at that moment because the kid doesn’t EVER want to sleep, but honestly I was tired of the bathroom at that point too.
“Okay, we can stop for now. Good try,” I said encouragingly.
He hopped off the potty, I put him back into a diaper, and he pooped not two minutes later. I guess I should have been happy that this meant he had the ability to hold it, but at that moment I was completely annoyed.
“Why didn’t you just go on the potty??” I exclaimed.
“I want you to change me.”
This means we’ve reached number four now, which is Underwear is Fun to Wear, and I can tell by our standoff at the garbage can that I’m going to have to move on to tactic number five, only I don’t have one at the moment.
“You really want to throw your underwear away?” I ask wearily.
“Yes. I love my diapers,” he replies.
I sigh. “That doesn’t make me happy.”
“You’re not happy?” He looks at me worriedly.
“No, not if you don’t want to go potty like a big boy.”
In answer, he walks to the bathroom, takes off his pants and diaper, and sits on the potty. And promptly pees. “Are you happy, Mama?”
“YES! I’m so happy right now!”
“Mama’s happy?” he asks again.
Oh, my dear lord, yes.
All day, he goes potty on the toilet and wears underwear without complaint, and each time he asks if I’m happy.
He talks to his grandparents on Skype. “I went potty like a big boy and Mama’s happy,” he proudly reports to them. He tells the cashier at the grocery store: “I made Mama happy.”
With that, I’ve realized that my son (and possibly most toddlers) has a superpower that rivals any superhero’s: the power to push me to the absolute brink of insanity before transforming into the sweetest and most adorable little boy in the world.
And, of course, I fall for it every time. What can I say? It’s my kryptonite.