It is, to date, the most stressful parenting experience I’ve ever experienced (although the geekdaughter’s recent sleep issues came pretty close). In the back of my mind at all times was the thought that I didn’t want to mess it up and end up raising a child with all sorts of hang-ups about toilet use. So I had to do a lot of gritting my teeth and attempting to appear relaxed whilst saying things like “oh dear, didn’t make it to the toilet this time, never mind, it’s only the sofa/carpet/chair/floor/whatever, it will clean up easily!
With the geekdaughter we first started potty training just before her third birthday, not because I thought she was ready, but because we were coming under pressure from her pre-school to train her, and I had somehow convinced myself that she *should* be trained before she was 3. It was a disaster, and the week ended with a very stressed me and a very stressed her agreeing that we’d try again when she felt ready. A couple of months later she asked to try “big girl knickers” again, and things went much smoother that time, with us never going back to pull-ups during the day again (although she wasn’t dry at night for another year).
So I’d resolved second time around, with the geekson, that I would wait until I was sure he was ready before starting off with the potty training. So I have. I’ve waited and waited. When he started pre-school I braced myself, expecting to come under pressure to get him out of nappies. But there’s been no pressure at all – such a change from just a couple of years ago. The geekson’s key worker has been supportive and understanding, happy to take her lead from us. Which is all very well, but what do you do when time goes by and your child is still showing no signs of being ready to potty train?
As the geekson is now three-and-a-half the geekdaddy and I decided we should probably start at least teaching him what the toilet is for. And we came up with a genius plan – given how much he loves anything with four wheels we bought a bumper box of small toy cars and promised him one car for every time he produced something on the toilet. (Note: One advantage of potty training both kids at the age of three is that they’ve both started straight away on the toilet, and we’ve ended up not using the potty at all. So there’s been no need to get them used to the potty and then transition them to the toilet – much easier all round).
So, the whole cars thing. It worked. Really well. Rather too well in fact. The geekson got the idea really quickly, and spent the first few days producing something pretty much every time we prompted him, and then being delighted to receive a new car for his efforts. But then we started noticing something – instead of asking to use the toilet he was asking us if he could get another car. And he would sit on the toilet, produce a very small wee, claim his car and then want to go back for another car 10 or 15 minutes later! So we worked through the box of cars rather quickly, and then had to change our approach slightly.
Keeping the cars theme going, I stocked up on Huggies Pull-Ups which have pictures of Lightening McQueen on the front. They also have a very handy front panel with a little picture on which disappears as soon as any wee hits the pull-up, so you can tell right away if there have been any little accidents. Really simple and easy for the geekson to understand, plus he is such a “Cars” fan he tries really hard to keep the logo visible. I had some conversations with the Huggies PR team well over a year ago about potty training – they sent me a couple of packs of these Pull-Ups to try, and I can’t believe how long it’s taken to get around to using them! In fact the ones they sent are still too large for the geekson, but I’ve been buying the ones that do fit in bulk from my local supermarket. Our latest incentive for the geekson is that if the picture is still on the front of his Pull-Up by the end of the day he will get a treat. So far he’s managed this a handful of times, but it’s still more “miss” than “hit”.
We tried him in “big boy” pants for a day a couple of weeks ago, and it was disastrous! He had accidents all over the place, and didn’t show any sign of trying to get to the toilet, so we went back into the Pull-Ups. He has been getting gradually better though, and when I dropped him at nursery this week his key worker told me she was ready for me to send him in in pants, so I think we might try that next week (at least someone else gets to clear up the accidents!). I’ll send in several changes of clothes for him, and hope for the best. I must confess to feeling apprehensive. In most things I’ve been much more relaxed second time around, but potty training is one area where I still don’t feel like I know what I’m doing.
Disclosure: In the interests of being completely transparent, I was sent two packs of Huggies Pull-Ups over a year ago. I still haven’t used them as they’re too big for the geekson, and they haven’t influenced in any way the writing of this article.