When my toddler daughter needs to use the potty, she tells us. So we figured potty training might not be so difficult, since she already knows when she needs to go.
We figured wrong.
I expected accidents, puddles, I was prepared for it all, but potty training is not what I expected. There isn’t pee everywhere. Instead, my husband and I are dealing with a pee-pee standoff. That’s right. Our daughter does not have a problem controlling her bladder; she has a problem controlling her bladder too much.
I found out potty training was not going to go as planned when I was home alone with my daughter. She’d consumed a ton of juice and was happily sitting on her Elmo potty in the living room.
Before I knew what was happening, an hour had gone by and it was time for me to start making lunch. I left the room expecting her to get up but she didn’t. It was time for lunch and my daughter still hadn’t gotten off of the potty and still hadn’t peed.
I had a choice: continue to wait or give up for now and go eat lunch. I gave up and put a diaper on her. Of course, she peed immediately, confirming my suspicion that she did have to go badly.
Two days later my husband was home and we decided to continue with the potty training fun. This time we gave her the option of sitting on the big toilet.
She happily let us place her on top of the toilet where we had attached her toddler-sized seat. After about a half hour, she still had not gone. We gave her more juice; still nothing.
Bored, I asked what color she’d like me to paint her toe nails. She replied, “Green”. I carefully clipped and painted her nails and we all sat in the bathroom waiting for them to dry, waiting for her to finally use the potty.
We gave her an iPhone so she could watch YouTube while we waited. By now an hour had gone by and we’d all accomplished was listening to music, watching videos and one green-toed pedicure.
We needed to change our strategy, so we put underwear on her and told her to go play. As soon as she reached the living room she started crying that she wanted to go potty.
My husband laughed when he saw she was frolicking around doing “the pee-pee dance.” Certainly she needed to go now.
We opted to have her sit on her own potty. The standoff continued. We bribed her with M&M’s, more YouTube, coaching and cheering. We even started tickling her, hoping the pee would start to come out by accident, but she resisted.
How she was able to hold her pee for so long was truly astounding. Soon she began to get very uncomfortable and started crying. Everything we’d read had told us not to give in and give her the diapers, to stay strong, but not pressure her too terribly.
We were prepared for an accident but she was not going to allow that to happen.
She twisted around, whining for her diaper. Finally she got up and ran naked into the kitchen and sat on the floor, posing and wailing next to the dishwasher. Being the wonderful parent that I am, I took out my camera and photographed her.
She always finds the camera a welcome distraction, so she stopped briefly, but then returned to crying. Feeling like the meanest parents in the universe, we realized we needed to give up. It had been over two hours and this was going to traumatize her out of ever wanting to use the potty.
We put a diaper on top of her potty seat and let her sit on it so she’d feel okay going on the potty. It felt like a small accomplishment.
Today I tried again, but did not pressure her. I just let her have her juice and she ran around the house in her underwear. An hour later she came running up to me saying she needed a diaper. She’d wet herself. I asked her where she’d peed and she told me on the floor, then declared, “It’s gross!”
I cleaned up the puddle, smiling the entire time. I said, “Don’t worry, it’s okay to have an accident. Next time maybe you’ll make it to the potty.” Maybe next time she will.
If she doesn’t, we’ll just keep trying.
Marisa Svalstedt is a stay-at-home mom to a two-year-old daughter. After years of working in the corporate world, she left the office to raise her new baby and it’s been an adventure ever since.
Photo: Jay Ryness