As a mother, I find it difficult to use the bathroom successfully 95 percent of the time – and by “successfully,” I mean going to the bathroom without incident (a child is injured in my 30-second absence) or an audience. Even so, I have still managed to teach three human beings the basics of using the toilet: how to poop in the potty properly, how to wipe, and how to wash their hands without smearing antibacterial soap all over the countertop. I have endured this not-easy-at-all process THREE times. That’s pretty much why moms are so bad a*s.
Although my methods were never what I’d call “by the book,” I’m pretty sure the sheer number of people I’ve potty trained qualifies me as an expert. And in my expert opinion, there are a lot of things that nobody ever told me about potty training, although maybe that was for the best. Had I truly known what I was in for, I would have stocked up on adult-sized diapers and called it good. Just kidding. Mostly.
Here are 9 things no one ever told me about potty training:
1. You’ll need plenty of wine (or another guilty pleasure) to soothe your nerves. You may think I’m kidding, but I’m not. If alcoholic beverages aren’t your jam, then you’ll need to stock up on chocolate pies or Gummy Bears or Cheez Whiz or whatever item will get you through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, because I’m telling you, you’re going to hit rock bottom before this is all over.
2. Potty training doesn’t come naturally to children or mothers. Hence, why you’ll need all that wine. People make it sound like potty training is a completely easy, naturally-occurring stage in child-rearing. All the books you’ve been reading will likely make you believe that your child will actually want to use the toilet. Um, no. Your child will scream like he thinks his rear end is being chewed off by a giant monster, because he actually believes it is, and it will be your job to convince him to relax enough to poop. Godspeed.
3. Any quick and easy method is a farce. A lie. A figment created by someone who parented a genius. Every time I readied myself to potty train a child, someone brought up that lying liar of a method again, and every time, I got my hopes up. Will it really work this time? Will this child be the child that potty trains in a day? Not one of my children were potty trained that quickly, and believe me, I tried. And also? My kitchen floor was constantly covered in pee.
4. Public bathrooms have never been more disgusting. Like really, you will notice and think things that have never crossed your mind before, like how sometimes there is a tiny drip-drip-drip from the back of the toilet tanks in the mall bathroom and how tiny droplets really do fly into the air when you flush aggressively. You’ll also notice, suddenly, how your child compulsively touches everything within reach. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.
5. It’s okay to wave the white flag. Pull-Ups can help you bridge the gap when your child is trained enough to pee on the potty, but not trained enough to actually poop in it. My oldest child was amazing at using the toilet until he needed to poop, and that is when he would ask me for a Pull-Up. Some of my mom friends encouraged me to stay the course, but I gave in, and it was the right choice. He slowly learned how to overcome his fear of the toilet, while still remaining regular. Winning!
6. No two kids are alike. I mean, duh. But really, it is important to note that while one child may respond positively to little treats like candy every time she uses the bathroom, another may not. You might have a kid who actually enjoys the feeling of wet pants, and you may question if this child truly shares your DNA. You will likely blame your spouse for everything that is happening.
7. Speaking of bribery: It is your friend. Almost as good of a friend as the wine that you are clutching so tightly in your hand right now. Bribery goes against almost every parenting standard I have, but when it comes to potty training, all bets are off. You may have to pull out the big guns. I don’t know what the big guns are in your house, but we actually bought our middle child a scooter to entice him to use the potty. A SCOOTER. (Spoiler alert! It didn’t work.) My advice? Breathe. Embrace. Drink. Bribe.
8. Potty training will make you feel like the failuriest failure there ever was. This is the rock bottom I spoke of earlier. There will come a point, probably after finding your infant splashing in a puddle of her brother’s pee that you had yet to discover, that you will question everything. You’ll call your best friend and sob incoherently into the telephone. You’ll text your husband things like “I QUIT AND I HATE MY LIFE.” You’ll drop your child off with a relative without asking first. You will literally just walk in, dump the kid, and leave. That will happen. You are not a failure; you’re a mother, and we have the hardest job in the galaxy.
9. But then, she’ll get the hang of it. And yes, you’ll feel the most amazing sense of accomplishment since bringing that little life into this world. The highest highs always follow the lowest lows. When your kid finally gets the hang of it, you’ll parade him around like nobody’s business. You’ll take him on as many errands as possible, just to brag about it later. You will become, for lack of a better term, insufferably joyful. Own it. You’ve earned that insufferable joy.