We started potty training recently. Two days in, and I wasn’t sure that we’d achieved anything. Two days, sixteen changes of big girl pants and zero requests to ‘use the potty please Mummy’. Zero requests. I wondered if my expectations were too high entering this latest phase of toddlerdom, but I really thought that by day 2 my little Button-Pusher would’ve asked to use the potty at least once. Honestly, I thought it probably would’ve happened more than once, but let’s not dwell on that, or you might accuse me of having too great an expectation!
We delayed our potty training for a couple of reasons, the main one being that I wanted B-P to feel really ready before we tried. I didn’t want to force her to do something before she seemed both physically and emotionally up for it. The other reason was that just after Easter, we started at a nursery, a couple of days a week, and they advised not to do the two things simultaneously. Two complex things for a toddler to get their head around so they suggested, get settled at nursery, and then think about it.
So we waited. Until nursery was finished for the summer, and the week was blocked out free of activities: stay at home, hope for decent weather, nappy off and big girl pants on. Just go for it, expect some accidents, but encourage sitting on the potty regularly to ‘have a little go’, ‘sit and practice for a little while’ and ‘put your hands on your knees and have a little squeeze’.
So we did of course expect accidents. But what I didn’t expect was how horribly frustrated I’d feel as each one happened. Over the 2 days it became tough to keep a neutral face as B-P made her increasingly familiar little ‘uh-oh’ sound, and I heard the tinkle of urine on the kitchen floor. Turns out the kitchen floor isn’t completely flat, so I had to move pretty sharpish with kitchen towel to mop up a fast flowing river of wee. And each time it happened, I was left thinking a number of things: why didn’t she tell me? Why doesn’t she seem bothered by wet pants? Does she sense the urge to wee? If she does, has she worked out what it is? Does she connect that feeling to telling me she needs the potty? Does she have FOMO and is just too busy playing? Would she rather stay in nappies? Do toddlers have an opinion on that?
So a fair few questions whizzed around my head as I mopped up the mess. Add in that almost without fail, each accident had followed a period of sitting on the potty and / or me asking her if she needed a wee (a question to which she always responded, ‘no thanks Mummy’), and you can perhaps see why the frustration was creeping in. And the whole time of course, not showing it, but containing it. Everything I’d read said not to scold an accident. Don’t draw undue attention to it, but continue to tell the toddler how well they’re doing at trying / wearing big girl pants / practicing sitting on the potty. That children respond better to praise than to criticism (well, don’t we all?). That all children have accidents but they get it in the end so don’t stress about it. Keep calm and mop up the wee.
So I tried. Really hard. I plastered on a smile and said ‘Don’t worry! Let’s change into some nice dry big girl pants. What colour shall we have?’ I kept positive and offered praise and did all the things the books, and your friends, and your mum tells you to do. But OMG it was driving me mad with frustration!
So I asked myself why? Why was I so annoyed that B-P didn’t seem to get it, or seem bothered about getting it? Perhaps I was expecting too much on day two? After all she’d been wearing nappies for more than 2 years, making such a change in just 2 days was quite a leap. Had I entered some kind of competitive mum stage where I needed her to be trained before all the other toddlers we know? But that ship had sailed: we know 2 year olds who are dry and 2 year olds who are no where near ready yet – each in their own time. Was I feeling under pressure from anyone? And though I’ve had a few comments, the decision to train was based on good reasons, so I didn’t think it was pressure related. I think I was bothered because B-P wasn’t. I couldn’t help thinking that if she was really keen to learn, she’d have told me at least once that she needed to go. She’s an articulate child and has no problem expressing herself the rest of the time.
So I think I was frustrated that I have a toddler who was just doing something in her own time, at her own pace, and I can’t control it. And there it was: I can’t control it. I can aid, encourage, advise, assist, but I can’t control it. It’s up to B-P to ‘get it’. She has to do ‘this’ in her own time and, I’ve realised, about a billion more things in her future. I can help but I can’t control. And that’s my issue, not hers. She’s just being a toddler. I’m supposed to be the grown up.
Entering into day 3 I didn’t know how long this potty training malarkey was going to take. And rationally, I knew getting frustrated about it all wouldn’t make it happen any faster. But OMG it was frustrating! Time to count to ten Mrs Baffled. Just keep calm and mop up the wee.