Oh Crap…for real

I’ve been a little quiet here for the last couple weeks because we’ve been up to our eyeballs in potty training! Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly of our experience with the early stages of potty training.

Overall, we’re doing quite well. I’ve been so impressed with how much progress Maelle has made in such a short time. (It’s easy to say that now that we’re over that first hump.) The first three days were pretty tough and while I wasn’t quite ready to throw in the towel, that seemed like an appealing solution.

Perhaps it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, as potty training was the ONE thing about having kids that stressed me out. Labor? I wasn’t worried. (I should’ve been.) Sleepless nights? Didn’t bother me a bit. Diapers? I loved my cloth diapers and it was a surprisingly nostalgic task to wash and fold them for the last time, then pack them away.

So why did the thought of potty training have me shaking in my boots? I have no idea, other than the fact that it just seemed so damn HARD. News flash, for you new parents who haven’t attempted it yet: IT IS.

BUT–with the right resources–it IS manageable.

A friend who had a good experience potty training her first child gifted me the book Oh Crap! Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki. It’s a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is kind of book and I appreciated Jamie’s attitude about potty training. Basically, she gives a recommended window of time to potty train (20-30 months), the how-to, trouble-shooting, tons about POOP and more. The first time I read it, I’d just finished watching Schitt’s Creek and David’s voice (of all people!) literally narrated it… I was cracking up while reading it in bed at night!

In a nutshell, the book lays out potty training in a series of ‘blocks,’ starting with a naked, diaperless kiddo and progressing to adding pants and small outings (Block Two), then longer outings (Block Three), then adding underwear and getting on with the rest of your life, including using public restrooms and nighttime training(Blocks 4 and beyond). There is an emphasis on these being ‘blocks,’ not days, even though we all want to know HOW MANY DAYS IS THIS GONNA TAKE.

*We’re on day 14 of potty training, and I’d say we were in Block One for four days. Some kids take one day, some take seven. I think in one of Jamie’s YouTube videos she says it takes between 3-7 days for some kids to get over that first ‘hump’ of potty training.

Jamie lays out some markers of readiness, which helped me determine when to start. Maelle seemed curious and interested whenever she saw me using the toilet, had begun to tell me when she’d pooped in her diaper, and was even starting to say her ABC’s (one of the *rough* markers of readiness).

*A note about age: Jamie recommends 20-30 months, which is earlier than most people seem to be potty training these days. However, just a generation or so ago, potty training was happening between 17-22 months. Jamie makes no bones about it–she sees lots of kids, and waiting to train almost always makes the process harder. It should be done when a child is ‘capable,’ not when they seem ‘ready.’ (She has a lot to say about the ludicrousness of waiting until a toddler seems ‘ready,’ and I LOVE IT.) Bottom line: Do it before age three, as that is when a child hits the stage of ‘individualization,’ which basically means they now now understand that they have free will and can make their own choices.

Perhaps what tipped me over the edge was that Maelle’s closest little friend, Maya, had just started potty training as well. Her mom, Nicole, is a good friend and we get together for walks, runs and playdates multiple times a week. If I can offer just one piece of advice, it’s this: POTTY TRAIN WITH A FRIEND. You’re going to need someone with whom you can discuss all the intimate and excruciating details of your child’s bowel movements, as well as someone who can help you celebrate victories, and empathize when you’re having a tough time. Plus, seeing another child sitting on a little potty can only help your child, right?

Here’s how we started, and how it’s going:

We began on a Friday morning, took her diaper off and showed her where all the little potties were. The day before, I’d been talking about starting potty training ‘tomorrow,’ and I’d covered her play area carpet in plastic, blocked off a section of the living room, put away the diapers and downstairs changing table, and set out multiple small potties.

*A note about small potties: Jamie recommends using them and I do, too. However, not all potties are created equal! Before we started potty training for real, I bought two of these as they were inexpensive and doubled as stools. Unfortunately, as soon as Maelle started trying to use them, I realized how unstable they were. Each time she tried to back onto them and sit, they scooted back and wobbled. I didn’t like the scraping sound they made on our floor and I think it was off-putting to Maelle as well. I found this one and thought it would be more stable; I put it near her play area (pictured below) and I’ve been very happy with it. (Now that we’re more than a week in, she’s using all the potties just fine.) This one is on the way, for use in our downstairs bathroom and to easily bring with us to the backyard since it has handles. All of the potties can ‘grow with her’ and be used as stools and seats for regular-sized toilets.

Our first day was spent cleaning up dribbles, moving her to the potty and reiterating that “pee goes in the potty.” Saturday and Sunday proceeded much the same, with lots of pee on the floor and not a lot in the potty. Thankfully, poop was still coming–sometimes in the diaper, sometimes on the potty–so we weren’t dealing with constipation.

However, I was disappointed that after three days we still seemed to be in Block One, not having been able to get even one ‘real pee’ on the potty. In fact, Maelle became uncharacteristically resistant to the potty, which surprised me. I didn’t think it was behavior, as she hadn’t yet mastered the task of peeing on the potty, so I hesitated to give her a small consequence. I knew I was probably over-prompting and hovering, but–again–it hadn’t ‘clicked’ yet for her, so I still had to watch her closely. Thankfully, I found help on an Oh Crap! potty training consultant’s website. (Yes, there are potty training consultants.) In one of her posts she wrote about some children resisting the potty due to being overwhelmed, and that resonated with me.

*If at any point you’re having a hard time–GET HELP. Better yet, get help BEFORE you’re having a hard time. When I saw that Jen, the Oh Crap! consultant, offered a ‘Potty Training Solutions’ course that included help for Block One, I couldn’t buy it fast enough. (Thankfully, it was a mere $25.) In hindsight, and after listening to more of the course material, it’s invaluable and I’d recommend it to anyone potty training as ‘required listening’ ahead of time.

So, the following day, I backed off a little and didn’t try to physically move her to the potty–I utilized the ‘red solo cup’ trick described in the book (and Jen’s course) and that seemed to keep her a bit more calm. We also GOT OUTSIDE (something the course recommends even if you’re still technically in Block One) on a little playdate with her friend, Maya, which made us all feel a bit more normal. By the next day, something clicked and Maelle even took herself to the potty!

I think the learning curve was a bit steeper initially with Maelle at only 21 months, but she’s got it now and we’re cruising with the best of them. She’s been peeing on the potty for about a week with only a few accidents, mostly when she’s sitting in the stroller or her highchair. Between using the potty at defined times (before and after sleeping and eating, before leaving the house) and taking herself, we’ve had very few accidents on the floor!

*A note about rewards: The book doesn’t recommend them, and they aren’t really in our ‘parenting philosophy,’ either. Going to the bathroom on the potty is expected behavior, and therefore not deserving of a reward. Also, I think rewards can be a bit of a slippery slope in parenting, as they have to get bigger, and bigger, and bigger. So far, we’ve largely avoided ‘rewarding’ Maelle for doing anything, and we don’t treat dessert as a ‘reward’ for eating a certain amount of food at dinner.

We are, however, dealing with a poop issue…said every potty training mom EVER. From what I can tell, almost EVERY kid has some sort of aversion to pooping on the potty, and Maelle is no different. She totally freaks out when she feels the urge to poop, does an elaborate ‘poop dance’ for awhile, but refuses to sit on the potty. We had a particularly rough day earlier this week with a bunch of mini-poops, each with its own song-and-dance routine. I’m not letting it get me down and am (at this point) happy the poops are coming regularly, as I want to avoid her becoming constipated. Right now, I’m doing all the things to keep it soft and encourage her to sit on the potty, and her resistance seems to be lessening with each passing day.

Meanwhile, we’ve colored, read and played with Play-Doh more than we ever have before. My body aches from sitting on the floor! In some ways, it’s been nice to slow down and enjoy playing with Maelle and leave other things for later.

We’ve been in Block Two for about a week now, and Maelle wears pants most of the time. We’ve been getting out once a day for about an hour with varied success. Sometimes she is accident-free, sometimes she pees while in the stroller (Chux pads to the rescue!), and she’s had practice using her travel potty a few times.

While I’m anxious to put our downstairs back together, I think I’ll wait until she is wearing training underpants. The book recommends introducing those about a month into potty training, or when you’re only having a couple accidents a week. I have these and these, and Jen’s website has some excellent recommendations here.

Maelle is still wearing diapers for naps and nighttime, and I’m not in any rush to start nighttime training. I figured I’d wait a couple months and see how dry (or not) Maelle is during naps and overnight, as some kids start staying dry on their own. (Hey, a mom can dream!) If not, the book strongly recommends skipping Pull-Ups and starting nighttime training before 3-3.5 years old, as that is when toddlers’ bladder muscles are developing.

Anyone else have experience using the Oh Crap! Potting Training method?

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