Raising Richmond: What the poop?

When my son was first born, and I started including him in my compulsive need to over-share my life with the Internet, I made a promise to us both. A promise that I am going to break right here and now. Guys, I need to talk about potty training.

When my son was first born, and I started including him in my compulsive need to over-share my life with the Internet, I made a promise to us both. A promise that I am going to break right here and now.

Guys, I need to talk about potty training.

That sound you just heard was half of your once-fellow readers groaning in disgust and continuing about their business in another part of the interwebs. But I just can’t care about them because, frankly, I’m disturbed by how much of my brain space is currently occupied by the mysteries of someone else’s bowel movements.*

As those of you who have been reading Raising Richmond for a while know, I tend to err on the (shall we say?) “fretful” side of things when it comes to most parenting issues. I’m always assuming I’m doing something horribly wrong or that I’ve totally forgotten to teach my son some essential skill which won’t be revealed until it’s too late, thus dooming him to a life as a social outcast.

(You could say I err on the side of “dramatic” as well.)

However, there’s been one exception during this almost-three-year stint of constant hand-wringing: potty training. I know! It makes no sense! I mean, you’d think considering my history, helping my kid not make a giant, disgusting mess in his pants would rank high in my parenting priorities. I was convinced that making A Big Deal about it would give him anxiety about the whole thing, which would inevitably lead to that whole social outcast thing I mentioned before.

So our philosophy was “Keep it breezy.” He’ll let us know when he’s ready. We let him take the lead, limiting our discussion of the matter to reading the occasional book and answering questions when asked. When he was 18 months old we took advantage of a 50-percent-off sale at Babies’R’Us and bought him a potty**. We stuck it in the bathroom and waited to see what would happen.

A few weeks later, he asked to sit on it. Much to my surprise, he peed on the first try. From that point on, whenever we were in the bathroom we asked if he wanted to try again. Sometimes he did, sometimes he didn’t. Every attempt was celebrated, and every success was rewarded with the be-all-end-all of toddler motivators: a Spider-Man Band-Aid.

This went on for about a year until one day (right around the time his classmates were bidding adieu to their Pampers) my son looked me dead in the eyes and said “Mama, diapers are for babies. I don’t wanna wear them anymore.”

(Not all peer pressure is bad, my friends.)

Big Boy Underwear was purchased. For a few weeks we had “practice” time every day once he woke up from his nap until bedtime. We very gradually increased the time spent out of diapers over the course of several weeks until he was spending all of his awake time in underwear, using any and all toilets like a champ.

Sort of.

After talking to several friends and relatives with considerable potty training experience, I took comfort in the widely-held belief that it could be a while before my son would be out of diapers completely; most kids (especially boys, it seems) will wear a diaper or Pull-Up during naptime and bedtime for several months after they’ve been otherwise potty trained. But I didn’t expect my son to adjust his “elimination” schedule according to when he was diapered and when he was not.

Oh forget it, I’m just going to say it: my kid won’t poop in the damn toilet.

Or potty. Or anywhere but his diaper.

We’ve tried all the tricks: M&M’s, stickers, singing him songs, reading him books, letting him watch TV while he’s sitting on the potty. Nothing works — or if it does, it only works once or twice before he’s uninterested. We’ve even gone so far as letting him take a nap sans diaper, thinking maybe he just needed to experience the horror that is crapping your pants in order to get the message — not that my husband or I actually remembers experiencing such an incident, but we can imagine it’s unpleasant.

Well, turns out, he didn’t mind it one bit. Our breeziness backfired right into our dumb faces with our son’s resounding “meh” when greeted with his own poop-filled skivvies.

And still, every day, without fail, he waits until naptime or bedtime to…ahem…fill his diaper. Then he gleefully announces “Mama, I pooped!” and I spend a few seconds tearing out my hair before going into his room to clean him up.

I feel like I should add here that we don’t scold or punish him when this happens, and I don’t think we ever will. I think that’s as likely to backfire as our breezy approach. But we need to figure something out because, y’all? Imma ‘bout done with this mess.

I don’t usually come right out and ask for parenting advice in this forum, but I have no idea where to go from here. So here I am. Just a girl. Standing in front of an Internet. Asking it to help her get her son to put the poop where it belongs.

*I realize that one day my son could be mortified by this post. But the way I figure it, pooping in your pants at 16 is WAY more embarrassing. CONSIDER IT AN ACT OF LOVE, KID.
**Can we all agree that “potty” should be voted “Word Most Likely to Strip Parents Of All Dignity Based Solely On How Many Times You Hear Yourself Saying It Each Day”?

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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