Lesbian and Gay Parenting book coverIn a Family Way

A column by Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

Potty Training Complete

Posted By on July 1, 2009

Potty Training Complete
By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

Toilet training is not really about our kids; it’s really about grownup needs. I mean my son wasn’t tired of using his diaper; I was tired of changing his diapers. He didn’t really mind the mess or the smell; I was the one who was ready to move on.

My son did not potty train easily, although in the very beginning he seemed to take to it without a problem. When we first bought the potty and took it out of the box, he was very excited. He sat down on it, and we read the Joshua book ("… he sat and he sat and he sat and he sat…") and lo and behold, this little guy just peed on his own. Not once, but twice. I have all of this on video, by the way. He was so excited and proud. Unfortunately, it was almost another year before he peed in the potty on a regular basis.

Pooping was a whole other issue. He simply did not want to poop in the potty. He expressed this very clearly. He said, "I am not yet ready to use the potty. The potty is for big kids, and though I am a big kid, I am not big enough." At one point, my son who was no longer wearing a diaper, would pull one out of the pack and attempt to put it on, as a way to let us know he had to use the bathroom.

We tried a number of things. We tried bribery (candy, cookies) and threats as much as I hate to admit it ("We won’t go to the park unless you sit.") We tried not caring, but since he didn’t care that didn’t really help. We tried begging ("Please, please go poopy honey, for mama"); this was useless also.

This is what finally worked: We went out and bought about 20 small Matchbox cars, his favorite toys in the world. We hung the cars on the bathroom wall and encourage him to sit, and told him that if he pooped he could have a car. He hungered for those cars.

He sat and sat and sat and sat while we talked about those cars. For a while he held in his poop for days, and of course it was painful to actually let go. We would sit with him and hold him and talk about cars and reassure him. We began to explain that it hurt so badly because he was holding it, and over time he began to experience the wisdom in this. He would announce and discuss this information with people in very public places, who happened to ask him where he got the car. "I" he would say with pride, "I, went poop on the potty. If you don’t hold it, it doesn’t hurt as much. If you hold it in it dries out and hurts, but mommy will hold  you if you need her too."

I would like to take credit for this suggestion, especially when someone told me just yesterday that they thought I should win a Nobel Peace Prize for it. (Right, as if anything that a mom does parenting would be worthy of social recognition). However, the idea came from Kelly McCormick, who started MOMAZONS, a organization in Columbus, Ohio for lesbian moms..

I think Kelly intended us to buy only a few cars, but it actually took about 50 cars and a few months, but it really worked. He would pick out the car he wanted "next" and then when he had to go he would race to the bathroom to take care of business. Now there are cars everywhere under foot in my house.

He was broken hearted to learn that he wouldn’t get a car every time he pooped for the rest of his life. I said, "Do you think I get a car every time I poop?" He looked at me incredulously and said, "You don’t?"

Although I enjoy sharing this with you, I suspect my "sharing" days are nearly over. I was talking with another mom the other day, whose kid is not yet potty-trained, and I was telling her about our successes. Suddenly my little guy turned around, really angry, and said, "This is my private stuff you are talking about. You shouldn’t do that. I don’t talk about your private stuff. Don’t do it again."

Sigh. I suspect that the reason my son is finally toilet trained has less to do with cars then the fact that he was finally ready. I am trying to remember why it was so important to push him to this stage. I am missing my little baby a bit more, as this big boy asserts his presence into my world.