Finding Grace and Love in Potty Training?

by Sharron on October 28, 2010

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Potty training. Again. While I’ve done this twice already with varying degrees of difficulty, I still find the process to be exhausting. Most days, I want to throw all the cloth diapers out the window – other days I want to chuck the potty seat and trainers along with my determination to teach this skill.

What transition are you working on? Moving your child from your bed to a crib, weaning from breast milk to bottle or cup or giving up diapers in exchange for the potty are not small tasks. And even if you’ve done them before, the reality is you’ve never made this change with this child. It’s all new to him or her. Some changes come about quickly while others drag on stubbornly. That’s where we are with potty training.

Before giving up (or forcing my will upon the poor child), I’ve found it’s helpful to examine my motives behind making the transition at this time.

Motivations for change often fall into three categories:

  1. Shame/embarrassment. You know you should have taught this skill sooner but didn’t. Maybe you waited until your baby was nine-months old before introducing a bottle. (I’ve been there.) Or you waited until your four-year-old became so big that you can no longer sleep in your own bed comfortably and must demand they sleep elsewhere. The logical part of your brain knows that developmentally, there is no reason why your child is unable to make the change. But the emotional parent part of your brain is too afraid to make it happen.
  2. Anger/resentment. Do you feel so tired of the way things are and find yourself blaming your child? Maybe you wonder why they can’t just do (or stop doing) this one thing. After a lot of introspection, I realize I’m probably in this category. I don’t feel resentment, but after more than eight years of changing diapers; I’m very, very tired of it. Perhaps I’m ready to move on whether my daughter is or not.
  3. Competition. You really want to tell the grandparents, or other moms, that your little prodigy accomplished this transition easily and early. You want to brag a little about whatever milestone would give you this edge on being a good mother. It sounds shallow, and you will probably deny you’ve ever felt this way, but chances are you really are competing with another person’s timetable.

I’m tired of changing diapers, that’s for sure. I suspect there’s a little more going on as well. This is my youngest of three children and we are certainly not having any more. I stopped trying to hold on to the baby years mostly because she refused to stay in the baby phase, reaching all of her physical milestones many months before her older sisters.

But I also prefer to breeze through a transition without marking its passing; hoping to avoid any sadness or longing on my part. She gave up breastfeeding sometime in her 17th month, but I do not have a memory of the “last” time nor did I want to dwell on it. I loved breastfeeding and while a part of me misses this connection; I knew that marking an official end would be too painful. We simply moved on.

Potty training will also mark an end to my baby and toddler years. This independence will mean I no longer have any babies in my care. No more diapers. While it will be sweet freedom, it will also mark a major transition for me as a mother. Dragging out this transition for so many months just prolongs the pain.

I’ve come to realize that the one thing that is required of me at this time is love. My daughter will be potty trained in the near future. (I sometimes chant this just to convince myself.)

It’s my job to love her, to love the stage we are in and to use this love to fuel my patience.

It’s this love that will also lift me out of sadness when I realize there are no more babies, no more toddlers and someday, no more little girls in my care.

So, I’ve made a few changes to how we go about potty training. I removed the changing table from her room. We don’t use it anyway and it helps us solidify the transition taking place. I also added disposable diapers to my shopping list. While we use only two diapers a day for nap and bedtime, I need the mental and physical break from washing them. We’ll continue making the transition using consistent behaviors, but I’ll relax my timetable and renew my love for caring for a toddler.

Mom Dare: Life is filled with one transition after another. Look at what changes you are trying to make in your life and with your children. Examine your motivations, remove the negative emotions and concentrate on love. Use this positive emotion to feed your actions each day as you bring about a positive change.

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Sharron (10 Posts)

Sharron Wright is the work-at-home mother of three girls, ages 2, 5 and 7. Her mission is to help other new parents feel empowered and to instill in them the confidence to care for their babies in a loving, positive way that respects the uniqueness of all children. She blogs at http://momswithgrace.wordpress.com.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

carolb October 29, 2010 at 6:02 am

Oh, this is lovely advice…we’re a long way on from the transition from diaper to potty…but you are so right when you say life is filled with one transition after another and using positive emotions to ease us through them is truly the best way to go. I just have to keep reminding myself of that sometimes!

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mollie October 29, 2010 at 6:47 am

i sometimes feel like this with my son, he still can’t sleep through the night without waking up to nurse. it frustrates me. we’ve tried to get him to back sleep with daddy (won’t), got him his own bed thinking that maybe we were waking him up because we cosleep (wrong), maybe we need to tire him out more before we go to sleep (doesn’t work). i know its going to pass and he will sleep on his own soon but i’ve not had a uninterrupted night of sleep for almost 20 months….

it sometimes frustrates me more when he transitions easily with other things (he is now potty trained to the surprise of my husband and i). i kind of feel like, geez, if you can go to the potty why can’t you sleep on your own…

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Sharron October 29, 2010 at 8:54 am

Thank you, Mollie and Carol. I probably should have listed these as Negative Motivations for Change. Not all change is motivated by negative emotions, but I do think it helps to examine any negative motivators first, to remove the conflict.

Usually, we are motivated by love! It’s just the really difficult transitions that seem to bring about the negative feelings in us.

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Patricia October 29, 2010 at 6:19 pm

This was a good one for me too, I have to say unfortunately that I fall into the competition phase on the potty training. My daughter was early at everything an early walker, talker, great physical abilities really early. She has always been the child that everyone says wow about, and I never really noticed how much I enjoyed that until we got to potty training and it just isn’t happening. Then a friend potty trains her daughter in a day with great success months younger than my daughter is, and it just made me go we need to try again and this time I need to be more adament about it. No I think I need to relax and take it one day at a time, and if she’s not ready she’s just not ready she will be one day just like all those other things that came so easily.

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