My Kid Surprised Me By Potty Training Himself

Ever have those moments as a parent when you are complete dumbfounded at some of the incredible things your kids do, when you least expect it?   In navigating the often chaotic task of parenting, I’ve learned very humbly that having low expectations is the key to sanity (well – having low expectations and a sizeable supply of wine).   So you can imagine my utter disbelief when my two-year-old somehow managed to potty train himself.

Now – let me get this started on the right foot.   In no way is this story intended to be a humblebrag about how amazing my little Wrecking Ball of a boy is who taught himself how to shit in the potty.   Well I mean, I think he’s pretty awesome, but I have enough humility to know that oftentimes, the greatest parenting victories are complete accidents, and this is the point I will try to convey.

Let me also preface this story, by saying that we had a deadline to have my son potty trained by – he starts at a new daycare in September, and it is a mandatory requirement that the preschool kids at this daycare be toilet trained.   So, with this deadline looming over us, naturally I did what any underachieving parent would do, and decided that I would procrastinate potty training until the very last second to minimize the total amount of wine consumption difficulty.   My son, the Wrecking Ball, the Second Child, the Wildman, The Hostage Negotiator….whatever you want to call him…has a mind of his own.    That is putting it mildly.    I knew potty training him would be incredibly fucking difficult, and experienced moms before me warned me that boys were harder to train.   So, I resigned myself to waiting until the summertime, where I was sure I would be repeatedly letting him run around bare-bummed in the backyard, with a complimentary amount of pooping and scooping him at the park, with my water bottle full of wine in tow.   I pictured nothing pretty, or easy about potty training a Second Child.

Well, I’ve come to learn with each day that I get to parent my Wrecking Ball, that he is full of surprises.   He woke up one morning, followed his four-year-old sister into her bedroom, went into her underwear drawer, took out a pair of Minions underwear that were entirely too big for his little bum, removed his diaper, and put on the Minions underwear.   He simply refused to wear a diaper that day, and if you have a strong minded kid, you understand there is no arguing these decisions.   We hadn’t spent much time attempting to learn the potty, and he had not successfully peed on it once.

So, I texted my caregiver, who also happens to be a saint, and warned her that I would be sending my kid to daycare that day with a musical potty and chocolate.   All we had on hand were chocolate Easter Eggs, but given that my expectations were low (remember – the key to sanity while parenting), I figured that amount of chocolate wouldn’t be too much.  I knew our caregiver’s day would probably be miserable, and I also knew my kid would most likely end up shitting himself.   I put it in my calendar to make a stop at the liquor store to grab her a bottle of wine.   I also felt that I owed it to the kid to get him some proper underwear, so I put in an order for 7 pairs of Paw Patrol underwear on Amazon.

A couple of days passed, and the new Paw Patrol underwear arrived.   It was super-cute to see how excited he was over wearing Marshall and Rubble on his bum….however, that’s as far as it went.  My boy wasn’t really getting it – which was no big deal.   Low expectations, remember?    I was totally cool with it.  He had a couple of accidents, and therefore was easily coaxed back into a diaper for naptime and bedtime.   I almost felt relief that he wasn’t getting it, since we were running winter on overtime here, and the more layers of clothes a kid has on during potty time, the more laundry the potty-training mom has to do.   I figured my original plan of Procrastinate Potty Training was A-1 at this point.

Boy was I wrong.

On Day 3 of the Attempt At Wearing Paw Patrol Underwear, when my son arrived home from daycare, he went upstairs to also get a pair of Minions Underwear out of his sister’s room.   (See – for him – it was not about the potty, it was about the underwear).   Within 30 seconds, I heard his heartbreaking cry.   Like, you know one of those sad, crocodile-tear, hurt-feelings, gut-wrenching cries that your kid does when they are REALLY upset?     Like the ones that nearly make you cry as a parent??   Well this was that cry.   He wet himself to the point where he was soaked and standing in his pee, right down to soaking wet socks and a puddle under his feet.    I usually feel sorry for myself for having to clean the mess – but this time…I felt no sympathy for myself and just totally gutted for my little guy.   I cleaned him up and he looked at me, tears running down his cheeks, and said the sweetest “Thank You Mommy.”

10 minutes later, he got over his accident, and peed in the potty for the first time.   It was only a dribble of pee, but between my four-year-old and I, we celebrated it with a dance party like it was the biggest Potty Victory ever.   And we gave him (and his cheerleading sister) a chocolate Easter Egg to celebrate.

30 minutes later, he took a GIANT pee in the potty.   Like a mind-blowing amount of pee for a kid that completely wasn’t getting it an hour earlier.    We celebrated even bigger, and gave him another chocolate Easter Egg.

I figured this was the beginning, and prepared myself for many, many loads of laundry for the accidents ahead in the coming months.  I guess I wouldn’t get my wish of Procrastination after all.

The next day at daycare was perhaps the most surprising and yet simultaneously telling about my son’s personality:  the little bugger realized there was a reward system.   He put it together that he got chocolate every time he peed on the potty.   So what do you think he did that day???     He spent every 5 fucking minutes on the potty.   That’s what.   And again…since my expectations were low,  I didn’t have the sensibility to send him to daycare with some tiny chocolate raisins or tiny Skittles or any other reward system than giant fucking Easter Eggs.    Nope.    Of course not.  I may have accidentally set my kid up for success that day with a ridiculous reward system, but I also managed to make my caregiver’s life incredibly difficult with the Chocolate High that ensued.   The kid expected said reward every time he peed.   Saying no to this kid when you’ve made an agreement with him is NOT easy – so we all did our best with the situation at hand and gave him the reward that was in front of him.   The result was no nap, delirious, multiple foaming-at-the-mouth temper tantrums.   When I picked him up, he was basically running into the walls – it was probably my most challenging night as a parent with the battle to get a diaper onto him for bedtime, and to get him to finally settle.   I was literally ready for the loony bin that evening.

But you know what?    The kid woke up dry the next morning….and he didn’t have an accident at all the next day.  My mind was blown, but I figured still that we were just getting started.   We adjusted the reward system that day – a small gingersnap cookie would be his reward for going potty.   He was satisfied with that, and believe me….SO WERE WE when he actually napped the next day.

Two days later, while he was at home with my husband, our boy pooped in the potty.   Something that took my daughter months, and many, many accidents to do.   My mind was blown.   It didn’t even faze him.   I didn’t want to get cocky (because as soon as you get cocky as a parent, Karma will most definitely bite you in the ass and they will regress), so I dismissed it as a one off.  We enabled the chocolate almond reward system for poop as an incentive, or, as my son likes to call them “Poo poo chocolates.”    We figured there would be many months of challenges ahead, because surely this kid would adopt the same reservation about pooping in the potty that most kids have – he couldn’t possibly get it this quickly.

Or could he?   Honestly??     He did it.   This was it.   This was weeks ago.    Somehow, he seems to have gotten it.

To no credit on our part, it’s been all our son.   He potty trained himself.   There have been very few accidents.   The kid wakes up dry in the morning – climbs out of his own crib (which we probably need to ditch now), and goes to the potty before we even get out of bed.

There were two things I learned from this experience – 1.  In future, any victory this kid has, simply must be on his own terms.   I can’t coax him.   This was 100% his decision and now I know what he’s capable of when he decides to do something….but also 2.  The most rewarding victories are the ones you don’t expect.

*Note – At time of publishing, the boy was completely potty trained.    His mom knows that by saying such a thing in writing, that Karma will bite her in the ass and he will regress, but she’s OK with that because she believes so firmly that having Low Expectations (and a sizeable amount of wine) is the key to sanity as a parent.*




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