Mommy Chronicles

A funny look at motherhood and the mayhem it causes.

January 21, 2003

Lucy's guide to riding the potty train

Let’s get something straight about potty-training. It’s not the kids who are potty trained. It’s their parents.

I’m Lucy Berliant, and although I sometimes lie and say I’m three and a half, I’m actually two years old. I’ve recently completed potty training my parents, and I have some advice to offer all you other kids facing this milestone.

When you should worry about potty training
When that day comes when your parents take you to the toy store muttering something about a new train for you, prepare yourself. They’re not buying you a toy train. They’re planning to potty train you. I thought I was getting a train.

To tell you the truth, I’m still confused about the whole naming thing. When I pee in the potty, I can’t help saying, "I have potty train! I have potty train!" But, I am sorry to report, this is not the kind of train you can play with. It’s not even close. It’s a little plastic seat, and if your parents are stupid and cheap like mine, they’ll get you one that will pinch your bottom mercilessly if it’s not properly reassembled after a cleaning. They’ll also try to make you use it as a stepstool for hand-washing. Watch out for this, or you’ll find yourself meeting the sink teeth-first. Now, one of my perfect baby teeth has a small chip in the corner. But my case has been made, and Mama holds me when she’s washing my hands.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though. The point is, you will know your parents are ready for potty training when they take you to the toy store and don’t buy you any toys.

How you should break your parents in
The first thing you should do with your new potty is drag it around the house. This will let your parents know that you really are the boss, here. If you were to drag it around, say, after you had peed or worse in it, they’d be faced with some serious unpleasantness. As with any discipline regimens you use on your parents, your goal is to remind them that you make the rules.

After the pecking order has been established, feel free to sit on the potty seat. Test its strength and craftsmanship by holding the handles and wiggling it back and forth really hard. You’re going to be spending a lot of time here and if the seat is going to let you down, you want to know before you’ve filled it with anything unpleasant.

Under no circumstances are you to pee, poop or pass gas on the potty seat before you’ve spent at least two weeks sitting on it, and doing nothing else. If you are to gain anything material from the potty training experience, besides liberation from crinkly and uncomfortable diapers, you must remind your parents that bodily functions are an achievement.

I don’t mean to brag here, but to illustrate my point, I will share with you that I have received numerous hand stamps for the simple act of urination. For my first bowel movement, I received a purple helium balloon. I have also received entertainment in the form of aunts, uncles and grandparents jumping up and down and cheering, and from this I have learned that it’s true what they say: There is no joy that comes from knowing you are less dorky than everyone around you.

Your parents may be stingier, or they may be more generous (though it’s highly likely they will not be as dorky). You will never find out what the case is, however, if you oblige them right away. So exercise some control.

The first time
In a related stream (no urine pun intended, I assure you), your first successful effort should look meager. This awakens the compassion in a parent. The less you produce and the more you appear to exert yourself, the greater your reward will be. This may require a bit of control. It’s not easy to tinkle a teeny on the potty and then get up without dribbling all over the floor. I know that I once was not done pooping when I was removed from the potty, and I suffered the indignity of walking across the family room with what looked quite a bit like a tail protruding from my backside before Mama allowed me to finish the job.

The bright side is, though, that these "accidents" are tolerated very nicely when they are committed during your potty training sessions. And they are essential, for if you do not have accidents, you will not train your parents to cut you any slack. What kind of teenage life do you think you will have if you don’t defecate and urinate on the floor every now and then? One with altogether too-high of expectations, that’s what. So take heed. And take to the floor on occasion.

Advanced potty training
After you have demonstrated your ability to eliminate on your potty at home, your parents will soon decide you’re ready to face the outside world in the comfort of a small pair of panties or briefs. This is a major step, and you need to make sure your parents are ready for it.

The most essential readiness factor comes down to planning. If your parents are smart, they will bring a full change of clothes, wipes, a diaper and a towel, in case the worst happens. Informed children can bring out the best in their parents by urinating in the car seat while still in the driveway. This will make it far less likely that your parents will ever forget essential supplies again. I don’t wish to embarrass my mother, but I had to remind her a couple of times that We Don’t Leave the House Without Spare Pants.

In a similar vein, you must train your parents to locate the nearest public restroom wherever they are. Are you on the third floor of a very crowded bookstore? Duck behind a display, get a faraway look in your eyes and start grunting. This will make your mother think twice about spending hours shopping without taking the necessary breaks and offering appropriate bribes. Remember: Any place that has something your mother wants to buy will also have something you can’t live without: stickers, bouncy balls and gourmet rosemary rolls sprinkled with just the right amount of Kosher salt. Delicious.

The final touch
I don’t call this the final touch because I like using clichés. Au contraire. As much as it will disgust you, you must be sure to touch the seat whenever you’re in a public restroom. Otherwise, your mother might be hasty with the hand washing. Everyone knows that hand washing that doesn’t involve elbow-length bubble gloves and at least five minutes of hearty water play simply isn’t hand washing. It’s an unsanitary rinse. Collecting germs from public washrooms is really the only way you can truly get clean. Sometimes, one must destroy cleanliness to achieve it.

In conclusion
The time will come when you have potty trained your parents so well that they are beyond all these hurdles. They won’t forget extra pants. They will keep an eye on the clock and on your innards, and they will know when you’ve tarried too long away from the potty. Sadly, however, they will stop rewarding you with treats and acrobatics.

Children who believe they have gifted parents — parents who can withstand some significant challenges — can pose those by refusing to go, even when everybody knows that the situation is urgent. There’s a risk to this, of course. You may find yourself wet, stinky or both. But if your parents rise to the challenge and figure out how to negotiate a successful "release," they will a) remember who is in charge; and b) be so relieved that you can squeeze out a few, final precious bribes.

They may be the last such things that come until it’s time for you to learn to read, or you have a sibling. And if your parents are anything like mine, that could take forever.


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