Advice From The World’s Worst Potty Trainer

I’m the world’s worst potty trainer.

There, I said it.

After walking the grueling journey with three kids, I can say with certainty that I’ve won this prize.

I can also say with certainty that God used my potty training inadequacies to humble me as a mom.

In a big way.

It feels right to finally get this off my chest. Confession is good for the soul, isn’t it?

Seriously, though, I don’t know what it is about poopy and me, but I can tell you that it’s not good.

I’ll never forget the day we began potty training our daughter, our first-born.

In keeping with my Type A personality, I was confident, well-researched, and armed with all the tools to navigate Potty Training In A Day and get our 2 ½ year old into big girl panties.

I was certain it would work.

But she had another thing in mind. (Little did I know at the time, this was a foreshadowing of all things to come with this kid.)

You see, she figured out that I could make her do a lot of things. But I couldn’t make her poopy in the potty. So after 18 months of battling her will, I gave up.

I sat her down, told her I didn’t care if she pooped in her pants for the rest of her life, and gave her all the incentives and rewards we were using to motivate her.

She looked at me like I had 3 eyes.

And ten days later?

She pooped on the potty.

Then there was our first-born son.

Same song, different verse.

But after a similar timeline of battles with him, we resorted to some new tactics.

Negative consequences. (Yes. I know you’re NOT supposed to use negative consequences during potty training, but we tried everything short of that and were desperate. So don’t even…)

I told him that I was going to pack up all his toys and that he was going to earn them back, one poopy at a time.

Guess what happened?

He helped me pack the boxes.

I have an image burned in my mind of that little guy, sporting his footed Christmas jammies, and dragging a garbage bag full of toys out of his bedroom and into the guest bedroom where I locked them in the closet.

He has always been a good helper. But the consequence had zero effect on his potty skills.

When Kory and I went on vacation a few months later and he was on my parents’ watch?

He decided to put his poopy where it belonged.

So when Little Bit was born, I announced to my husband, before we ever left the hospital:

“For the record, I’m not potty training this kid. If you want to take charge of it, be my guest. But I’m pretty certain he won’t go to kindergarten pooping in his pants, so I’m just not going to worry about.”

And I didn’t.

For three and half years.

And much to my surprise, he began putting a lot of his pee-pee in the toilet on his own.

But as our first trip to family camp at Sky Ranch Ute Trail approached in the summer of 2014, I began to get insecure about the fact that he wasn’t fully trained.

Because I knew we would be in scenarios where, due to age restrictions associated with some of the activities, Little Bit would be with a counselor, and we would be somewhere else.

Like on a trail on horseback.

Or at the top of a high ropes course.

And I knew that Little Bit would conveniently save his poopy for others. (Isn’t that thoughtful of him?)

That didn’t sit well with me because there comes a point when, due to the age and size of a child, no one should have to change his dirty diaper except mom and dad.

And all I can say is …

We were at that point.

But the counselors at Sky Ranch are some of the best examples of Christians living with servants’ hearts. It’s one of the things we love most about being there. Not just because being served isn’t something we experience on a regular basis, but also because these counselors create a wonderful environment of “vision casting” for our kids. If we could sketch the kinds of young adults we want our children to become, our sketches would look like the counselors at family camp.

They are amazing.

And they handled the poopy with grace and style (young men and women alike).

Nonetheless, we were determined that when we came back to camp in 2015, Little Bit would be trained.

He would be 4 ½ years old by then, for the love.

So we started working on potty training when we got back. Not the over-zealous Potty Training In A Day malarkey we tried with the other two (whoever came up with that ridiculous concept should be put away), but more of a gradual approach.

We worked diligently to teach him what he needed to know without any pressure. (As an aside, our pediatrician told us that Little Bit already knew what he needed to know, and this was something he would just have to decide to do. No surprise there given our experiences with Thing 1 and Thing 2.)

We put training potties and seats in each of our bathrooms, let him pick out his favorite candy as an incentive, and began rewarding him for staying clean and dry and for putting his poopy in the potty.

And we tried really hard not to let him know how important this was to us.

But he didn’t put his poopy in the potty.

The days turned into weeks.

And the weeks turned into months.

And before I knew it, we were getting into the car to make the trek back to Sky Ranch, and he still wasn’t potty trained.

So despite worrying about this on and off for a full year, I had to resign myself to the fact that we would endure another week of family camp with a pooper on our hands.

Thank goodness he’s cute. That’s all I have to say.

But on our second day of driving, about one hour from camp, God performed a miracle.

From his car seat behind me, Little Bit announced with enthusiasm:

“I need to go poopy!”

(He’s never uttered this statement. Not once.)

Kory looked at me.

He looked at the restaurant we were passing.

And he tore into the parking lot with the finesse of The Dukes of Hazard.

I jumped out of the car. Unbuckled Little Bit. Put him on my hip. And ran into the restaurant, screaming as I entered:

“Where’s the bathroom? Where’s the bathroom?”

And two minutes later?

Little Bit took care of his business and was potty trained.

We couldn’t believe it. And I’m not sure he could either. Which makes me wonder if our pediatrician was right?

In fact, we were all in such disbelief, we had to catch our breath before getting back on the road. So we sat on the porch of the restaurant and devoured a homemade piece of blueberry pie to celebrate!

Jen Blueberry pie

As we piled back into the car to finish the drive to camp, I couldn’t help but laugh.

Because I saw God in that moment.

Yes, even in the midst of poopy. And He taught me a lesson He’s been trying to teach me over and over again for years now.

In his sermon on the mount, Jesus says:

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:34

God’s desire is for us not to worry.

And yet, in all our humanity, worry we must. Sometimes it’s big things. Other times, it’s little things. And sometimes, it’s little things that seem like big things. Like potty training. But regardless of the size of our worry, so often, we worry about things we have no control over. And that is a complete waste of our time.

How much time did I waste over the last twelve months worrying about poopy?

Too much. I can tell you that for sure.

So the next time you’re worried, I encourage you to ask yourself three questions:

1. What am I worried about?
2. Why am I worried?
3. Is this something I have any control over?

If the answer to question 3 is “yes,” then consider praying about the right course of action so that you can address the situation directly and move on to more productive things. If the answer to question 3 is “no,” however, then consider dropping to your knees and surrendering your worry to the Lord.

I think you’ll be glad that you did.

And if you’re a mommy or daddy treading in the waters of potty training, take a deep breath. Regain some perspective. And remember this. Absent extenuating health issues or extraordinary circumstances, your pre-schooler will not go to kindergarten pooping in his or her pants.

I’m the world’s worst potty trainer.

So you can rest assured.

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