Catching Up: Potty Training

I didn’t want to say anything as we started this process, on the “don’t wanna jinx myself” principle. But…

James is potty trained!

Major major thanks to my friend Mallory for being our guidepost and encourager in this process. She gave me the confidence and resources to tackle this and kick things off for REAL.

First, some stats. James has been exposed to “potty training” (or use of the potty) at daycare for about a year now. He’s had some successes here and there while participating with the other kiddos in class, but wore a diaper 100% of the time. I knew it was something that I should figure out, but since most of last year I was really pregnant (and hearing stories about regression after the birth of a younger sibling…) I decided to wait until after Thomas was born.

James was 2 years and 7 months old when Thomas was born, but we still didn’t take on potty training until after I returned to work. This gave us the massive benefit of keeping Thomas at daycare for a couple of days while I stayed home with James solo. At the end of February, James was 2 years and 10 months old – just shy of 3 years old.

The hardest thing for me about potty training was feeling absolutely and completely clueless. Was he ready? Was I ready? How do we start? I’m someone who likes to have a plan, who likes to do research. I was simply overwhelmed and paralyzed. Mallory lent me her book Oh Crap! Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki, and thank goodness.

  1. This book is awesome. The author is straight to the point and super relatable. 
  2. It’s a quick read.
  3. It’s easy to comprehend.
  4. It’s reward/chart free.
  5. It’s chock-full of seemingly-tiny tips that I would neeeeever have thought of on my own. For example: Practice with James how to push down/pull up his pants! Have a few containers of wipes and/or TP throughout the house! Have multiple small potty chairs! Pee is sterile!
  6. It gave me a plan for how to start/get my mind right, and how to handle it when accidents inevitably happened. (I was pretty terrified that I would mess James up for eternity by saying/doing the wrong thing during an accident – this potty training thing is a big deal!)
  7. There are “just in case” chapters for if you hit a snag and aren’t sure what happened, and for interesting scenarios like kiddos in daycare, or handling daytime vs. night time potty training (or all at once). 

I took notes while reading the book (this is just how I best process info – certainly not required!) in advance of starting:

I also took another tip from the amazing Mallory and made myself some cheat-sheets to post around the house so I would have a quick reference while in the heat of the moment. Super helpful for me, but also for Alan as he joined in the process. 

Don't you love this reminder? That in potty training (as in most of parenting, I'm finding out!) our attitude as parents is the driver. I also had the words handy if there was an accident - no scorn or shame. Just calm reflection as we move through this learning process. 

So. I got my mind right. I had my plan, and I knew the right words to use to kick off the potty training process with James. Alan and I decided to go all in – 100% diaper-free potty training for daytime/naptime/nighttime. Just rip off that bandaid and make it happen. Jamie encourages this approach because there's nothing left to fall back on (for us or James). Less confusion and generally a quicker learning process. 

I re-arranged my schedule and took two vacation days. I would have 5 days home with James, and the first two would be just him and me solo. Thomas was at day care and Alan was at work, so it really was something I drove.

The morning we started, I took the diaper off James and threw it away. “Today you are going to be a big boy and put your pee and poop in the potty. I’m going to teach you and help you learn this.” He also threw away the last 2-3 clean diapers left in his size – a physical cue that we were done with diapers!

We spent those first two days with him totally naked, and just spent time together. We played games, did puzzles, played with our sensory bin, read books, built train tracks… you name it, we did it. Jamie mentioned that we’d probably both be exhausted, and she wasn’t kidding! It was the first time in ages that I was completely tuned into James without any other distractions. It’s a lot of work! There were a couple of accidents during those days, but it really helped him connect the feeling of having to go with what he needed to do next.

To be honest, I think my biggest “fear” was poop on the carpet. Not that the carpet is amazing, but just because: ew. Well – it happened. Sure it did, this whole thing was so dang new for James. We were both learning – me how to read his signals, and him how to gauge the time he needed to get to the potty before it was too late. After it happened (and seriously: not that big of a deal - again, something I'm continuously learning as a parent), I texted Alan and told him: “The worst has happened.” And honestly… if that was the “worst” thing I was afraid of? The rest would be pretty downhill.

I made a big point to CELEBRATE his successes. He peed in the potty? Woo! I’d dance and jump up and down and lift him into the air and spin him around and give him a massive hug. He’d help me flush the big toilet and give me a high five. He TOTALLY lit up when we celebrated! And he should - this is incredible! Jamie mentioned that during this process, you'd get a unique look into how your kiddo learns. And that this process would rock my world as his mama - and she was COMPLETELY right! He gained so much independence and confidence during this process... and he blew me away with his acceptance and growth and fearlessness. 

Note: He stayed dry for all of his naps during this process. I’m pretty sure he was already doing that when wearing a diaper, but it was still pretty cool once he wasn’t wearing one anymore!

One of the hardest things for me in the earliest days was how to handle night time. As Jamie puts it… night time is a long ass time. So to help your kid be successful, you as the parent have to monitor/reduce fluid intake in the hours leading up to bed and/or wake them during the night to use the potty. It’s on YOU as the parent because it’s just too dang long for them to do solo at first.

What??? You want me to WAKE my kid up in the middle of the night, on purpose?? I’ve literally spent the last 2 years and 10 months trying to get this kid to SLEEP!!!

I seriously had some anxiety about this, but I sucked it up. Because she’s right – if I want him to have success, I’ve got to do the work. I went in at 10 PM and 2AM as she suggested for a couple of nights. The first night, James sure enough had to use the potty at 10PM. He went right back to sleep. The next night, he didn’t have to use the potty until later in the night. The night after that, I timed it wrong and he wet the bed. (After stripping his bed and cleaning everything, I also sent Alan to the store for some puppy training pads. I put those on top of his mattress protector but under his fitted sheet – just in case. You could also use chux pads if you have those.)

Those first couple of nights, it was hard for ME to sleep, just because I was worried. Would he wet the bed? Would he need me? Would I hear him in time?? But he did SUCH a great job. After he wet the bed that one time, we talked about holding his pee until mama came in to help him use the potty. And then after a couple of nights, he just consolidated all by himself. He didn’t have to use the potty when I came in. And when he woke up in the morning, he’d go out to use the potty in the living room. Incredible! 

We added in some short trips after those first two naked days - to the store, to the park. James wore pants, but went commando. (The idea being that his muscle memory tied to diapers translates to anything tight he wears - pull ups, underwear, training pants. They'd sabotage his progress.) I brought the froggy potty with us to the park and on errands in the back of my truck so JUST IN CASE - he'd have a safe place to go that he was familiar with. 

He had a couple of accidents while out and about - one at the park and one crossing the street as he and Alan were walking home from the store. We just talked about how it feels when you need to pee, and helped him get clean. Being commando really reinforced that yucky/cold feeling and helped him figure things out! We spent about a month with him being commando under his shorts/pants just to give him time to work on his muscle control, and then Alan took him to the store to pick out some special superhero undies. Definitely a big hit. 

Alan and James tackled a public toilet for the first time at the grocery store, and he peed. James has had some accidents at school, but also a ton of success. It's phenomenal. He's such a BIG KID! 

I remember feeling nervous in those first couple of days. After all - it wasn't just JAMES learning something new. We were learning right along with him. It was kind of reassuring to know that we were completely-diaper free no matter what. There was no turning back for him, and there was no turning back for us. No copping out. Kind of terrifying in moments... but also super liberating. We were going to figure this out together. 

And we did! 

I feel like there's literally books I could write about our experience but... the shortest, simplest answer is that James is potty trained! 

What questions do you have? What tips and encouragement can you share? 


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