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Health / Humor / Potty Training

Postcards from the Edge (of the potty training seat)

Postcards from the Edge (of the potty training seat)

“Potty training.” The mere words still make me shudder.

For some parents, it is a simple process. For others, there are months of nail-biting frustrations. And for a select few (like me), sometimes it felt like our child was never going to get trained. Though it was a trying time, I was surprised to learn there are a large number of children who, even beyond the preschool years, continue to have issues. Thankfully, I can finally say we’re in the clear after many difficult years.

I have a few friends who are currently potty training their kids and so I thought I would revisit those harrowing 3 years and 9 months it took to get her potty trained. You know. The first time.

March 2006: We brought home our first potty amidst great fanfare. Twenty-month-old daughter was enthusiastic about being a big girl and using the potty. It was a bald-faced lie.

Summer 2006: A few of her friends are trained. Our encouragement is met with resistance.

Fall 2006: Shows interest and even pees most of the time in the potty but Brown has yet to make its appearance. “What Can Brown Do For Me?” Find its way to the blasted toilet.

Fall 2006: Announces she is retiring from the potty training business, like it is some annoying boy she is just flinging aside. There is great mourning in the land but we are advised not to pressure her.

Spring 2007: Daughter turns 3 and is obstinate about the mere suggestion of going anywhere near the potty.

Summer 2007: The Descent into Hell. In a last-ditch attempt to potty train her before preschool, The Parents cut her off diapers completely (do not EVER EVER DO this). There were non-stop accidents, wailing, gnashing of teeth and near suicide attempts by the parents. After three horrible weeks, the white flag is waved. A flag that strongly resembles a poopy diaper.

Fall 2007: Enters preschool in pull-ups. The Parents attend the potty training seminar “Oh Poo” at the Children’s Hospital Colorado. Hunky Hubby observes the sardine-packed room and comments, “Every single person in this room is a loser.” They and their fellow losers glean some good tips about providing incentives. Strongly advised by the expert Dr. Bart Schmitt not to nag but just provide incentives to children over three.

Winter Break 2007:
The entire family is in town and exhibitionist daughter starts peeing regularly. The Parents capitalize on the momentum and remove diapers completely from the formula. Continues to pee in the potty but resistant to Brown. Parents provide enough incentives to require mortgaging the house when she finally goes.

January 2008: Daughter is obsessed with The Little Mermaid. The Parents buy Ariel panties under the condition that she would not poop on Ariel. The mermaid was drowning in it within hours. The Parents enforced a clean-up-after-yourself policy. The Hurricane remains unphased and is positively gleeful about clean-up duty.

February 2008: The Parents up the ante and instead of focusing on incentives, they concentrate on punishment. For every day Brown does not make an appearance in the potty, they remove a beloved toy from The Hurricane’s extensive collection. Within a week, Brown makes its first appearance.

A celebratory Chuck E. Cheese party is thrown, whereupon at the end of the festivities she confessed,

“I was so excited to see Chuck E. Cheese, I peed my pants.”

What experiences did you have potty training your kids? What methods worked and what didn’t?

Amber Johnson
Author: Amber Johnson

Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas, travel writer and former columnist for The Denver Post. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.

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Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas, travel writer and former columnist for The Denver Post. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.


  1. hey i used “just shoot me now” in my blog comments this weekend (in the post that you commented on today). you rock. you can do anything amber. your post with the “in the rain” photo made me giggle.

    thank you for your encouragement and hugs.

    hope all is well,

  2. I tried to potty train my 2 kids at once, being that they are 1 year apart. Daughter didn’t mind peeing in the potty but was very resistant to anything else. For some reason…don’t ask me why… I had the bright idea of throwing some toilet paper in the potty one day and that was all she needed. She was scared of pooping into that big, ol’ potty – her whole life had been to drop on the white (poop in the diaper/pull ups).

    For son, with developmental delays, we were told to chart when he went (both peeing and pooping) and then look for a pattern. Then, start putting him on the potty 10 minutes before this time. As to when he finally started using the toilet, it was helpful to throw a cheerio in and tell him to aim for that. Some people paint a red dot along the back of the toilet…too much work for me. Daughter was trained at 2-1/2, son at 3-1/2.

    Heh heh, good luck!

  3. Like Patricia above, I potty trained my 2 (363 days apart!) at the same time. My girl (younger) would have been potty trained at 18 months had I let her but I had a plan to do it together. My boy showed no interest until he turned 3. Last summer we did a lot of peeing on the deck but by fall it was all good in the toilet.

    Congratulations Haddie! I know you broke your parents spirit but Bode will come along to restore the faith before that omnious 3rd child comes around to wreck everything again!

    I certainly hope you took full advantage of the rain to stay in bed!

  4. We are in the fighting stage of potty-training right now. Logan is proving to be quite the stubborn one about it. I would LOVE for him to be trained before the little one arrives but deep down I don’t think this will happen 🙁

    Great job Haddie!!

  5. I am so sorry the whole experience has been so harrowing….I have to confesse I belly laughed when I read, “The Descent into Hell” I know I am not being very supportive…I just think you are a very talented and humorous writer 🙂

    I am so glad you did not attempt to commit suicide:) Best of luck with little Bode 🙂

    You are seasoned professionals, now!

  6. Okay. Here’s the deal. My 8 year old was completely trained by his 2nd birthday.
    I now have a 3 year old plus 2 months. HE WILL NOT POTTY TRAIN. I am so frustrated! It is an all on fight just to put underwear on this kid! I have no idea what to do. When I can get undies on him… it is accident after accident.
    I then have a sister in law whose little girl (barely one years old) is pooping on the potty… whaaaaa??? And now she thinks I’m a lame-o mom.
    I don’t know what the heck to do… any advise… email me… seems my Jaxon is partners in crime with Hadley.

  7. That is potty training hell. The whole thing sucks. Take a break and wait a while. You need it!

  8. Oh my sister-in-law has 5 kids and is sooo sick of potty training that she finally did something extreme she had read about! She just took all pants and diapers and underwear off and just let the kid run around Donald Duck style. Well, he made lots of messes in the house, but hated the feeling so much of things trickling down his leg that he got potty trained in 3 days. I don’t know if I could do that, but 3 days does sound nice!

  9. Yeah! That’s great (and a painful process)!

    I swear you and I need to hang out with our children who were evidently separated at birth. We have had a few weeks of poop success after almost a year of potty training and while it feels awesome to know Lindsey is finally getting it, I feel a bit worried about how quickly our 20-monht old is approaching his turn to be trained. YIKES

  10. Way to go HH! Good and ready sounds about right to me.

    Heidi 🙂

  11. way to go! I am just at the end of training my daughter, and I feel your pain. She is my third, (after training two boys) and I think it does get easier. At least the second time around YOU have been through it before, which I think helps.

    Just remember, boys love to pee on things. Have your husband take him camping and let him pee on trees, throw cheerios in the toilet and let him try to hit them, and, um, letting him have contests with other trained boys outside. *giggle*.

  12. Yes, this is never fun, is it? Your story, however, trumps any I’ve ever heard in terms of stubbornness for setting her own time scale. At least you know her peers won’t be able to push her into anything she really doesn’t want to do when she gets older!

  13. Never fear. My oldest (a girl) was hard to potty train. Then my next (a boy) was a breeze, kid was amazing in the area of bowel control.

    (I won’t tell you the 3rd and 4th tales, but rest assured they are all potty trained now and I have no idea when the last accident was for any of them. Oh except for my youngest, a few weeks ago at night he pulled his pants down to go potty and then peed on them. But other than that, no idea…)

  14. You forgot the part hwere she ruined that gorgeous party dress with poo!!! It broke MY heart that you had to leave it behind in Canada. 🙂

    One day you’ll look back on this all and laugh…..and then take revenge and make Hadley change your Depends because it will take until you’re elderly and decrepit to forget cleaning up poop from a near 4 year old.

  15. Yikes! I have 5 kids and have to say I’m thankful that it wasn’t a big deal with any of them.

    1st , a girl, was trained at 19 months in 1 week, day and night. (She trained herself.)

    2nd, a boy, was trained at 23 months.

    3rd, a girl, was trained at 22 months.

    4th, a girl, was daytime trained by 2, but wore diapers at night for 4 more months.

    5th, a girl, was trained by 2, day and night.

    I can’t say I did anything special. Apparently they were ready.

    I have a 5 year old grandson, soon-to-be-six, who wears diapers to school.

  16. I can say all that because I too had a kid verging on 4 until he was a master of his potty domain.

  17. Pt’ing sucks. Period. My 2nd child wasn’tpt’ed until he was almsot 4,either. And my 3.3 yr. old is doing okay at the moment, but seriously? I want the 18 month old that potty trains already. So I can be DONE.

  18. Potty training is the worst thing imaginable. I have two girls who are both potty trained (somewhere by the time they were 2.5-3) but I have NO idea what worked or didn’t as the whole PTSD experience has left me with no memory of how it happened. It was horrible, that’s all I know.

    Daughter #3 turned 18 months today and I suddenly started receiving “potty training tips” from babycenter. Have they lost their freakin’ minds?? I am in TOTAL denial about potty training this one. I would rather home school her then potty train her. *twitch, twitch* (And I am the mom that is counting the days ’til my last kid is in preschool, 3 glorious mornings a week.)


  19. oh amber, i’m glad the hurricane is mostly potty trained, good luck with bode! i’m so not lookin forward to that phase of life!!!

  20. I am going to link to your story in an upcoming post if that’s ok with you…May I also steal your reference to brown? That’s so much more eloquent than poop.

    CONGRATS Hadley!!!

    We are back to square one at our house…I think Josh is secretly taking Hadley’s ‘How not to train’ class…

  21. I realize that it has been almost a year since the last posting to this blog and even if no one reads this or responds, it will feel better to me that I made it known that I realized that I am not alone.. After reading your blog numerous times, I had tears. My tears were not only from laughing histarically but from understanding that without the laughter, we truly would be dead (our our children would be).
    We have been potty training “Hurricane Hannah” (how poetic that your child’s first name is the same as mine!) for one calendar year now. Yes- ONE CALENDAR YEAR. Her daycare has offically professed that she has been the biggest challenge they have ever encountered. Not the feat that I was wishing for but hey- she did make it into the record books! Is she potty trained? Yes, no, no, yes, yes. It depends on her mood, whether the sun rose at 5:17 or 5:18, if the precipitation level is below 72%, etc. Who knows what her miff is. We have tried everything and like everyone elses posts say, it really is up to them. She was pegged at daycare for being “spirited” at 9 months. You tell me.
    Will she be the first high school graduate in diapers? Perhaps but it isn’t likely. I dread the thought that if I say “No, she’ll be trained by then.” that she WILL be the first graduate just to stick it to me!
    I guess what I wanted to say was thank you to all of the people who have posted. With friends who all had their perfect miracle babies potty trained at 15 months AND in one weekend, I often feel alone. No one understands what it is like when daycare says that even though cognitively she is ready to move to the preschool room, because she is refusing to use the potty she must remain with the toddlers. So what if she will be three in a month right? Thank you for your giggles and the fact that we’re not the only family in the US that is struggling too.
    This too shall pass.

  22. I’ve been reading these posts and I have to admit I’m feeling even more disheartened. My daughter is 4yo and a couple months. She is the smartest 4yo I know. She also has mild cerebral palsy. Anyway…She’s poopin and peeing all over my house. Not like making a neat little pile in secret because she’s being “spirited” no, she screams “mommy I have to go!” as she leaves a trail of whatever all the way to the bathroom. She WANTS to use the potty. Grrrr. So frustrated.

  23. Taking away the diapers worked with my son–immediately. My daughter was a bit more stubborn, but ultimately, that’s what worked. The thing is, if we adults really look at ourselves, we’re just minutes from peeing our pants mulitple times a day—we just have the control and maturity not to! I think it’s a human thing! 🙂

  24. Oh Amber,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story…it was fun to read…and I know it will help many other parents whose children are in different stages of learning this difficult skill. 🙂

    I have three children…and all three approached potty training in their own unique way…when parents ask me what I think about their situation (especially if it is frustrating them), I always tell them that when their child is 18, no one will know or care whether they were 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 when they learned to use the toilet. 🙂 I do know that it is frustrating for parents…but it WILL happen…just hang in there…and keep your sense of humor.

  25. Hi
    I really enjoyed how you laid that out, kind of in not-so-grand monuments. As awful as this is going to sound, hearing your struggles makes me know we are going to make it through. We are currently training daughter#3 and though she is proving to be a challenge, we haven’t hit you level of frustration. Other’s struggles and situations sometimes open your eyes to the truth about your own situation. Now I feel I can take a step back and breath and no we are nowhere near a full out war…..maybe just a small battle.
    I have started a website, to hopefully encourage and support those travelling on the potty training journey as well. Since I have started it, I have been looking into other blogs/forums and have really been benefitting from what I’ve been reading.
    After training 2 other’s you would think I could do this with one hand tied behind my back and blind folded but that is so not the case.
    I am glad you succeeded and thanks for the encouragement.

  26. correction … and know we are nowhere near a full out war

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