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A potty training descent into hell and the realization I am not above bribing a mouse

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I could write volumes upon volumes of books about potty training the most stubborn kid on the planet. I’m a few years removed from the trauma but believe me,  it was bad. As in we-went-to-seminars-at-the-Colorado-Children’s-Hospital-and-later-to-a-specialist kind of bad. (Read about our descent into hell here).

My friend’s recent announcement of how thrilled she was her son was finally potty trained and she only had one in diapers brought back my potty-training-induced anxiety attacks. I would rather sludge through a thousand hours of homework than go back to those dark, dark days.

But it wasn’t always dark. In fact, in the beginning potty training was a rather hopeful activity. Sure, we had some failed jump-starts where my daughter demonstrated she was perfectly content to sit in her polluted diaper for extended periods of time. But we were careful not to pressure her, though I was sure there were animals who were more interested in improving their bathroom habits than she was. I know. I watch cartoons.

My husband Jamie decided we needed to up the motivation ante so he pulled in the big guns: a visit with Mr. Chuck E. Cheese himself if she went on the potty. My daughter loved him more than a mere mortal which is kind of funny because he isn’t even human. Err..or is he? (see below)

One fine day, she decided she was going to use the potty three times in a row. To reward her, we took her to see The Big Mouse that very night. But imagine our disappointment when we arrived and he was hiding in his mouse hole (this is according to our daughter; a very big Chuck E.-sized mouse hole at that).

I queried a high-school-age employee. She confirmed that Chuck E does not make regular mid-week appearances unless it’s for a big bash.

“You don’t understand. This is a party. A Potty Party. And Chuck E. is the only one in this world who can motivate my daughter to continue to potty train.”

“Maybe we can arrange something.”

“Fantastic. Hey, can he talk?”

“No, he’s a mouse.”

“I know he’s a mouse. But there’s a real person inside those overstuffed ears. A real person who can comment on her bathroom habits, which would encourage her along the path.” After all: is Chuck E., if nothing else, a master motivator?

“He doesn’t talk.”

“Fine. Just bring out your mute mouse, OK?”

I then pondered the possibility of slipping Chuck E. $10 but scrapped the idea. If he really is a mouse as she professed, what use would my money be to him?

Eventually, Chuck E. did make his triumphal entry, which according to my daughter, was no less thrilling than when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on a donkey. She squealed, danced, hugged and reveled in her own rendition of Chuck E. Idol.

I was thrilled with the outcome of the evening until when I tucked her into bed that night.


“Yes, dear?”

“I was so excited to see Chuck E. tonight that I peed my pants.”

And so it began.

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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  • comment avatar Shelly August 25, 2014

    Tooooooooo funny. I have five kids and they all were easy-peasy except for my last daughter. I thought she was going to send me over the edge. The key is to do it when they’re ready but I missed the window so it didn’t happen until she was almost four.

  • comment avatar MannysMom August 25, 2014

    I’m in the middle of potty training and this give me hope that I’m not alone in the insanity. It is NOT going well.

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson August 25, 2014

    Shelly–I can relate. Our biggest mistake was we didn’t do it on her timeframe. We wanted to do it before she entered preschool and there was NO WAY. That started a battle of wills and she always won.

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson August 25, 2014

    MannysMom–I’ve got nothing. At least no advice but a lot of encouragement. Still reeling over the potty training trauma. 🙂

  • comment avatar Malene August 25, 2014

    We used bribery – we put a prize on a shelf in the bathroom where our son could see it, he then got the prize, in our case trains, after going a certain amount of times!

  • comment avatar Heidi T August 25, 2014

    My mom kept telling me to use m&m’s, but I wouldn’t because I didn’t want to use bribery. My sister and I dedicated an entire two weeks to bringing #1 to the potty once an hour. It was a lot of work but by the end of the week she had figured it out. I still didn’t use m&m’s but thought #2 was never going to potty train. She was similar to the mom above me’s post, tho she did manage to train before she turned three. #3 just wasn’t interested in even sitting on the potty let alone what’s supposed to happen once you’re there. So I decided to try the m&m theory. She was potty trained within a week, no kidding.

  • comment avatar Maryann August 25, 2014

    I am still in the midst of it! my 3 year old is being VERY stubborn even though he has gone pee and poop in the potty. It just has to be his idea and when he wants to sometimes he even wakes up dry in the morning and its such a battle to get him to sit on the potty that when he finally calms down, I am not kidding, he doesn’t go!! he holds it in! and then lets it all out that we have to change his pee filled diaper within 5 minutes of putting it on!! ARG!

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson August 25, 2014

    Malene–True story: we tried to bribe, bribe, bribe but NOTHING worked with my daughter. She just didn’t care. Totally worked with my son, though.

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson August 25, 2014

    Heidi–Ahhh, if only I had a bribe-able/self-motivated kid. 🙂

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson August 25, 2014

    Mariann– I hope yours goes better!