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Potty training (eek!)

On Friday last week, Arthur announced that he wasn’t wearing nappies any more. He’s two and a half, so this is a developmentally appropriate announcement to make, but dear God in heaven did it fill me with terror.

Potty training has been the most anxious part of parenting I have yet to experience. It hits all my most painful buttons: trying to negotiate with a terrorist toddler, gross bodily fluids all over my lovely house, having to be unfailingly encouraging when really what I want to say is, “You just peed on my foot. That is so effing gross.”

We actually tried potting training a year ago, when he was 18 months, because we were told that there was a magic window period and that it was possibly to potty train in 3 days (haha, internet, haha. Well played). It didn’t work that time, but that’s because we suggested it. This time Arty initiated and refused to go back in nappies, except for sleeps. So we knuckled down for the weekend, rolled up the carpets and stayed at home. And we focused on our boy, and teaching him how to pee and poop in the potty. Alllll weekend.

Friday was disgusting. Like, one image burned into my memory for all time gross (Arty with a fistful of poop, “What’s this?”) Saturday morning was pretty gross, Saturday afternoon was great, Sunday was pretty good all day. Monday morning he went back to playschool for the year and I was filled with anxiety that we’d take a big step back. But it was fine! He had a few accidents, he had a few successes, I bribed the hell out of him in the afternoon to get him to pee on the potty and he did a poop last night no worries (for those who aren’t parents, let me tell you that this is a small miracle). We have been rewarding/bribing with motorbike stickers, biscuits and chocolate coins (for poops). We have also been spending a lot of quality time in the bathroom, reading and rereading, and rereading yet again The Jungle Book and The Little Mermaid, which I bought from Pep for R20 as potty books. Today I’m going to get Snow White and Peter Pan as well because heaven help me if I need to read The Jungle Book on repeat one more time today.

He has been an absolute champ and he’s doing so well and the anxiety is totally in my head. Luckily, all my mom friends seem to be potty training at the same time, so we’ve been comparing notes. There is this weird sense of ‘needing to get it right’ for the parents that I can’t quite understand but that feels very uncomfortable. Like, you can ruin your child if you don’t get it right. But you can’t, can you? Not a lot of kids going to primary school in nappies, so eventually it works for everyone… And I know we’ll look back on this and it will all accordion down to one sentence, and we’ll forget all the details – as with everything in life.

My lovely creative writing professor, Kabi, once emailed me when I was in the midst of a heartsore break-up and said that she remembered a break-up at the same age (I was 23). It’s stuck in my mind forever, because she wrote: “In the days and weeks following, I took long walks through Central Park, and started to remember what it felt like to be me.”

While I think that’s a beautiful sentence, what really struck me was that she could summarize the whole horrible break-up – all those weeks of crying and sadness and not knowing what comes next – into one beautiful sentence. And I guess the same thing will happen with potty training. In a few weeks or months or however long it takes, I’ll say: Arty woke up one morning and decided he didn’t need nappies, and there were a few gross days but now he’s totally potty trained.

I have not wished away many days of parenting over the past two and a half years, but I cannot WAIT for that blessed day!


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  1. Gwen King Gwen King

    So enjoyed reading this my youngest great grandchild number 10 Elliot is in Ayr Scotland. Fortunately my grandson and his partner are very good about sending me video’s on Facebook Elliot I think is 8 months. spent Christmas at Sheffield Beach with two other Greats Joshua and Jason 8 and 6 we were four generations. How Blessed at 83 that I am still involved with young children my youngest grandchild Samuel is 11 just gone to Marist Collage it is now co-ed he is younger than some of the “greats”. Fortunately I had good training at Golden Wheels with the McNulty Clan

    • Bridget Bridget

      I remember Samuel! Such a lovely boy… I think of you often, Mrs King, and wish I had even a little of your wealth of child-rearing knowledge!

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