I have successfully potty-trained three children. And yes, I would like an award. Potty training is like preparing for a large-scale invasion. It takes months of preparation, is full of uncertainty and doubt, and it will pretty much destroy your life. But you must fight on, because somewhere, someday there will be a land that can be free from diapers. (This land will probably be ruled by a tiny three-year-old tyrant, but it will be diaper free!)
Here's how I'm doing with potty training our youngest:
In January we began playing a computer game called "Elmo's Pottytime." Elmo is put in various situations where the player has to "press a key to help Elmo go to the bathroom." N, who if I am typing important facebook messages or emails thoroughly enjoys throwing in a backspace, shift, triple alt iiiiiiiihkury, just to make my life more interesting, refused to press any keys. This gave me much anxiety. I was pretty sure if we didn't press the button to help Elmo he was going to wet himself and we'd have a huge mess to clean up. So I pressed the buttons.
Next I began trying to indoctrinate N with a video called "Go Potty Go" that had previously convinced E that going on the potty was awesome. This video has a catchy little tune that says, "Big kids don't wear diapers they wear underwear. Underwear, Potty Chair, I'm a big kid now." N watched this video for a few minutes and then declared, "I baby." Every once in awhile I play this video for her and talk about how exciting it is to be big and wear underwear! "Hooray!" I sing in my best chocolate-for-dinner voice. "Underwear!" and then I clap wildly. Perhaps she can sense the desperation hiding behind my enthusiasm, because she just looks at me.
For my next trick, I began wrinkling my nose and telling her how much I despised changing poopy diapers. "Poop goes in the potty! It's so yucky! No poop in your underwear." (Yes, Professor Shigley, I am totally immersed in using my Master's degree to contribute to our society.) N just laughed at me. "Poop yucky! hahaha!"
"No," I said frowning and shaking my head while changing her. "I don't like it. It's not funny. Don't poop in your diaper."
N grew concerned. "I sorry mommy," she said so sweetly. And then she patted my hand that was wiping her little bottom. Hmmm. . .
Next, I bought some underwear with ponies on them. Who doesn't want underwear with ponies on them? N, that's who. I also thought I would try some cute princess pull-ups to see if that might interest the girl. Nope. She freely pees on the princess without any remorse.
Uncertainty and Doubt
Part of me thinks that eventually she will potty train. Right? Why push it? Why make myself and her miserable? But then I change a horrifically disgusting diaper or I picture myself changing a kindergartener and I begin thinking of new strategies and trying to implement them. And then I think, "I missed the window. I was too busy taking kids to school and practice and trying to keep some semblance of order around here and I missed the opportunity at 22 months when she was ready to go. I blew it. I can just give up." But then I go back to thinking about potty-training because she is over two years old now, and all my other girls were potty-trained by now, even the indomitable H. So I say to myself, "I just need to find out what motivates her, and then I will successfully potty train her. Gumballs. I can do gumballs. She loves gumballs." Apparently, she loves peeing in a diaper more than she loves gumballs. And then I think, "Why should I potty train her anyway? Then I just have to find bathrooms at every place we ever visit and I have to drop everything at a minute's notice to rush her to the nearest disgusting bathroom where she will touch everything and crawl on the floor and we will all end up with e coli. I'm not doing it."
Ruining Your Life
If I just managed to stick to it for three days, I bet she would be potty trained. So, following this line of thought, I begin the morning by rushing her from her crib to the potty. Then we sit there for 20 minutes singing, reading stories and staring at each other, willing the pee from her body. 20 minutes of sitting on a tiny stool in a bathroom that needs to be cleaned, reading to your child about raccoons is probably an act of torture that is forbidden by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Finally she tinkles. The other children are running around the house wondering if they will possibly ever be fed and almost succeeding in killing each other, but we have success! I give her a sticker and a gumball and praise her like she just built the Eiffel tower all by her self! Amazing! Fantastic! "Do you want to wear panties?" Oh yes, she is so pleased. She puts on the underwear. I set the timer for 20 minutes and then we sit on the potty every 20 minutes until I can't convince her to sit on the potty anymore and she runs away and hides until I give up, because I have to stop her sisters from spraying milk around the kitchen in a spur-of-the-moment food fight. Then, she comes to tell me she peed on the floor. Refraining from swearing, I clean out her underwear, wipe up the floor and swear off potty training until the next morning when we begin again. This goes on for a week. One success in the morning followed by abject failure in every other way. Then at the end of the week she peels all the stickers off her nifty potty chart and refuses to sit on the potty.
Currently the underwear are sitting unused in the top dresser drawer. The pull-ups are resting on a shelf (because they are way to expensive to waste on someone who is not even interested in going on the potty), the little potty seat is gathering dust in the corner of the bathroom, and I am still changing diapers.
Maybe I can just modify my diaper-free dream a little bit. Maybe I can just hope for a life free of using public restrooms with two-year-olds.