Potty training: it’s complicated

by CJ

In many societies, once you’re older than five (+5), it is no longer polite to speak publicly about your toilet habits. I’m a very prudish individual so this taboo suits me well.

However, I am also the mother of a child under five (-5). Poppy is in the witching zone between total diaper coverage and full-on toilet use. The only thing to get her from one side to the other is mature encouragement from people like me.

The problem is — people like me hate talking about toilets. Even writing that word makes me feel dirty.

Toilet. Ugh.


I’m in a confusing situation. Though it’s taboo to discuss scatological matters, it’s imperative that Poppy’s relationship with lavatories is so straightforward that she learns to use them without developing a toilet complex that’ll take years of expensive psychotherapy to undo.

My toddler may think that she’s under pressure but I think you’ll agree, I’m the one to pity.

Thus, I bought a book to help me. It’s called Potty and though it’s aimed at children, I found it very useful. In bold pictures it shows me how to encourage my toddler to watch other creatures using the potty.

Now, whenever I spot our dog doing her business, I drag Poppy to the window to bear witness. Aping the tone of the Potty book, I give an upbeat commentary about poop, pee and lavatories.

My Potty book also shows how good parents exhibit delight at the triumphs of their potty-training child. Life imitates art as Walter and I whoop around the house when Poppy leaves something in her potty.

But conflict arises when Poppy wants to see what her parents do when they’re alone with their thoughts in the bathroom. There’s nothing in the Potty book to help me with this.

“I want to watch,” cries Poppy, kicking the door open with one small, determined foot.

“What are you doing?” asks she, waiting for upbeat commentary about poop, pee and lavatories.

If we don’t wish to pay the fees of her pricy psychotherapist, we must tell her.

Now, there’s the breeziness of the potty trainer, and then there’s the discrete silence of one observing the toilet taboo. Walter doesn’t mind toggling between these two worlds but I find the incongruity hard to process.

Thus, when a traumatizing potty incident occurred last week, I got stuck between +5 and -5 language. Here’s what happened:

Poppy didn’t make it to the potty on time.

Something happened.

I tripped over it.

I had to be calm and breezy.

But I didn’t feel calm and breezy. I was horrified.

A week later, Poppy continues to talk about the incident in a chipper, matter-of-fact tone.

I keep having flashbacks.

But I can’t discuss it because I’m +5 and so are you which means that we must both observe discrete silence.

Motherhood is very hard.

Incidentally, Walter claims that I’m lying about the incident because you can’t trip over it. He tells me that you can slip in it, you can step into it, but it’s simply not possible to trip over it.

Except that I did.

Or maybe it was language I tripped over.

Talking about potty training is very complicated. Why did nobody warn me?

[Photo credits: Andrej Troha/Stock Xchng; Potty by Leslie Patricelli]