Potty Talk: Lessons from Toilet Training

“Bathroom Reading” by thejbird under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

The other day, an acquaintance asked me how I was doing.  I found myself unloading (no pun intended) about the trials and tribulations of potty training for several minutes.  I could hear myself rattle on and on about potty training…like I was floating above myself watching this unfold but couldn’t. manage. to. stop.

This poor woman.

The backstory: My daughter recently started a new preschool that requires that kids be potty trained. When I signed her up for the school earlier this year, September seemed like an eternity away — of course she’ll be trained by then, I rationalized.  Of course, as life would have it, the more Nice Tall Guy and I “encouraged” our daughter to use the toilet, the more she clung to her diapered ways.

But why oh why is this potty training stuff taking up so much headspace?  Sure, work is a corner of my life these days and not a cornerstone, and you could argue I was busy caring for a newborn and returning to work while my son was potty training, so I had bigger fish to fry. But I realize this potty training experience with my daughter is about more than actually getting her to keep her Hello Kitty undies dry.  There’s deeper learning buried in this struggle and I’ve been ruminating on it these past few weeks (and inadvertently subjecting innocent friends, family and strangers through my explorations). In the process of cleaning up puddles of pee and nuggets of poop, I’ve discovered some nuggets of wisdom to apply to parenting that can perhaps be extended to life, particularly to my own current career development:

  • There’s a lot we can’t control.  Sure, there are things we can influence in life through preparation and planning, but there’s a limit.  (As someone very wise once told me, potty training is one of the very few things kids can control at this age.  So they will!  Just wanted to stick that in there in case any readers were expecting to find actual potty training tips.)
  • Transitions take time. They are a process. Be patient.
  • At the same time, transitions spur amazing moments of growth.  (As any parent or teacher knows, development in kids doesn’t happen incrementally.  It happens in steps, or sometimes even leaps.  And perhaps that doesn’t change as we grow up.)
  • Never underestimate the power of a new environment to stimulate learning and change.   (For those who are curious, about a day or two after my daughter started her new preschool, she was potty trained – minus a few accidents, most still at home!)  It’s true, right?  When we feel stuck or uninspired, there’s a lot that changing our view can do to stimulate our brains or change our perspectives.

So whatever version of a potty training challenge you may be facing in your life, I raise my glass to you in solidarity and understanding.

And I hope yours doesn’t involve cleaning up actual human poop. But if it does, I would advise you to fill your glass up with wine. And take a deep breath.




4 thoughts on “Potty Talk: Lessons from Toilet Training

  1. Did this ring a memory bell for me! It brought back visions of sitting on the kitchen floor, wearing an apron with pockets full of treats, a potty that played “Tinkle Tinkle Little Star” when used, and a copy of “Toilet Training In Less Than A Day”. My little guy looked at me like I was nuts. Needless to say, it didn’t work. But it wasn’t long after that day that music came from that little potty…when he was good and ready.

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