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Potty Training During the Pandemic

I recently began the daunting process of potty training my youngest kiddo. This transition reminded me of my attempt to potty train my middle son…which I decided to do right at the beginning of the Covid pandemic. What was I thinking?!

I wrote the piece below in April of 2020. When I wrote this, we had no idea when things would feel “normal” again. I enjoyed re-reading this piece as a reflection of how much has changed over the last two years and thought I’d share it because I still love my main point- “I can do hard things!” Thanks for reading.

Potty Training During the Pandemic

A week into our family’s coronavirus-imposed isolation, I had the crazy idea to potty train my two-year-old son. I am a pregnant mom with two busy boys, so this decision was questionable at best. I, however, had my logic.

Potty training my older son was difficult. He is a very smart and very sensitive child. Challenges arose that I never could have anticipated. I waited until he was almost three because most expert advice agreed on two things: to wait until the child shows interest and to stay home for the first 3-5 days of potty training. The second part was honestly the reason for my delay.

While I am currently not employed outside the home, saying I am a “stay-at-home mom” is not quite accurate. I am more of a “get-out- and do-things” mom. The idea of not leaving the house for 3-5 days was overwhelming.

With baby #3 on the way, the idea of potty training my second son earlier had crept into my mind a few months ago. Vivid, distressing memories of trying to breastfeed a newborn, while assisting a toddler in the bathroom are still fresh in my mind. Ideally, I wanted to avoid this scenario from occurring again. Still, the idea of staying home was daunting enough to make me postpone any potty-training plans.

However, as March progressed and coronavirus started impacting daily life, we stopped all our activities, classes, and outings. We are following all recommendations for social distancing and isolation and are now home full-time for the foreseeable future. So, why not potty train?

My youngest has shown interest in the potty for months. He is highly motivated by watching anything his big brother does. He can independently climb ladders, jump on a trampoline, and stand on a skateboard. All things he learned simply from watching his big brother.

As for that expert advice, he was interested, motivated, and we weren’t going anywhere.

I decided to give it a try! I ordered two packs of 2T undies from Target online and got a big bag of MMs with our next grocery pick-up order. We were ready.

The first day, he was so excited about his own “undies” and looked adorable. However, the next three days resulted in only accidents and messes. We started on Sunday and on Tuesday night, he had yet to have a successful pee in the potty! I had scrubbed countless areas on the carpet, scrapped poop out of several “adorable” undies, and had a large pile of stinky laundry.

I was truly questioning my logic and sanity.

Also, I had forgotten the mental toll of potty training. My two-year-old was increasingly emotional and demanding. While this can be normal for his developmental stage, it was definitely heightened. Why did I think adding another stress during this hard time was a good idea?

I decided early Wednesday that if he still hadn’t actually gone in the potty by the end of the day that he just wasn’t ready. Later that morning, he ran to the bathroom when he needed to poop! His undies weren’t dry but there was at least some connection made.

After that small success, each day has gotten better and better. The following Monday (so day 8), he had no accidents all day! I am shocked to report that my crazy potty-training scheme seems to be working.

Reflecting on these past weeks of potty training, I have learned two important lessons. First, while I am so grateful our potty-training adventure seems to have a positive outcome, would I recommend anyone else take advantage of isolation and potty train? Probably not!

The world and daily life are so uncertain, scary, and stressful, I would actually recommend being patient and compassionate with yourself and not adding more hardship.

I think we all need to realize the burden of coronavirus-isolation and other covid-related stresses (illness, grief, homeschooling, job loss, economic uncertainty, etc.) and give ourselves permission to find our own pace and path. This is not the time for external comparison or unrealistic expectations.

Rather my hope is that we might all find the unique balance our families can maintain.

Next, I learned this simple truth: I can do hard things.

This “I can do hard things” mantra was made popular by author Glennon Doyle and is something that we often tell our kids. We intentionally encourage our children to do things that are tough and that might result in failure. We believe it’s important to try, fail and try again!

The hard thing I did was not potty training (while that was messy and at times emotionally exhausting). The hard thing was to realize that I can adapt to life at home. I can change my routine and my preferences. I can survive this “new normal.” Some days are still tough and I feel like I failed. But I give it another try the next day and I grow stronger and more hopeful.

We are all in this together. I hope this can offer some humor, encouragement, and compassion during this hard time.

And, if you decide to potty train, I think you are crazy and good luck!

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Sep 02, 2022

This seems like so long ago but also like it was yesterday! Your writing always makes me smile.

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