My wife (Lori) and I had been counting down the days for a couple of month, like two Kool-Aid imbibing cultists, silently awaiting the end of the world. Ollie is starting preschool soon and we wanted to have him potty trained before he begins. We’ve heard the horror stories along with the successful ones, but with our son’s stubbornness, it’s easy to expect the worst. He’s prone to being very oppositional (the kid’s an asshole).
At this very moment, my brave and goal-oriented wife is spending her first week of summer break tackling this taxing task (try saying that last part three times really fast). As a kindergarten teacher, she just spent the better part of the last year wrangling up and refining a group of feral Lilliputians. Teachers will gladly tell you that summer break is vital for their own mental and physical recovery, but what does my wife do? Something she always does; she puts her family first.
For a moment there, I was hit by the mental image of coming home to a mindless wife, rocking back and forth underneath the dining room table, singing, “Pee pee in the potty” over and over. I’d then find Ollie lying in a puddle, making piss angels. But that’s not Lori. She is tackling this like the strong, dedicated and amazing mother that she is.
Lori kicked this potty training off on Monday afternoon with the usual difficulty one might expect from our knucklehead. Ollie didn’t want to use the potty and didn’t want to wear underwear. Hell, he’s used to the snug and blissfully absorbent embrace of a diaper. I came home that afternoon to a stark naked toddler, greeting me at the top of the stairs, teeny-weenie in all its glory. Thankfully, he was eventually coaxed into putting on his underoos and then proceeded to piss himself while sitting at his little table.
On day two, Lori created an incentive wall with bags of M&Ms as a reward and a grid system where Ollie gets to choose a color and shape to be drawn in (because he’s a nerd and loves that shit) after every successful potty attempt. She also turned a foldout IKEA gym mat into a makeshift sofa so he wouldn’t accidentally turn our couch into an oversized pee sponge. The next crucial step was setting a timer to go off every 15 minutes to remind Ollie that it was time to use the potty again. After only one more accident, Ollie had his first pee in the toilet! Lori immediately FaceTimed me at work, where my department and I shared in his success with cheers and encouragement. Seems like such a little feat when you’ve been doing it the majority of your life, but for this kid, that’s the equivalent of an Olympic Gold Medal.
In the meantime, my wife was doing the best she could to continuously urge him to try again, while trying to keep it together herself as she mopped up his golden puddles, wiped him down and changed is underwear. She later told me that it was such a frustrating day that she often had to remind herself of how much she loved Ollie, and that this was all worth it. I should probably bless her with an array of beers and wine to help her take the edge off.
Then the next roadblock arrived with the inevitable need to poop. It became a vicious cycle of Ollie clutching his butt, saying, “I hurt!” and then going to the bathroom with no results. The pain and clutching lasted nearly two hours. I was getting texts from Lori that were so saddening. I could only imagine what was going on in Ollie’s head. Nearly three years of going in his diaper, and now he was expected to use the toilet from one day to the next? Then there was my wife, comforting him through the pain like the incredible mom that she is, as her heart broke for him.
Thankfully, not too long after I got home, Ollie finally pooped in the toilet. That was accompanied by another enthusiastic standing ovation and a trip to the incentive wall, where he happily chose a pouch of M&Ms and a blue oval was drawn. Later that night, he peed in the toilet once more just before bed, for another serving of that delightful candy coated goodness and a green circle was added to the grid.
My wife and I were ecstatic as we laid in bed, amazed at how well he had done. Though Lori was a little more amazed with that fact that she survived the day. He had his accidents and there are surely going to be more, but he seemed to understand the process now. It also didn’t hurt that there would be a yummy treat if he succeeded.
This morning, as Lori went into his room to get him from his crib, he woke up with a dry diaper and quickly told her that he had to go to the bathroom. An amazing start to the day with a successful visit to the porcelain throne. I’m sure you can guess what happened next. There was cheering, a bag of M&Ms, and an orange rectangle was added to the grid, at his request. There were a couple more accidents today, but many more successes.
I know this will be the routine for a while, but the foundation is set, and it’s all thanks to my amazing wife’s ceaseless patience and dedication to our family. I would have lost my shit on day one and she would have come home to find him duck-taped to the toilet, listening to a loop of Rob Schneider cheering, “You can doooo it!”