Potty training can be as grueling an endeavor as the Dakar Road Rally Challenge. Just like drivers in the Dakar Road Rally spend hours in their cars navigating mud, rocks, camel grass, and terrorists, my wife and I navigated our way through diapers, being peed on, splattered with explosive diarrhea, and getting in to Mexican stand offs with our kids next to the toilet. We watched the “Potty” video enough times both Alicia and I know are licensed proctologists. Somehow, someway, we came out of it standing tall and our kids came out of it sitting…on the toilet. And like all parents, we rejoiced to the gods when potty training was over.
But despite our kids’ ability to poop in the toilet and not in the bathtub or in their footie pajamas, our 5 year old, Emma, stretched potty training on as she continued to wear a nighttime “Pull Up” for bed. I don’t know if it was a lack of confidence or that pull up was a sort of a security blanket for her (albeit a blanket soaked with 2 gallons of urine)? Whatever the reason, Emma was just not ready to give up on potty training.
Over the past few months, we would ask her, “Emma, how about we wear panties to bed?” And she would answer, “How ‘bout tomorrow Daddy?” And we would come back with, “Okay.”
Now I don’t read books for parenting. I don’t watch Dr. Oz. The only Dr. Spock I know was a half human half Vulcan first mate on the USS Enterprise. I don’t know the medically accepted way to go about this, but my wife and I decided it was best for Emma to decide when she was ready (or she would get to the point where she grew out of pull ups and have no choice).
A few weeks ago, I asked Emma again, “Emma, how about we wear panties to bed?” And she responded, “ummmmm…Ok.” Victory in Europe in 1945, Michael Phelps winning a record number of gold medals, CubaGooding Jr. accepting his Academy Award, all pale in comparison to the sheer euphoria I felt hearing her say “Ok”.
That night, she pulled up her panties and said goodbye to her “Pull Ups”. That night, sometime right around the time I just started to slip in to a deep sleep, my 5 year old woke me up.
In all the joy of her first “Pull Up” free night, we forgot to have her go to the bathroom before bed. When I went in to her room, Emma was sitting in a small pond of urine on her bed. Calmly, carefully, I extracted my daughter from her ureum swamp. She was crying because she wet the bed. I quietly said to her, “Its okay Em. Daddy will make it all better.”
I spent the next few minutes changing bed sheets, comforters, and kids and slipped Emma back in bed. Gave her a kiss on the forehead and went back to bed. The next night I was a slightly nervous she might relapse back to “Pull Ups” from the previous night’s accident. But to her credit, she had her panties for bed. This night we made sure she went before bed and I pulled the short straw which meant I would take her again before I went to bed.
I stayed up later than normal that night. I didn’t want her to go too early and risk another accident. I went to her room and woke Emma up. I picked up her limp body. She wrapped her tired arms around my neck and nuzzled her head on my shoulder. She went potty and there was no accident that night.
This is now our routine.
I stay up later than I want. I wake her up. I pick her up. She wraps her arms around my neck. She nuzzles her head on my shoulder. I set her down in the bathroom and put up the lid for her. She moves out of sheer reflex. Sometimes she forgets to pull down her pants. Sometimes she forgets to pull them up. She lets the lid of the toilet drop every night, echoing like a gunshot in a metal closet (which wakes the dog up every night). She flushes. I pick her back up. She wraps her arms around my neck. I lay her back in bed (Wash, Rinse, and Repeat).
We’ve had an accident or two since we started our routine but she doesn’t cry anymore when it happens because she knows Daddy will make it all better. It may seem silly, but this last step to Potty Training is one more layer of her childhood that is molting. Wrong way or right way, I know I don’t have long with this. Soon I’ll be able to go to bed before the paperboy comes because she’ll get up on her own. Soon I’ll risk herniating my L5 disc by picking her up. Soon our late night routine and potty training will be over for good.
And if that’s the case, then I’m okay if potty training goes on a little longer.