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Toilet-Training: Trials, Tribulations … and Tears?

Our boy Max, who is three, is our second child; our second round at this potty training business. The first round was about 6 years ago now, and more of a faint memory. What I remember of the experience was that I had timed it for when I would be on holiday, I showed our daughter Stella some Dora the Explorer underwear as bait, I covered the sofa with a towel and there was only one accident that I can recall. Easey-peasy, right? Right.

Now, it’s Max’s turn. Hubby is on holidays, so he’s been “promoted” to primary on this mission.

However, first things first, we needed some underwear. And I wanted to buy the underwear. I don’t know why … but this seemed like an important thing that I wanted to do. It’s a bit nonsensical, I know. But I really wanted to pick out the underwear. So I took a trip to Zellers’ on the way home from work and picked up some underwear with the characters from his favourite movie Cars. The fun underwear worked for one child, so I figured it would work for the other.

Sure enough, Max was quite intrigued by the underwear and after showing him that’s what Daddy wears, and Grampa wears, he was game to give them a go. Once they were on, I think he found them far more comfortable than hot diapers and he was hooked.

But (you knew there was going to be a “but” didn’t you?) it didn’t quite go like it did with Stella. He would do his business in the underwear and then tell us it was time for potty. We were going to need to work on this timing thing a bit more.


Hubby has been working with Max on this for a couple of weeks now. There’s been a lot of laundry and baths, but as of yesterday evening, Max had two full days of 100% potty-training success.

As I was catching a bit of relax-time and had So You Think You Can Dance on the television last night, Hubby dropped down beside me on the couch. It was a particularly interesting episode since Lady Gaga was on as a special guest judge. She’s wacky in a great way – from the hair to the insane shoes she had on. But moreover, she’s also a generational icon, so I was trying to imagine what it must be like for those young dancers to have Lady Gaga provide them with advice.

At one point, Gaga was praising a young dancer so highly that she told her she would hire her on the spot. “Wow!” I said to Hubby, “Imagine having Lady Gaga tell you that you’re one of the best dancers she’s ever seen. I mean … for a young person, who would have danced for more than half of her life at this point, that would be a crowning glory moment! How could you ever top that?”

His response was simple: “When your son hits the Cheerios in the toilet*. That’s when.”


It’s funny, but he couldn’t have been more right, could he?

All of us parents have gotten excited with the first “poo-poo in the potty!” moments. I, for one, could never have imagined the thrill, joy — even pride — that comes from toilet training. (Well, that could come from anything with the word “toilet” attached to it for that matter.) But it’s true. Toilet training a child is a big deal. A major milestone.

In a (really excellent) book I read recently, it pointed out how toilet training is also a thankless task for the parent or caregiver. In The Help, a black maid named Aibileen, who has toilet trained 17 white children noted that not one of them every came up to her later in life to thank her for it. Sure, they might thank her for her cooking or other particular kindness, but not one has ever come up to her to thank her for the toilet training them. She was saying this with seriousness, but it gave me a chuckle.

A chuckle, because it’s true — but also because it’s not true. Toilet-training isn’t thankless because it benefits the parent or caregiver – hello? NO MORE DIAPERS TO CHANGE!

And yet, it’s come to this … that I am actually feeling a pang of nostalgic sadness about never having to my child’s diaper again. Parenthood sure does strange things to a person, doesn’t it? I knew that toilet training would come with its own set of trials and tribulations. I just wasn’t expecting that it would also bring me to tears.

* Using Cheerios in the toilet bowl as a target for little boys is a potty trick that we’ve been using. Feel free to share any other potty training tricks in the comments!


  1. Well said. And although I had NO feelings of sadness with the end of potty training. I was extreemly proud! It’s a huge milestone. A time when the kids fend for themselves and truly show some serious independence. I had such anxiety and fear as a parent when I thought of potty training and dreaded it. But it was quite amazing to see the “get it”. Love the cherrios trick. We tried that but had to abandon efforts when he tried to reach in for a snack. Lol. Grat work and what a huge milestone.

    • LMAO at your experience with the Cheerios trick! :) thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on this milestone. Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

  2. Kid#1 was easy to toilet train. It was when he (both kids are boys) was 3 yrs 1 month and on Friday, we said “You get to wear underwear this weekend” and he was thrilled and had a couple of small accidents but on Monday he went to daycare in underwear and had once accident on Thurs and that was it – all done. Smarties as incentives worked wonders.

    Kid#2 was another story entirely. When he was 3, the daycare kept asking us to toilet train him and we would get him underwear, give him candies, whatever – nothing worked. He wet and soiled his underwear and didn’t care and wouldn’t tell us. He’s a little too easy-going sometimes I guess. When he was 3 yrs 4 mo, we lived in France for a month and he was toilet trained there – he loved all the different ways that toilets in France would flush – handles, pull chains, foot pedals, etc. Each bathroom was a new experience and he loved going to the toilet all the time.

    After the month, we moved back to Canada and he started peeing and pooping in his underwear again and wanted to wear diapers. “But child,” we lamented, “you went to the toilet all the time in France!”. He looked us sternly in the eyes and declared, “I only pee in the toilet in other countries.”

    I honestly considered painting my bathroom in provencal blues and yellows to fake him out, but never did. It took another month (!!!) until finally, when he was 3 yrs 6 mo, he put on underwear full-time – and still there were several accidents, but we never did go back to diapers.

    Such different kids – such different stories. And now I’m so glad I never have to deal with another diaper again!

  3. My oldest drove me crazy. She refused to use it at all until 1 month before she turned 3 it was like Light bulb went off. She used the potty and never looked back. No accidents but one I can think of, no issues. I probably wasted $100 on pull-ups. I could have just stuck her in panties form that first day on.

    My youngest just turned 3. She sounds like Lisa’s guy. No interest, very lackidaisical. I’ve tried bribing, I’ve tried using the “you want to go to school, right? Well you have to wear panties to go to school. No diapers” I bought her cute My Little Pony underwear (her fav) as an incentive…nothing. She starts preschool in September. She HAS TO BE TRAINED FULLY by then. OMG, a month…I am freaking out honestly.

    • Coffee with Julie says:

      One month? Oh boy! (Maybe she could sneak into school with some very slim pull-ups!) I am wishing you luck, goodness knows all of us need it … thanks for stopping by the blog, Carrie. 

  4. Our son was 18mos old in his onesie jammies and doing what I thought was the pee dance on our bed.  I asked him if he had to pee, off came the jammies and on to the toilet I put him.  He did have to pee and refused a diaper back on.  I thought we had a good year or more left of diapers so of course no undies to be had, back on go the jamies and to bed.  I was sure I was going to wake up to a disaster in the night, but dry as a bone until the morning pee on the toilet.  Off to the store to buy undies for us, he was so excited.  He has never had an accident.  Our daughter at 3 was finally ready, bought the panties and made a deal.  She didnt have any accidents either.  I think when they are ready to train they will.  Our day care provider told me the same thing, dont worry they wont go to school in diapers.  I guess she was right, as usual. 


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