The Ecstasy of Blue Underpants
By: Katherine Ellis
My sister missed my niece’s potty training window; at least, that’s what she suspected. They were too busy; they waited past the pinnacle of Lulu’s potty excitement. She was on the downhill slide, totally over the potty, when my sister decided it was time. By then three year-old Lulu didn’t care, she seemed perfectly happy to have her mother change her diaper forever.
My sister was in the midst of this drama and chattering into my ear over the phone when my daughter, Josie, came home from preschool screeching about underwear and the potty. She was two-and-a-half and demanding boo (blue) underwear. My sister encouraged me to act. Move! Move! Do it now while you can!
The next morning we made a BIG show of going to buy new underwear with all kinds of gaudy, sparkly, animated characters with crowns and wings and oversized ears. And our girl went for it. She was all in. We read her the potty book and I, Josephine’s mother, put her on the potty every 30 minutes (this sentence is hilarious if you’ve read the Potty Book 5,000+ times). It worked. Oh how proud we were!
Josie got a sticker every time she used the toilet and it was going so well. Then… Meh. We lost interest, and by ‘we’ I mean she. She lost interest. It was fun for a while. Then our friends gave us some leftover pull-ups with princesses on them. Oh for pete’s sake. She was over underwear. She carried her new diapers around the house, clutched to her chest. She got out of bed at night to diaper her monkey; she slept with them close to her face. Are you kidding me? Get those potty-killer pants out of my house! We took a little break. We used the princess diapers until they were gone and went back to the generic diapers of our past.
Not much later, she decided to go back to underwear and this went well for a time. One day I brought home some new bar stools with seats made of woven sea grass to test out in our kitchen and soon they were saturated with pee – well, I guess we’re keeping them now. She could use the potty. She just wasn’t interested and didn’t really mind walking around with wet pants. Soon, like so many other things in our two-and-a-half year-old’s life, it became an issue of control. The parents want me to use the potty; therefore, I must not use the potty. Must not.
There was some hand-wringing, some parental resignation. Then: new bribery. She would get a matchbox car for every day she went without an accident. She was crazy about those little cars and, at $.69/car this was a habit I could support. I’d even get one of those big carrying cases if she got enough of them. This worked for a time then… Cookies! Yes, cookies would save us. I know, surely I’m scarring my child forever by using food as a bribe but…desperate times.
Josie’s approaching her third birthday, growing out of the original underpants, and the last few weeks we’ve instituted a new reward. If she has a whole week without an accident we can rent a new movie. Oh the joy! Most of the time Josie does earn the reward, and last I heard my niece had finally hopped onto the potty bandwagon and would not, in fact, be wearing diapers forever.
I’ve heard rumors of other parents who have smoother, more practical, nurturing ways to potty-train –solutions that are child-centric and enhance the connection of parent and child. However, I, Josephine’s mother, have been humbled by parenting in many ways. These days I’m willing to do just about whatever it takes to get through it all, even if that means we have to watch a whole bunch of movies filled with princesses.
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