My first two attempts at potty training another little human being were fairly abysmal. I think this is partly due to the fact that I was simply unprepared and partly because I was not confident or comfortable enough in my role as the Mama Bear. We had read a book, which was the same book that Mike's mom had based her potty training attempts on and it went swimmingly for her, so we figured we would just use the method and it would take. Mike dove in head first with Naomi using that method and it went... ok. However, it was quickly followed by many, many months of more pee and poop being way too many places other than the toilet than I could handle.
Then came the second attempt when we potty trained Bernadette and Mike went for it using that train-in-less-than-a-day method, which resulted in zero successes at peeing in the potty and her vomiting all over her tiny potty due to the copious snacks and juice that they recommend in the book. Mike called it a day and we both called it a failed attempt and decided to wait another month and have me try my hand at getting her to use the toilet. It went much, much better than the first try, both because we decided not to use that method (I am sure that method is a great way to go for some,
but it seems like it's not the right fit for our girls' personalities) AND because we waited until we were closer to her 3rd birthday and this is when I made some mental notes for the day when I would try to train Lucy.
Well that day came last week, and I actually put into practice a few of the things I had stowed away in my brain and guess what?!? It was about 10,000 times better than the first 2 tries. I know I know-- there will be regression, she will get willful and decide to pee in an outfit so that she can put a new one on (or maybe that was just a Bernadette thing, I pray it was). Either way, I know that we are not done potty training, but almost 2 weeks into it and we've had only a few small accidents to speak of and way more successes than accidents and we've left the house multiple times for extended periods without defiling public establishments with her waste so I call it a huge success so far.
Lest this be excused for an advice-giving post (not my favorites) this is simply for posterity's sake, an e-log of things I didn't do with the first 2, and made a point to DO this time and it made a huge difference.
1) Wait. Wait for what? My mom gave me next to no advice in the realm of potty training, but the one thing that she stressed over and over again that I didn't really listen to until #3 was to wait until they are closer to 3 years-old if you want the most success from your efforts. I know hardly any moms my age who do that, and that's fine, but after this experience I will never do anything else. Lucy will be 3 in early October, and I would have waited even longer, but she starts catechesis at our parish and needed to be mostly trained before that, so I held off as late into the summer as I could and developmentally she was in an insanely better place than Naomi or Bernadette when I trained them (Naomi was younger than 2-and-a-half and so was Bernadette on her first attempt.) The second try with Bernadette she was closer to the age Lucy is now and it went much better than the first time. I made the mental note then to not even try until Lucy was as close to 3 as she could be and still to catechesis, and I'll never not do it again.
2) Stay calm. I was a jittery mess when I even thought about potty training the first 2. All the pee! On the floor!! All the POOO!! ON THE FLOOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I couldn't stay calm, or rather, I wouldn't. I was like a volcano ready to erupt at the first sight of pee anywhere but the toilet. Rather than just expecting it and responding with a simple "it's ok, it's just pee (or poop), and it happens!", I mostly just threw my own adult sized tantrum and cried a lot. This time around I was able to keep it together-- even though my nature started to revolt and wanted to freak out about pee on the carpet and Joseph crawling in it-- but I forced myself to stay calm, and it had the lovely effect of not deflating Lucy and helping her to feel encouraged about the next attempt. It is sad and guilt inducing for me when I think about how much my panicky, negative responses likely negatively impacted my other training experiences, but so far my kids don't seem too scarred, so I'll hope for the best there.
3) Stay focused. The day before I was going to start with Lucy I made sure to sit Naomi and Bernadette down and prep them for a day of being entirely neglected. I welcomed their help in any way they could, but I let them know that my focus needed to be on Lucy and Lucy alone. Joseph cried a lot more that first day than usual, because I simply couldn't get to him every time he fussed, because I was teaching a child to no longer defecate in her pants, a rather huge feat that takes a lot of work and focus. I remember trying to do a lot of other stuff while potty training the first 2, we still went out of the house those first few days, I still tried to blog and clean around the house and bake and this time? I did nothing. The house was a wreck, I planned no blog posts those first few days, I tried not to have too much going on in the kitchen other than the basic food needs of the family, I deliberately planned the start of our homeschooling year for 2 weeks post potty training so that Lucy could get more comfortable with going before we started, and I definitely planned NO outings for that first week, which brings me to number 4....
4) STAY HOME. I didn't do this with Naomi and Bernadette, and it was the dumbest thing I did, or didn't do, hands down. Much pee, many stress, in so many public places. This time around I picked a week to do the training, made zero plans with anyone and mentally planned on going no where. Within a couple of days she was doing so well that I felt confident enough to take her to the park, but that was just a major unexpected bonus and was not something I was counting on at all.
5) BONUS! The last thing that I did not do with the first 2 kids that I could not have done even if I wanted to is utilize and capitalize on the help of the older siblings. Second to waiting until Lucy was as close to 3 as we could, employing the help of the 2 older girls was the thing that helped most. They fought over who would accompany Lucy to the toilet, help her get the potty seat set up, and flush and wash her hands. It was equal parts total sweetness and super duper helpful. Yet another case for big families!
Ok, future Ana, you go rock this training like a boss!