“Do you want to wear pants today?”
“Sometimes it’s fun not to wear pants!”
“You take your pants off right now!”
Hi, I’m Abby, and I’m a potty-trainer. The subject is my son, who will be 3 in September. Neither one of us can decide if we’re having a good time.
As he rounded the corner into full-blown toddlerhood, I began receiving forecasts of the potty-training process. It was like seeing a tornado twirl across a desolate prairie, with Al Roker’s confusing mix of peppiness and foreboding humming in my inner ear. For months, I’ve been wondering whether I should hide in the basement or just pick out a nice pair of shoes.
(My understanding of tornadoes is premised entirely on “The Wizard of Oz.” If I am going to be rescued after this metaphorical tornado, I at least want the rescue team to respect my ability to spot sensible footwear.
(Yes, in this metaphor, I play the role of the wicked witch.)
The warnings I got about potty-training a little boy were, 100 percent of the time, one or both of the following: He will be harder to train than your daughter, and/or the only way to do it is to let him run around naked, preferably outside, for days on end.
Were he not certifiably human, these warnings would lead me to believe I am mothering something a few steps back on the evolutionary chain. More primate, less progeny.
We have decided to capitalize on the five weeks of the year during which it is warm enough to dress without layers. With cautious diligence, my husband, daughter and I have been encouraging a clothes-optional summer upon our trainee. This has also yielded lessons in the public-private dichotomy. He now knows what it means when we tell him, firmly, “you are not allowed to do this in public.”
My best guess is that pants are scapegoated as the enemy of potty-training because they provide approximately five seconds of interference between recognizing, ahem, nature’s call, and, ahem, responding to it. No longer is he inconvenienced with pushing his elastic-wasted shorts down. I suppose I am appreciative of the time savings.
I suppose I am also appreciative of the freedom he now enjoys in our yard. I say this with all humility: He does a great job “listening to his body” on the lawn. This would be wonderful news if, again, he were a primate, or even some type of farm animal.
We have still not bridged the gap between understanding a bladder’s clues and heeding them within the vicinity of an actual toilet. Perhaps one day, Silicon Valley will come up with a toilet in the shape of a bean bag chair, a sofa, or a rug. On that day, he will likely be in his 30s. If we are still reminding him about using the potty, we will have bigger fish to fry than shopping for flushable sisal rugs. For now, we operate at DEFCON 1 whenever we’re inside and he’s consumed a liquid within recent memory.
One aspect of this process that no one prepared me for was my son’s nostalgia for diapers. When I dress him in the morning, he cries for his diapers, as one would for a long-lost friend or the luxury of sleeping in. I never guessed that, one day, I would be trash-talking a box of Huggies.
In an effort to lure him towards the thrill of cotton briefs, I promised him a trip to Wal-Mart. He responded as I hoped he would: as though I told him we were headed to Disney World for a week. This is the happy result of a childhood themed with low expectations.
He is now the proud owner of underwear patterned with every superhero and Pixar character known to retail. He is also the proud creator of an underwear shield for his diapers. That’s right. He will wear the underwear, but only if it is over a diaper.
Now I’m in a very particular yin-yang: keep devoting energy to potty-training, or spend those hours online looking for Outward Bound schools for preschoolers, where I presume pottying outside is part of the core curriculum.