We were packing for our holiday to my parent’s house in Spain and I was feverish with worry. I couldn’t find my Gina Ford ‘Potty Training in One Week’ which had been purchased some months earlier. Our toddler was starting nursery in September and our second child was due at the end of November. With lots of time, my mother’s help, wipe-clean floors, balmy weather and my Gina Ford book, this three week holiday was to provide the perfect opportunity to potty train. Except I couldn’t find Gina anywhere.
I had been dreading potty training since friends had started talking about it and our children neared the two year mark. My son had so far proven very difficult to breastfeed, to transition from breast to bottle and to wean. I thought it was going to be a disaster and I was half hoping I could leave it to the nursery to deal with come September.
Book?! Why do you need a book? You just take the nappy off!
I’m a huge Gina fan having attributed the success of my son’s wonderful routine to the fact I referenced her books every time he so much as whimpered in his sleep. How was I going to potty train without her? I already had fears it would lead to serious constipation from a refusal to go for a number two in the potty, of pooey hand prints, and puddles everywhere. And this was before losing the book.
We started the following day. I admitted sheepishly that I had left the potty training book behind. My Spanish mother just looked at me incredulously and said “Book?! Why do you need a book? You just take the nappy off!”. I felt relieved that she had such confidence and explained to my son that he would not be wearing nappies during the day anymore, and that he would have to use the potty.
After nap time, I gave him the job of filling the paddling pool in the garden with the hose pipe whilst he sat on the potty. 20 minutes later, we had a wee AND poo! I had to overcome my revulsion of this most adult looking ‘caca’ to make him feel proud of what he’d just done. I made a huge fuss (clapping, dancing, laughing and hugging) and we inspected it and marvelled at what he had accomplished. He was so happy and, unbeknownst to me, had started what would become a MUST discussion regarding size every time a number two appeared. I didn’t care – it was encouraging his interest in going in the potty.
I let him take the lead and was never disappointed or angry when he didn’t make it
From day two (bar a handful of accidents when he was distracted with playing) he was effectively potty trained. I let him take the lead and was never disappointed or angry when he didn’t make it – we just reminded him he had no nappy so needed to use the potty. I also made sure I mustered the same enthusiasm and celebration every time he made it to the potty.
I refused to be barricaded at home so we went out armed with spare clothes, wipes and a potty which resembled a throne. What was the worst that could happen? A change of clothes and a good wipe? We were relaxed. There he would sit, back to front (whatever works!) clinging to the back of his throne whenever he needed to, wherever we were. It just didn’t matter.
I found the book as soon as we came back home and, flicking through, realised that, had I had it with me, we may not have been as successful. No visitors for three days?! The amount of advice would have made me anxious, and anxiety would have made the whole experience a fraught one.
My son started nursery 4 weeks later. Two weeks after that we had a parent’s meeting with the head teacher in the hall adjacent to the classroom. I heard a child being taken to the loo. Before the flush I heard a loud and excited “Look! A big one”! Yes, my work was done.
My 5 top tips for successful potty training
This is key. Plan it over a holiday so you have the support of your partner/family, but try not to make it the focus of your day.
2. Don’t go back.
Once they’re out of nappies persevere.
We would run excitedly to the potty (not always sincerely on my part…) whenever my son asked to go. Celebrate the achievement.
4. Buy a travel potty.
Make sure you have one with you on outings. There are some very compact ones out there.
5. Do ask.
They’ve never done this before so occasionally ask or remind them they don’t have a nappy on and should use the potty.
Aurora Hutchinson lives in south London where she is a full-time mother to Sebastian and Xavier.