Potty training: Why should you get that nappy off ASAP

I knew that I was going to have to pay for it somehow. I knew that the months – years! – of completely unbroken sleep that I had been blessed with since Kitty was nine weeks old was going to come and get me. I had to pay my dues. I owed someone something.
And that something came when Kitty was nearly three and I started potty-training her.

I don’t know what I did wrong. I don’t know if it came too late or too early or I handled it badly or what, but it was a nightmare. A. Night. Mare. So bad that you shouldn’t worry about potty-training yours. Because it was me, I got it. I got the nightmare kid who wouldn’t do it.

Piss off with your fucking star charts!!! If the kid doesn’t want to do it, they just won’t do it.

I hate to expose Kitty in this way, because it seems so unfair to put a spotlight on something so embarrassing and personal, but I hope to make it clear that I am mostly responsible for the massive fuck-up that it was.

Having a bit of distance, now, from the matter, I do in fact suspect (because I am always looking for answers – always) that the main problem was probably that I left it too late. I don’t beat myself up about it, I know that I didn’t know any better. But I left it until Kitty was so aware of what was going on that she would scuttle off into a corner, under the table or into the downstairs loo to do a poo.

And the reason I left it so late was because all literature on the matter stated that it was imperative that once you had taken the nappy off you must not put the nappy back on ever again. That’s it. And I became terrified of picking the ‘wrong’ moment and of then having a child who pisses and shits its knickers for months and months until it works it out.

So what I did was leave the nappy on too long … and ended up dealing with a child shitting (and occasionally pissing) in its knickers for months and months.

So what I did was leave the nappy on too long … and ended up dealing with a child shitting (and occasionally pissing) in its knickers for months and months.

What I should have done, the moment I noticed that Kitty ran off to do a poo somewhere special and private, was to get that freaking nappy off. She knows she’s going to do a poo, so don’t let the association with that most private and intense act be doing it standing up and fully clothed.

But I didn’t know that! So by the time I was brave enough to really go for it and take her nappy off, Kitty had been doing this poo routine for months already and that poo association was as ingrained and poisonous as a bad sleep pattern.

The wees she got the hang of, because weeing just isn’t as overwhelming and complicated an act. If you need a piss badly enough, you will just do it. Plus, you wee all the time, so if you can just get the kid to do one or two in the potty, even if you have to hold them on the potty while it gushes out and they scream and cry a little bit, you can shower it with praise and chocolate and Haribo or whatever and it thinks ‘Doing a wee in the potty isn’t so bad.’

But poos you can hold in until they foul up and congest your whole body and put you in a stinking mood and make you ill. And to relax and ‘let go’ of it is a complex emotional process and to break that process cycle and replace it with something else is hellishly difficult. The fear of letting it go is more intense than the desire for choccy and sweets. It’s that intense.

What I didn’t understand is that at the merest hint of being potty-train-able, you should just take the nappy off and deal with the rivers of piss and shit until they get it. What I didn’t understand is that if a child craps or pisses itself, even in public, even in the middle of a massive park in the rain and howling wind, it’s not that bad. You have wipes, even a pair of latex gloves if you’re squeamish, some nappy bags in which to seal the fouled undergarments, and then fresh clothes. It’s over in minutes. The blameless clothes soak up the little mess there is.

I started potty-training Kitty in November. She was able to pee on a potty and then later on an adult loo competently with no accidents at all – even at nursery – within about two months (although I had to pretend that her potty was ‘broken’ in order to get her to sit on the grown-up loo).

But she went on to poo in her knickers every single day for five months. Five months! At first I chucked the knickers out, unable to deal with washing clumps of actual human shit off clothes (bearing in mind that I was also changing Sam’s shitty nappies twice a day, sometimes three times a day), but then I quickly ran out of knickers and had to climb down off that particular high horse.

I started to feel neurotic that I was unable to get the smell of poo out of my nostrils because I had my face so close to so much shit every day.

I started to feel neurotic that I was unable to get the smell of poo out of my nostrils because I had my face so close to so much shit every day. I started to become thrilled when Kitty had not done a sticky one, so that the effluvia could be rolled off down the loo and the knickers saved with only a light scrub with disinfectant.

I would watch with crouching hatred and admiration, curled-in desperation and crabbed envy those parents with children not much older – sometimes younger! – than Kitty who simply had to take them to the loo so that they could do a pee or a poo. It was wizardry, nay, witchcraft! (BURN THEM!!) How did it happen? I felt suddenly as those whose babies wouldn’t sleep felt. How do you get them to sleep? HOW?

‘What have you tried?’ people would say. ‘Have you tried bribery?’

Ha! Tears of hysteria would come to my eyes. Yes. Yes, dear, I have tried bribery. I would give her a puff on a fucking crack pipe if she’d only crap on the potty.

Have you tried being angry? Disappointed? Despair? Rage? Irony? Jokes? Books? Yes, and if I never have to read ‘Everybody Poos’ again it will be forty million years too soon. Star charts? Did you persist with it? Piss off with your fucking star charts!!! If the kid doesn’t want to do it, they just won’t do it. She’s got a problem with it IN HER HEAD. She. Doesn’t. Want. A. Fucking. Sticker.

It didn’t help that Kitty has always been a complete dirt magnet. If there is a muddy puddle, she’ll be in it. She is always the one who has covered herself at nursery in paint, glue, glitter, ink. And she never cared about having a dirty nappy. Moreover, modern nappies are just too good. It’s not like weeing or pooing into a cloth nappy, to which past a certain age using the loo was surely infinitely preferable. For a busy, grubby, active toddler – who, while not being scared of anyone, also has a wild and fevered imagination and can suddenly become terrified of plates, windows, potties … – wearing a modern nappy is probably better than the hassle of going to the loo.

Yes. Yes, dear, I have tried bribery. I would give her a puff on a fucking crack pipe if she’d only crap on the potty.

In the end, it was down to Kitty, as it always is. We pretend we are in charge, but we are just operating within the mad whims of our tyrannical children. Quite often, when Kitty called out, ‘Don’t come in here, okay?’ – which was the indication that she was off to do a poo – I would screech, ‘Let me put a nappy on you!’ to save a pair of precious underwear. And one day, she offered to sit on the loo in her nappy for the critical moment. We had banged on so long and so hard about ‘doing a poo on the loo’ that she was trying to oblige by sitting on the loo, in her nappy, to do this.

So we did that for a while, then she was offered a handful of chocolate buttons if she would sit just on the nappy with it unfastened, balanced on the training seat. And then, long after that, she was offered two ice creams if she would sit on the training seat without a nappy on, to do her poo.

And she agreed. And got the ice creams. And we were done and finished a mere six months after we started. And though it was awful at the time, if I’d have known that there was going to be an end point, I wouldn’t have minded especially. Child craps itself, clear it up, move on. It was the worry that Kitty would still being doing this when she started school (it has been known!) that troubled me so much.

But it was good for me. It was my humbling. I had always, privately, felt that it was something marvellous about me, something I had done, that had made Kitty sleep so well, but in fact it was just luck.

At times, when I was sometimes clearing up the second unholy shit of the day I got a sneaking sense that someone, somewhere, whose child didn’t sleep well, had wished this on me and the God of Fates had heard and judged that, in the balance of things, I deserved it.

Anyway, I don’t mind. I took my punishment with some relief. It was about time that my hubris got its comeuppance, and what a comeuppance it was.

 

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