Perhaps my expectations are too high. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that my four year old would consistently use the toilet but perhaps it is. Perhaps it’s tantamount to my mother putting trash in the can and NOT in the sink. Physically impossible.

I realize that after almost two years of lamenting about this to you, I neglected to share the pay off, the really exciting news, the actual pee in the potty. You deserved it and I’m sorry I cheated you. On the other hand, I’ve probably saved you the letdown I’m experiencing which, when I say letdown, is more of a catastrophic deflation.



Now that you know that, I feel like I can share the excitement without the disappointment because you will be reading and thinking aha, I know this does not end well and I will have saved at least one of us from wondering if I’m a terrible mother, an inept caretaker, or both, probably both.

After a marathon weekend attempting to potty train her, employing our friends (and our friends’ children) as back-up, we finally achieved one incidence of pee IN the potty on Memorial Day weekend. We took her to school that Tuesday, armed with panties and the promise of a reward (specifically a DVD. Specifically Frozen. And I have plenty to say about that.) if she managed a repeat. She did not. In fact, she simply wet her pants all day. I kept her home the next two days in a boot-camp style effort which…worked. By Friday, she was reliably peeing in the potty.

Mind, this required reminders. How do you do foreshadowing in a blog? Doom noises? This?



And so we have continued on in panties, rarely making it a whole day without a change, although I can’t tell if that’s because of a long nap (which I understand), or poop (which, I can’t even figure out how to train), or because she just…doesn’t manage it. Even at home, where we have some more control over the situation, she sometimes just wets her pants. And it’s not as though she tells us, she just carries on as if nothing has happened. I could belabor this point but, suffice to say, after spending a weekend with her, I’m not sure she’d go if we weren’t reminding her.

This is not potty-trained.


Montessori, while working for her wonderfully in every other aspect, isn’t into reminders. So if she’s wet, they send her to change and, since that’s often, she comes home reeking of urine every other day. At least. I want to unequivocally love them but I am getting increasingly frustrated by the combination of my inattentive child and the hands-free staff.

A month in and I’m not convinced she’s getting it. I don’t think it’s oppositional although she sometimes gets belligerent if you ask her to try and she’s already wet. It is definitely not making a point or being on purpose. I think it falls more into the category of forgetfulness. She is, and has always been, so committed to any task she undertakes that she simply doesn’t notice the world around her. It is no surprise that she isn’t listening to her own body either.

Which begs the question, if the solution to an intensely focused kid is timers and reminders AND she is in school all week where there are no timers or reminders, how long will it take for her to get it? I can tell you, it’s longer than a month. Which then begs the questions, am I a terrible mother for allowing it to continue, a terrible mother for not being a stay-at-home mom who can magically manage all things potty-training, a terrible mother for not being aggressive with the school, a terrible mother for not taking her to a new school, a terrible mother for dwelling too much, a terrible mother for not taking her to the doctor (more on THAT gem later, my friends), a terrible mother for letting her smell like urine, or a terrible mother for being frustrated? Tell you what, I’ll bet the answer is simply a terrible mother.

So no, there is nothing to celebrate around here.


38 Responses

  1. When I read this, I see a very real need for a change of system for your kid while at school. I think you lay out a reasoned argument for it. It blows my mind that the school would ignore the individual needs of your child. Have you spoken to them recently about what has worked at home, and the need for change at school?

    Hang in there. You aren’t terrible. As a mother or a person. Hell, your kid is happy. She doesn’t care about it. Turn the pressure down on yourself a bit, breathe. There’s far less judgment coming at you than you think I would bet. And those that do judge are ignorant and not very kind.

    • Thanks for echoing my own feelings. I’ve been waffling over what to do about the school and I’m concerned I’m helicoptering a bit too much so I’ve tried to relax about it. Not easy and maybe not helpful in this case!

  2. Just lots and lots of empathy. Our family has been there. And, our kid is awesome. He just had better stuff to do. Hang in there.

  3. Noah is no where near potty training. Oh, he’s fantastic at peeing on the potty when you take him in there – he learned that at school. But we’ve tried putting “training” undies on him a few times, and every time he acts just like it’s a diaper and doesn’t even tell us anything happened. We have no idea when he’ll change in that regard. He loves cartoons like Nina Has To Go and Daniel Tiger about going to the potty, he’s just not ready for that. Do I dream of him being all self sufficient and potty trained – hell yes. Do I take it as a personal failure that he’s not. Not yet. He’s healthy and happy and growing and learning and will get there eventually.

    I doubt RR would be learning this faster if you stayed at home with her. It just seems like something kids have their own internal timer for and get it when they get it. Can the school do more? Maybe, it’s worth a conversation.

  4. Ugh. I have every faith she will get there regardless, but the school thing would piss me the hell off, pun intended, I guess. Self-sufficiency is cool and all, but for heavens sake. Do you think they would let her wear a watch you had programmed to go off every 2 hours or so as a reminder? Adults use tools to remember things, right?

    Meanwhile, on the nap, fwiw, we have made no effort to address holding pee while sleeping and don’t plan to until he is dry on his own waking up. I consider him trained without that skill, because from all accounts that’s physiological, not psychological. Although I guess you could say he’s dry while napping, because he doesn’t nap anymore at all. (no, it’s not okay.) so at least you have that going for you.

    • That watch idea is excellent. I’m going to look into it. We tried sticking a tattoo on her hand in the early days like, “every time you see Mickey, you’re going to run to the bathroom, okay?” Maybe it’s time for a revival!

  5. Oh, darling! You are not a terrible mother. Never ever ever. You care. That is enough to indicate that terrible is not the word you should use. It will happen. It will. Just takes some kiddos longer than others. She sounds awesome — that focus will come in incredibly handy later in life — and she will eventually figure it out. Promise.

  6. There is nothing terrible about you or your child. You both are doing things just fine. I feel with you. I spent the first 6 years of motherhood feeling terrible and inadequit.But it is just not true. And I say this to you…You are doing just fine. Your daughter will learn when she is ready and in the mean time you are doing everything in your power.

    My suggestion would be this, When you are with her, have her,go to the bathroom 15 minutes after meal times and after she drinks. Otherwise, have her go directly after she wakes up. Let her wear a diaper at night, if she wets while sleeping. It is comment for children to wet while sleeping even untill they get a bit older.

    Always tell her how good she is doing. Never talk about the ‘problem’ when she can hear you, it will make her feel bad. Compare her to noone. She may not be going to the potty right now in the fashion that most suits you, but have you ever seen a normally developed adult that doesn’t go to the restroom? She will learn, have faith. She may be well ahaed of other children in other areas.

    Each person is unique,..including yourself and your daughter. If this is the biggest ‘problem’ you are having right now, then you are right on track with all the other parents out there. Trust me. I have three children and one on the way. I think I am going to blog about this as this comment is getting lengthy. I wish you all the best. Have a nice day.

    • Thank you – I sometimes feel like each challenge is the thing that’s going to ruin her and I so want her to be hapy and healthy in every possible way. Knowing her though, I haven’t got a shot at ruining her – no matter how many grey hairs this business is giving me!

      • I know how you feel. Just rmember, everything we as parents do wrong, is a chance for our children to learn from it. My mother always says, ”Take only the good things I did into your parenting. And learn from the bad.”

  7. I have nothing really helpful to add since I know absolutely nothing (less than nothing, even?) about potty training, but the pictures in this post are fantastic. And there’s nothing terrible about you. That little girl is loved (adored, even) and cared for. Those are the only two requirements for being a good mother.

  8. I have nothing helpful to say other than I sure hope this gets better, there’s no words to help ya!! Good luck though, I know eventually she will be potty trained even though it doesn’t feel like it!

  9. All I know about late bathroom bloomers is that it took my uncle until there was a cub scouts sleep away camp to finally get on the potty-train. He was school-aged then definitely.
    He went on to be a decent human being and own his own successful business, so potty training isn’t destiny or something.

    • Thank god for that. Although I was really looking forward to holding the car keys hostage until she managed it!

  10. First, a lot of these other ladies are spot on, you’re probably doing fine, what is happening is not out of the range of what is normal. You don’t sound like some person from past generations that is heaping shame on your daughter – partly because that sort of stuff “works” in a sense! I’m not advocating that.
    I say this not from tons of experience, or from any formal education: I always worry that what is going on is a sort of a fight, that the child knows how important something is to you, and so doesn’t let you have it, possibly because there are other battles the child is losing. It may be that this might get better for you if other things get better for your daughter, that the point may not be how heavy-handed or gentle you are about this, but how gentle you are with something or everything else.
    We were long with everything, nursing, soothers, diapers for longer than our parents might have liked, but our daughters made the changes pretty much automatically and painlessly. As someone said above, everyone learns this, at some point, embarrassment will settle it, when the kids see that kids their age or even younger than themselves have made the change – again though, and I don’t know this applies to you of course, it probably doesn’t, but again, unless the child feels they are losing all the battles and this is their only effective weapon.
    I’m just throwing it out there. It probably isn’t the big part of what’s happening, not in this generation, but it may be a small part . . .

    • I think, I hope, that we’re still firmly on the side of patient and loving (despite my utter despair here). She has, like in your experience, taken a long time to accomplish a number of physical benchmarks while rocketing past things like math. But then giving things up generally without protest. She’ll get it. I’m just surprised there hasn’t been more peer pressure sooner!

  11. You are so very much NOT a terrible mother. But I AM a little disappointed in you for not using the phrase “pissed off” anywhere in this post. But as far as I’m concerned, that’s the only thing you have to be ashamed of. Every mother has a laundry list of things they wish were different. Yours is just a little soggier than others right now. It will dry. RR is going to be okay and so will you.

  12. You are an awesome mother. RR’s toilet learning journey is a long one to be sure, but it in absolutely no way means that you are anything other than the awesome mother that you are. You love your kid. You are doing the best you can to help her learn and grow. Therefore, in my book, you are an awesome mother.

    As a teacher of toddlers and preschoolers for the past umpteen years, I have been part of literally hundreds of children’s toilet learning. They all get there eventually, I promise. I am very curious about the no-reminders thing for RR’s school. Is it a philosophical thing? An actual school policy? If they can’t justify it using either reason, then I think they need to support her in a different way.

    • I’m with you on this one. I haven’t figured out if it’s because it’s technically camp and therefore not as tight of a ship? I don’t know. I do know that one of the main school caretakers has been adamant that she needs to figure it out alone without reminders. I disagree but maybe she’s right. At any rate, we’re getting very near to asking for an entirely different approach.

      • Camp or no camp, RR needs support from them that she is not getting. Thinking about the caretaker who advocates figuring it out on her own, is she able to articulate for you exactly why? Has she ever had a student whose toilet learning mirrors RR’s? I would be curious if this is a “this worked for all the other kids I know” situation. She may be unfamiliar with this particular situation and be unable to think outside the box on this one. As a teacher, I say ask for what you need, for what your child needs. If the teacher is uncomfortable or unwilling, ask why and ask what kind of compromise may be met. I’ve certainly been in situations (potty training and otherwise) in which I’ve disagreed with families, but talking it out, recognizing mutual goals, and finding where compromise may be made is so important. Good luck!

      • I am pretty sure it is a Montessori thing with whole self-sufficiency thing. I would still approach them about the issue and see if there is some way to comprimise. I like the watch idea another commenter suggested.

  13. Oh, and don’t worry for a minute about the poop part or the peeing while asleep part. Both things always come later. Just focus on the pee during the day thing and then tackle the rest.

  14. I laugh at anyone who boasts on the “I trained my child in 3 days” soapbox. Potty learning, yes learning, takes time like everything else. Some kids get it quicker. Some do not. With us, it was a continual process of get the pee in the potty, then get the poop in the potty, then stay dry at nap, then stay dry over night, then pee while standing (boy obviously), and now it is CAN YOU PLEASE KEEP THE URINE STREAM pointed toward the toilet!!! Hang in there! Good luck!

    • I’m baffled that sometimes she goes and sometimes she just doesn’t. Why on earth she has such a selective memory, I have no idea. At least I don’t have to worry about rogue streams!

  15. I got nothing but sympathies here.

  16. You ARE NOT a terrible mother. Owen has been practicing with undies and the potty for over a year, and he still has accidents. We now give him Miralax every day, b/c when he was constipated he would pee in his pants daily, and he seemed to not be able to control it at all. Maybe something like that is going on?

    • I JUST read an article about that yesterday – thanks for reminding me! We do something similar but I admit we’re not as consistent as we could be. Time to crack down. I’m glad to know she’s not the only kid her age (yet again) who’s having some mastery issues – where some=no mastery at all 😉

  17. Ugh, potty training sucks! Big time! But, eventually, she will get it. Sending positive pitty vibes!

  18. potty vibes, that is…

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