Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Potty Training

Well, you all knew it was coming. Put the sandwich down if you want to continue. Do-do. Do-do. Do-do. (Jaws Potty theme music) Someday, her sense of humor may elevate beyond 13-year-old boy. Dare to dream.

Readers, we have been on some truly magical adventures together; the Thomas Train Day with the fairy God-conductors comes to mind. You have toughed out some rough times with me too. You have stood fast with me through the birth of Super Baby, Super Toddler's walking refusal, Super Preschooler first day of Preschool; plus many a battle with Perfect Mom. But nothing, and I mean nothing, has been the harrowing, frustrating, trial and tribulation, stroll through the valley of the shadow of doubt that potty training Super Preschooler has been. It has been a mess; figuratively, literally, and every other way I can mean a mess. But you are not going on that messy trip with me, my lovely Readers. Not that I don't think you could handle it; I know you could handle it. You are all strong. Not that I can't handle the telling. It is still quite fresh, as far as battles go; in fact, I am still putting out little border-skirmishes here and there. And heck, I still have to do the other two Supers, so it is definitely on my mind. No, the reason I can't tell you is Super Preschooler.

I share a lot with you guys. Since most of what I write about is me and my awkward path through motherhood, it is fairly necessary to share a great deal about my children. Most of the time, I feel good about this. They are super children, so there isn't much bad to tell. I don't feel that anything I write here will embarrass them unduly later on, and if it does, well, I just hope that super forgiveness happens to be a super power that they develop as they age. The battles that I document here are, by and large, my battles. My insecurities. My awkward antics. Even though they are the superheroes and I tend to play sidekick, you are getting my version and take on things. My journey and my story. This story here is not mine to tell. Potty training is such a sensitive thing, such a private and unique story. I can't even really call it a story because, honestly, do people sit around the campfire and tell tales of their first pee? No, they don't. Because that is gross. Therefore, I am not going to tell you about Super Preschooler and his battle with potty training, except to tell you that I am very proud of him and his efforts. What I am going to talk to you about is talking about potty training with other moms. I believe this is called a bait and switch in the biz, but, believe me, as far as potty posts go, this one is the better one. If there were a better potty post, that is.

Talking to other parents about potty training is like kicking a hornet's nest. You aren't altogether sure what is going to come out, but you are sure that you aren't going to like it. Plus, why the heck are you kicking hornets' nests? That is not a good idea. Ever. Among moms, mostly of the stay-at-home variety, when a child potty trained ranks quite high on the list of what makes one's child impressive. It is like number 3, after when a child walked and when a child talked. There are a few others; reading, writing one's name, ability to access Netflix solo, drinking from a normal cup, ability to dress. But nothing makes a mom false-blush faster than saying, "Oh, Perfect Toddler? She has been using the potty since she was 14 months old. No big deal, considering she walked at 7 months and has been speaking in full sentences since she was a year. We are looking into early admission for Harvard, of course."

I don't know why this is such a bragging touchstone. OK, that is a lie. I totally know. It is the equvalant of saying, "Oh, you aren't done with your term paper? Poor thing, I have been done since last week." or "Oh, I don't even brush it, it just falls this way in the morning. Thank you." or "Stunning? Really? In this old thing? Bless your heart." Moms brag about their children's potty training because IT MAKES THEM BETTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE. The rest of us are cleaning up pee and poop that our children wear in a belt around the lower half of their bodies.We are having to wash or store these recepticals of waste. We are not as good as these non-diapered moms are in the clearest possible way; the abundance of fecal matter in our lives is 100% more.

Plus, everyone knows that part of the joy of having children is stealing their accomplishments and parading them around like they are your own. I don't have to tell you this, do I? That is like Parenting 101. Do I sound bitter, Readers? I am not trying to. I mean, of course, I am jealous of these moms. That is the whole point. They can't be better if no one wants to be like them. Then, they would just be like everyone else. And goodness knows, we can't possibly stop the cycle of mean girls and the girls that want to be like them. I mean, none of us would know how to function, right? My role of lesser mom is important to the mom structure, for without me and my sisters, the better moms wouldn't have anyone to mock. And then we, lesser moms, wouldn't have anyone to gossip about. And then we would have a glorious, egalitarian, mom utopia where we all drink wine and compliment each other on our beautiful hair and talk about other things, like books and politics and social issues, while our children romp together on the swings in the setting sun. We couldn't possibly have that, now could we? And, we are back to bitter. See, cycles!

Other than bitter, I am mostly just confused. When did it become socially acceptable to talk about toileting in public? Was I sick the day that this memo came out because I really don't recall it. But it continues to happen. Here is what happened in Super Baby's First Steps class last week:

Teacher who I am pretty sure I don't like but it is week 2 so I shall reserve judgment: Snack time!

Child 1: Yum, these raisins are delish!

Child 2: Yes, I love them.

Perfect Mom 1: Are they organic? We only eat organic.

Perfect Mom 2: Oh yes, us too.

Teacher: Yes, they are organic. Hey, does anyone know of anything happening in town this weekend?

Perfect Mom 3: Oh, well, Touch a Truck is happening in 2 weeks.

Child 1: I LOVE Touch a Truck!

Child 3: Me too!

Teacher: Great, anyone else? No? OK. Does anyone have any milestones they want to announce?

Me: (Gagging on the organic raisins that I am stealing from Super Baby's plate) Oh, announcing milestones? Is that a thing we do now?

Teacher: Yes, do you have any to announce?

Me: Ummmm...no.

Perfect Mom 4: Well, I have one. Perfect Toddler made poo-poo in the potty 2 times yesterday!

*Sounds of oohing and aahing from many moms, plus some sprinkle of applause.*

Newly Pottying Perfect Toddler: I go poo-poo and pee-pee in potty!

Perfect Mom 4: Yes, you did, angel!

Newly Pottying Perfect Toddler: I have to go right now.

Perfect Mom 4: Oh; that is wonderful. Thank you for telling me. You are such a big girl!

*More oohing and aahing and clapping, as they head to the bathroom.*

Teacher: When did all of your children potty train?

Perfect Mom 1: Oh, around 2 years, which I know is late. But I am starting much early with Perfect Baby here.

Perfect Mom 2: Oh yes, Perfect Toddler was around 16 months.

Perfect Mom 3: My Perfect Toddler was 15 months.

Perfect Mom 5: Yes, well, my Perfect Toddler was actually still Perfect Baby then. She was a year old.

Teacher: Oh, Perfect Dad? Do you want to come over here? We are discussing milestones.

Perfect Dad: No, I'm good over here by the legos.

Perfect Mom 6: I can't quite remember how old Perfect Baby was, but it was well-within the first year.

Me: (smiling inanely in the clear hope that no one notices my lack of a response, with a visible sigh of relief that there are only 6 other moms here)

Teacher: Yes, that is all very interesting. Now, when did you all potty train as children?

Me: (Gagging on the raisins again)

Teacher: Awkward Mom, are you alright? Would you like to share with us when you potty trained as a child?

Me: Ummmm...no.

Perfect Mom 1: Oh, I was a year. My mother was so on top of things.

Perfect Mom 2: Oh, me too. We are so lazy these days, letting it linger on and on and on!

Perfect Mom 3: I am sure I was under a year.

This goes on for awhile, but Super Baby is out of raisins (wonder how that happened?) and wants to ride the rollercoaster, so we vacate the snack table. I feel like a total loser. Now, I get to feel bad about the fact that my 5-year-old just figured out potty training, like last week. I haven't started with my 3-year-old, which means he won't get early admission to Harvard. I didn't think I was late starting with my 17-month-old, but it turns out that I am. And, on top of all of that, I get to feel bad about the fact that I have no idea when I potty trained as a child. I am fairly sure it wasn't at age 1, so add that to the loser guilt pile. Sigh.

Why does any of this matter? I get that it is something that we have to do, as parents, because, as a culture, we introduce diapers to our children, for convenience and sanitary reasons, only to demand that they stop using them a few scant years (or months, apparently) later. Hence, the need for potty training. What I don't get it is why this is a totally appropriate conversation for having with other, clearly intelligent and interesting, women over some organic raisins. Did anyone see a movie recently? Read a book? Have an opinion about North Korea? Make a tasty banana bread they want to share the recipe for? Figure out a new way to get stains out of silk? Learn a language? Travel to Prague? Have a card trick to show? Have a theory on improving classroom retention at the high school level? Try that new pizza place? Learn to knit? Have a thought about racial privilege in the post-modern era? Discover a neat new blog called Awkward Mom? Anything? Anything that doesn't have to do with urine or fecal matter? I'll even take something cute your toddler did yesterday, as long as it isn't braggy.

Because that's it, isn't it? Yeah, potty training is gross, but whatever. We are moms; we can handle gross. It is the braggy-I-am-better-than-you-because-my-child-can-defecate-into-a-hole-in-the-ground-praise-me-elevate-me-delight-in-my-genius-ness of it all that gets to me. We are all moms. We are all doing our best. We should all stick together. If you really want to talk about potty training and want some tips, go ahead. Have at it. Maybe wait until we are done with snack, but seriously, go to town. However, little whisper of warning; every child is different. For every potty-train-in-one-day-at-age-1 child, there is a take-3-years-to-figure-it-out child. Yours will probably be somewhere in the middle and the technique or approach that you use will have to be tailored to meet his/her needs, just like you have to do with everything else because YOUR CHILD IS SPECIAL AND UNIQUE AND WONDERFUL AND CAN NOT BE DEFINED BY WHEN HE OR SHE POTTY TRAINED.

So, just to not leave you with that CAPS LOCK shout-fest; a little epilogue to our First Steps Potty Snack Time:

Me: Watch out, Super Baby! I'm sorry, she gets on that thing and doesn't know how to stop.

Perfect Mom 4: It's OK.

Me: By the way, congrats on Perfect Toddler! That is really great. (I swear to you all that I was sincere and that there wasn't a trace of sarcasm that was detectable.)

Perfect Mom: Oh, yes, thanks. Kinda silly to talk about it at snack time like that. Guess I am just excited because her brother, who is 5, just learned as well and I am probably actually excited about that and the hope that Perfect Toddler won't take the 3 years that it took him, you know?

Me: Oh yes, I know. Hey, they put away the snack, but I have some raisins here in my pocket. You want some? They're organic.

Well, what kind of picture were you expecting?
Awkward Mom refuses to talk about his potty training, but happens to have a picture of it?
No, you'll have to content yourself with this snap of Super Baby.
Poor you.


  1. I don't remember when you potty trained - but obviously you learned. Hasn't set you back any from all I can see. And even the child who took until he was ---- well I won't divulge that --- it didn't seem to affect his adjustment or success as a human being at any rate. Happens to be one of the sweetest people I know. So you see - it's overrated.

    1. Totally overrated. I agree. And I truly hope that we amount to more in life than learning how to use a toilet and that isn't the thing that we are judged by our whole lives. Yikes! :)

      And yes, he is the sweetest person I know too!

  2. I wish you could join our school. We've never, EVER had to announce milestones of any kind in class. How horrifying! I think your instincts about the teacher are probably spot-on. :)

    I have no idea when I potty trained either, and frankly, EW! What a weird thing for her to ask! I'm not weirded out by talk of toddlers potty training, but adults? Somehow that crosses a line.

    To be fair to the other moms, I do understand the need to talk about potty training - it's really in the forefront of my mind these days. I have a billion questions and sometimes it helps to hear what other moms are going through. But yeah, wouldn't it be great to talk about Prague once in a while? Ahh, someday!

    1. HAHA! I just commented on your latest blog. Like right now, probably while you were commenting here. :)

      Yeah, the teacher is totally weird. And she has a whole different voice for the parents and the kids. The kids look at her funny. Not a good sign.

      Yes, it is fine to talk about it. I am down with that. It is the bragging about it, or the insecure having to have the youngest child to ever potty-train, that I can't handle. I would rather talk about any child related anything than potty training. But I suppose that is because my current experience with it is so loaded with tension. Once again, it is all me and my problems. Now, who's the bragger? :)

  3. Oh, potty training...(insert a deep sigh here). My Kindergartener was potty-trained in 3 days. I didn't do anything. He just loves sugar too much :) He was 2.5. My 3-year old loves candies just as much be he would rather scream bloody murder on the floor of the kitchen (because I don't give him any) than even try to use that potty :(... I guess, one of the reasons why we rarely go to Mother's groups is because I'm tired of explaining why he's still in a diaper...

    1. I would go to mom groups with all three in diapers and just dare them to say anything. Maybe I don't have enough to do, if I am itching for a fight like that. :) It just took a lot of time for us. The middle one is showing some signs that he might be interested, so that is nice. But if my oldest taught me anything, patience is key. Patience and the ability to seek out understanding mom friends who let you talk about other things besides milestones and potties. :)

      I love sugar too much too, I am with your oldest all the way!

  4. Perfect mom 4 sounds like she might be Decent Mom

    1. Yes, I think she may have been mis-named. :)