Olly Mann goes head-to-head with the ultimate parenting challenge—potty training…
Small children cause amnesia.
Ask anybody who possesses a car seat to hold forth on their current phase of child-rearing, and they’ll wax lyrical about warming up milk bottles, or baby-proofing the house, or teaching phonemes, or which holiday camp is best.
Ask them three months later—when their kid has moved on to the next stage of life—and they’ll draw a blank. They’ll have no idea. They will literally not remember the very issues that, just a few weeks earlier, had been the bread-and-butter of their parenting.
So it is when it comes to potty training. I’ve already been through it once—well, twice, if you include my own personal transition to drier bedsheets—and yet I simply cannot remember the details of how it’s achieved.
My eldest son, Harvey, now six, can take himself to the loo, aim his appendage with precision and wipe his bum like a champ, but I have no recollection of how it all happened.
I just know that he used to be in nappies, and now, three years later, he isn’t, and, presumably, at some point in-between, we worked it all out.
This presents a challenge, because the time has come for our second son, Toby, to be inducted into the defecatory Hall of Fame.
Selfishly, I determined the timeline for his urinary conversion around our holiday schedule: I insisted upon waiting until after Easter, because we were in Cyprus, and I couldn’t face queuing for the Easyjet lavs with wee running down my arm.
And we’re off to the South of France in July, and I don’t want to be changing nappies in the heat either.
So, the time is now. Frankly, after nearly three years wrapping Toby’s soiled paper pants into scented plastic bags and chucking them into landfill, we’ve punished the planet enough.
"He immediately bonded with his potty, and started carrying it everywhere, like a Gucci man-bag"
She has somehow churned out 295 pages of wisdom on this insalubrious topic, and—although her book does include a patronising two-page "Cheat Sheet" for dads (which assumes mums do the donkey-work)—I found it to be highly useful advice.
So much so, in fact, that I lent my copy to my friend Ben, who then lent it to a mate of his, but now can’t remember whom. Glowacki has, cannily, paywalled her most pertinent advice online, but I refuse to buy another copy—I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend another £9 learning how to poo.
So, I’ve had to cobble Toby’s programme together, but I did remember Glowacki’s Step One: to psychologically prepare your toddler a few days ahead of time, eg, "next week we’re throwing away your nappies", "only a few days now until we say bye-bye to nappies!", etc.
I can recommend this as a way of adding poignancy to otherwise plebeian proceedings: as the cupboard door swung shut and Toby waved farewell to his Pampers, it was as if the curtains were closing at a crematorium.
Illustration by Dom McKenzie
Next, approximating Glowacki’s soft-soap psychological techniques, I took Toby to "choose" his potty. The pharmacy only had one in stock, and it was bright pink. By nature, Toby is more of a diggers-and-dinosaurs kinda guy, but he immediately bonded with it, and started carrying it everywhere, like a Gucci man-bag.
Then, he and I spent a day at home (yes, my wife was at work—take that, Glowacki!); he naked, I constantly placing him on the potty, he continually peeing all over the floor.
Not just the floor, but the rug, the stairs, the doormat, a basket full of toilet rolls, a selection of his brother’s Hot Wheels, and—in what I am calling his Piss De Resistance—over half a dozen chocolate eggs on the window ledge (we have a window-seat. A tractor drove by. He got excited).
"Toby climbed upstairs, proudly and precariously balancing a potty full of pee"
Following the laws of stopped clocks and typewriting monkeys, Toby did actually manage to wee in the potty itself a couple of times, though no intention seemed to lie behind the achievement.
Number Twos, luckily, were a cinch: I wasn’t even involved. “Poo coming, poo coming”, he had shouted from the living room, as I towelled off yet another of his sprays from the freezer door.
I grumpily entered the lounge expecting a scene from Pulp Fiction, but there it was—a brown globular gift from the gods, sitting in the potty I had left on a plastic sheet, more in hope than expectation.
After three days of chasing him round repeatedly asking, "Do you need a wee?" like a mantra, the message on Number Ones now appears to be cutting through, too.
Today I was awoken by my wife’s celebratory whooping as Toby climbed upstairs, proudly and precariously balancing a potty full of pee.
Tomorrow, another milestone: he’s off to nursery in his "big boy pants". So, I reckon we’re about four days away from him having mastered self-initiation.
Just don’t ask me about it in three months’ time. I won’t remember.
Read more: Why can't we remember being babies?
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