All kids potty train differently. At least, that is my understanding based on my sampling of two. Mazzy finally got rid of her diaper and put on her big girl panties at three years and three months, when she decided she was ready.
This is not to say we didn’t try and fail many times. It just worked when we finally backed off and took away the pressure for a few months. Once Mazzy made the decision herself, potty training was really simple. She understood how to use the toilet and knew how to hold it in until she got to a bathroom. One day she was in diapers, the next she was in underwear and that was that. I think she only had an accident once, while at school.
Pooping was a little bit of a different story. At first, we still used diapers at night so Mazzy would often wait to poop until we changed her into her night time diaper at the end of the day. Finally, we decided the only way to get her to poop in the potty was to take away the night time diaper as well. That worked and we were done. On to the next child.
Harlow held firmly to her toilet-averse-status for longer than Mazzy. I actually don’t know the exact moment we attempted to potty train because parents just don’t keep track the same way they did with their first. I knew I’d already succeeded with one kid, so I wasn’t a total failure if Harlow spent the rest of her life in diapers, right?
As a result, Harlow hasn’t had the overnight diaper to underwear transition that Mazzy had. It’s been more of a gradual thing. At about three years, we started putting Harlow in easy-ups, which represented a real change to her, while it never did to Mazzy. Harlow is kind of a neat freak and her biggest fear with potty training was peeing on the floor. She liked knowing she had the option of using the bathroom like a big kid or using her diaper without any major repercussions. Sometimes she opted for one, sometimes the other.
You might have caught her potty dance on Instagram the first time she pulled down her easy-up to use the potty herself.
But every time I tried to convince Harlow to give up the easy-ups for real underwear (especially since her teachers told me she always used the toilet at school), Harlow declined.
I said okay and let her be. Trust me— you don’t want to argue with Harlow unless it’s necessary.
I’d let a few weeks pass and then I’d bring it up again (“Any interest in wearing your big girl underwear today….?”) until one day, Harlow proclaimed, “I will wear my panties on Shabbat.”
Yep. My Super Jew decided Shabbat would be the appropriate time to debut her Paw Patrol underpants. FYI, she also likes to wear a dress, her gold shoes and a plastic ring on every finger.
We waited all week and then, that Friday, Harlow woke up excited to put on her underwear. I didn’t even have to remind her. She had a successful day at school, continued the success in the afternoon and peed on that potty up until it was time to change in her pajamas, at which point we put her in a night time diaper to go to sleep. She had done it!
The next morning, I went to put on her underpants again but Harlow refused. “No, Mom. I only wear panties on Shabbat.”
Rather than argue, I said okay and gave her an easy-up.
For several weeks, Harlow only wore panties on Friday. Then one day, I said, “Harlow. You are so good in your big girl underwear. Why don’t you try it today?”
“Is today Friday?”
“No, it’s Tuesday.”
“I only wear panties on Friday.”
“Let’s try Tuesday. Just for today.”
Turns out, she was completely successful on Tuesday too.
The next day I suggested we put on underwear again. “No, Mom. It’s not Friday!”
“What if just wear them to school and then we can take them off later? Your teachers tell me you are so good at going to the bathroom on your own!”
She agreed. From that moment on, we never sent her to school in a diaper again. But sometimes, she would ask to put an easy-up on when she got home and we let her. She also wore them on car trips and when we would be out and about on the weekends. Pretty much whenever we weren’t sure there would be an immediately accessible bathroom. She also still wore her nighttime diapers.
A few weekends ago, I took Mazzy and Harlow to Washington Square Park and they were playing around in the fountain. Harlow announced she had to go to the bathroom. I realized I had taken her out for the day in her underwear without even thinking about it. Thank god she told me she had to go because I didn’t bring any back-up clothes! I put their shoes back on and took them to the public bathroom in the park. There was a pretty long line and I got nervous, but Harlow stood next to me and waited patiently. Mazzy was the one annoyed that I had interrupted her fun in the fountain. Finally, it was our turn and Harlow went to the stall and peed. It was a beautiful thing. Except she didn’t pull her pants down far enough and peed all over her underwear, leggings and socks.
Oops. I chalked that one up to my fault rather than Harlow’s and told her so. I had to call Mike to tell him to bring new leggings to the park.
Even though that didn’t go quite as planned, I knew Harlow was ready for big girl panties whether she was in a controlled spot with a bathroom (like school) or out and about. I just needed to pack extra clothes in case of emergency. Harlow seemed to think she was ready too and stopped requesting her easy-up as often.
Mike still wanted Harlow to wear diapers in the car, especially for our hour and a half trip out to the house, but after a month or so, Harlow said she preferred her underwear. I didn’t want to discourage her just because it was easier for us, so I said okay. She’s been fine for the past few weeks and hasn’t had an accident in the car once.
This week, we checked off the last of the potty training milestones. On Monday, Harlow asked to go diaperless at night. I wasn’t sure she was ready because her diaper is usually wet in the morning. I put her in an easy-up and told her if she had to go to the bathroom, she should get out of bed and go. This would show me she was ready.
At about 11pm, a sleepy Harlow stumbled out of bed and up to me in the kitchen.
“I have to go to the bathroom.”
“Okay, let’s go.”
She dragged herself into the bathroom, lied down on the bath mat and curled up in the fetal position to go back to sleep.
“Harlow, do you really have to go the bathroom?”
“I’m too tired.”
I picked her up and put her on the potty. She peed. She really did have to go and she knew it enough to wake up, even if she promptly fell asleep on the floor. So last night, when she asked to wear her underwear again, I said okay. I put an extra waterproof pad under the sheets, told her she had to use the potty before bed and made sure she slept under the covers instead of on top of them (as both she and Mazzy like to do.)
This morning, she woke up and went to the bathroom on her own. I checked her bed and it was dry! Yay Harlow!
I’m not naive enough to think there will never be a wet bed or an accident, but I’m happy Harlow took her time transitioning out of diapers and got comfortable at her own pace.
No M&M’s. No charts. No stickers. No schedule. No carrying around a portable potty to the park.
Just a three and a half year-old who now knows when she has to use the bathroom, day or night.
Potty training is so much easier when you let your kid take the lead. Once they’ve learned how to do it, they are at the same exact same place as all the kids who have been trained for months or even years.
I mean, it’s not like you get better at using the bathroom just because you’ve been doing it for longer.