When we potty trained our son two years ago, we prepared physically, mentally and spiritually.
We borrowed the Gina Ford Potty Training book from a friend (after the small fortune spent on useless books about sleep I now borrow rather than buy childcare books), bought an upstairs and a downstairs potty for the house and one for the car, waited for a week where we had a clear social diary and embarked upon Mission Potty Training.
This time around, with our daughter, it was more, “Bugger. We’ve run out of nappies. Shall we just do it?”
To be honest, she has been ready for potty training for months. The ‘experts’ tell you there are certain signs that a child is ready to be successfully potty trained: ability to follow instructions, ability to take their own pants down, ability to communicate that they need to use the toilet. When I tell you that she chooses and puts on her own clothes, orders for herself when we eat out and lays out a nappy, wipes and cream before laying herself on a changing mat, you may question who it is in this scenario that is not ready for potty training.
There is one reason and one reason only. This time, I know what I’m letting myself in for.
Nappies are so easy. With nappies, you don’t need a GPS reference for your three closest toilets. Although obviously you try to change a nappy as soon as it is necessary, you have more time to find somewhere to do it. Changing nappies isn’t pleasant, and they’re unhealthy for the environment and your bank balance, but they are the devil you know.
Day three of potty training and I needed to go to the shops to buy a birthday card. Slightly bored by her mother’s perusal of the shelves, the girl decides she needs to go to the toilet. Right now.
Cue panic stricken mother: ignoring queues of people to demand the shop assistant tell me whether they have a customer toilet (which of course they don’t, although I hear them being very sorry as I hot foot it from the store.); running at break neck speed to Debenhams because they have a toilet; waiting an interminably long time for the lift to come; dashing into the toilet; wrestling the potty out of the bag; yanking knickers down; putting the child on the potty. Then . . .
Nothing. Not a trickle. “No mummy, it won’t come.”
It takes every ounce of patience that I possess (not a very deep well to begin with) not to scream, “But you said you were desperate!”
Then begins the debate. “Just sit there until it does come.”
“But it won’t come.”
“Just try. Squeeze.”
(Pathetic squeezing noise.) “No, it won’t come.”
Eventually, I give in. Knickers back up, potty back under the buggy, hands washed. We go back down in the lift, back to our original shop and, yep, you’ve guessed it.
After the third unproductive trip to the toilet, I seriously begin to consider whipping out the potty in the middle of the shopping centre and accepting the disgusted looks from the more civilised people walking past. (I understand, I want to tell them, I was you once.) I am only prevented from doing so by the realisation that I would then need to dispose of the contents somehow.
As I’m sure you can understand, this kind of erratic behaviour is not my idea of a good time.
However, when she does manage to perform the requested task, her delight in her own achievement is infectious. I tell her that she is a good girl, that mummy is very proud and. as I watch her twirling around, proud in equal measure of her new abilities and her Minnie Mouse knick-knacks, I realise that a baby without a nappy isn’t actually a baby anymore. She is, in her own words, “a big girl now.”
And maybe that’s the real reason I’ve been putting it off.