The Woes of Potty Training

Being a working mother can be hard. Whenever I get a phonecall from nursery I overreact. Part in worry for him being poorly; in part because I have to leave work and that then messes up everyone else’s day. But the kisses and the cuddles, the special time we spend together (even if it is because he is awake for two hours in the night) is something I cherish even more. However, there is one thing I always feared.

When Harry first started showing signs of wanting to use the toilet we did what I imagine any normal parent does. We scattered the house with potties, step-up stools, pull-up pants. We let him wander the house bare-bottomed at the weekend. But this was two days a week and it was catch 22. He wasn’t ready to wear pants at nursery and he didn’t have enough time at home over the weekend to get used to wearing pants and using the toilet/potty. He had no consistency.

So came the summer and Harry and I both had a week off. This was the week when we were going to get it sussed. As it happened, the Friday before was the first day he’d turned to me and told me he wanted to wear pants to nursery. Well, who was I to stop him? It was the first step, a good omen for the week ahead. He had three accidents (after which nursery put the children back in pull-ups) but he had tried, he had been brave, and all of these accidents were after lunch so he had actually been fine all morning.

The week that followed he did well. He gained in confidence, began to enjoy wearing pants and using the toilet and, I think, realise the freedom that these bring. Back at nursery, he continued. He’d start off having a couple of accidents a day, then he’d have a tiny set back and he’d be back in pull-ups until he’d wake up one morning and tell me he wanted to wear pants to nursery. He went back and forth like this a few times, but each time he improved. The accidents got less, usually limited to just one in the afternoon which was a most often a poo, but sometimes he would even hold this until we got home and put a nappy on him for bedtime.

The big turnaround came when his friend, Billy, started wearing pants. Harry had been going through a pull-up stage, but suddenly one morning he was back to pants. Nursery would make sure that Harry and Billy went to the toilet at the same time, hoping to encourage Harry more. It did. He started to do the occasional poo on the toilet and he began refusing to wear a nappy at night time, never once wetting the bed. He was so so close.

Then, at the beginning of December, Harry and I went to the library after work/nursery. It was late, we were both tired, I had half-expected Harry to fall asleep but he didn’t. I just wanted to quickly print off something and go home. But Harry needed the toilet. And I didn’t realise how badly he must have needed it because we were too late. I didn’t get cross but I was flustered and stressed and that must have come across just as strongly because the next day he refused to wear pants.

It was only a couple of weeks until the Christmas holidays so I let him be. But when the holidays came he was back in pants. He protested to begin with but after a couple of days he was fine with it, although he was no longer sleeping in them and the poos on the toilet/potty were few and far between. Overall, he did OK but we were still pretty much back to were we started.

It is now a week and a half into the new term and I have been inundated with washing. I can’t keep up with it. Nursery are getting fed up because they keep using all the spare clothes I have put in his bag. The problems, in general, aren’t the wees. He’s got those pretty much sussed. But he is always had this thing with pooing when he goes little and often throughout the day. It was only when he started to get confident with going for a poo on the toilet that he would go once a day, all in one go. But now it is worse than ever, smear after smear in his pants from when he has been trying to go, and then he’ll finally get it out, sometimes in the toilet, mostly in a nappy at bedtime.

Nursery spoke to me today. They are concerned about his bowel movements and keep saying I should take him to the doctors or the health visitor but over all this time it is never something I have been concerned about. And I’m still not. It’s not that I’m used to it, it’s not that I know he eats all the right things, I just know he can do it if he puts his mind to it. Which most likely means it is psychological but he was almost there before Christmas and he can get there again.

The problem is, the clock is ticking. Everything always seems so much closer after Christmas and with the baby due at the end of June and, more importantly, Harry starting school in September, there is no time like the present. But it is unfair on Harry, it is unfair on nursery (it is unfair on me and James and our bank balance, come to that) and nursery has recommend he has a break from pants and goes back into pull-ups for a while. I nod and agree. Nursery knows best. They have far more experience of potty training children, so what do I know? What do I know? All I know is that surely doing one thing at home two days a week and one thing at nursery five days a week can’t help. But I can’t put Harry back in pull-ups over the weekend too. They talk about regression but if I do that then regression is being forced upon him.

He slept in pants last night. I thought it was going to be a good day. But we’re going round in circles. He’s going to hate wearing pull-ups tomorrow. How is that fair? How is that going to help? But we have to try. I have to keep communicating with nursery, now more than ever. I have to be more encouraging, more this, more that, as if I’m not doing that already. This weekend he is going to run around bare-bottomed again and, as my mother suggested, we will place a nappy over the potty for whenever he needs a poo. Somewhere, there is light at the end of this tunnel. But I can’t help thinking how much easier it would be if I could support Harry 24/7.

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