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Potty Training
Photo: Jose Gelpi Diaz
I woke up one day and realized that my continuous dream of having three kids in diapers might actually come true!  The baby bump had started to get quite large around twenty-eight weeks and even though I was encouraging my three and half year old son to use the potty, it was not happening. My two and a half-year-old daughter was more interested than my son. 

A couple of weekends in a row my husband and I decided to try something we call potty training boot camp. Both kids were put in underwear, given juice (we never give them juice), and taken to sit on the potty every twenty minutes. Some friends of ours have had major success with this method. I was willing to try almost anything at this point and this seemed relatively painless. Let’s just say I spoke too soon. Somehow, the kids were not leaving their mess behind in the potty and they suddenly had dirty underwear five seconds after each potty trip. I also should add they were sitting on the potty for long periods of time, not by force, but because they wanted to. So it was strange that they managed to keep the potty clean each time.

One can understand how discouraged my husband and I began to feel. After a few weeks my son was beginning to refuse to go anywhere near the bathroom, so we just gave up. I got a shipment of cloth diapers for the next baby that were one size; from seven pounds all the way up to thirty. Our next step was to get used to the idea of cleaning up cloth diapers by trying them out on our two kids. After one day I realized that my son was just too big for the cloth diapers and they kept leaking!  He was unhappy and so was I. Even though my daughter was not leaking out of the diapers, she did not enjoy being able to feel her own mess, so in some ways this weird detour ended up being the bridge to potty training.

Make Own Mistakes

When I was thirty-two weeks pregnant, the countdown to new baby began to speed up. I found myself complaining at a friend’s house as I explained how hard potty training was. She told me something that was very helpful. She said, “When a baby learns to walk, we do not just turn around and tell them never to crawl again. Ultimately, they make their own decisions through trial and error.” I suddenly could understand my son’s frustration. He was not really getting the chance to make mistakes on his own.

The next day I put both children in underwear and let them know I would help them get to the potty, but they needed to tell me. We went through about a week of many accidents before my son asked me to take him to the potty. At first I thought I had put myself in a crazy situation, but I felt like I just needed to wait and see what would happen.  From the moment my son got to teach himself how to potty train, things began to fall into place. After a week, he was finally ready to use the potty full time during the day. My daughter was also on the same path just by watching her brother take the lead.

It has been a tiring couple of months for me, but I would say the lessons I have learned are well worth all the frustration.  Watching my kids make mistake after mistake as they learned to use the potty made me think about how many times it takes me to learn new things. I wonder if God is looking at me wishing I would just learn the first time. Patience and grace for my children has really helped me  get past a really challenging part of parenting. I am thankful that I learned the importance of free will. My kids had to figure out for themselves that potty training was something beneficial to them.

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By Marion Ruybalid. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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