Cold-Turkey: My Angst-y Approach to Potty Training

06/16/2011 9:00 AM

06/15/2011 10:36 AM


In a moment of reckless hubris, I announced to the world that Drew would be potty trained by July 7, 2011. In retrospect it was a little reminiscent of Harold Camping, the end-of-the-world prophet who predicted the apocalypse last month. Who was I to say the end of diapers is near?

Gordon pulled out his iPhone and added the date to his calendar, like he was scheduling a power lunch. “D-day,” he said. “Got it.” Diaper Death Day.

My plan wasn’t totally imperialistic. I had a grassroots strategy. The first step: spend several Saturdays as we can outside in the pool or sprinkler with Drew totally naked. He needs to see the deed in real-time and prove to himself he won’t burst into flames. The second step: push Drew over the edge.

What’s been holding me back thus far is uncertainty. Is he just not physically ready? Is he being defiant? Is he hung up on some irrational fear? After months (years) of pondering this, I’ve decided it’s fear. A fear of releasing his waste out into the wild blue yonder. It must also have something to do with letting go of such an integral part of his routine — pooping in the corner, asking mom to “change you”, watching in fascination as mom spits up in her mouth. This is a big change.

And so I invented this.

Behold the artistic creation that will bring jubilee. The Big Boy Day Countdown chart. Do you see the glowing toilet in the bottom right corner? This box represents July 7, 2011. I was going for a chummy, fun-loving commode who just wants world peace and a little appreciation. The golden light emanating from its core is intentionally epic — in a friendly, Sesame-Street kind of way.

I couldn’t wait to show it to him when he finally got up from his nap. I provided sparkly star stickers for him to mark off the days until the diapers run out, like a friendly doomsday warning, or a Christmas chain leading up to what is probably another big date on the Mayan calendar. That’s when all that will be between him and the cold, cruel world is a thin layer of Thomas the Tank Engine. (Like Kramer’s thin layer of gabardine.) Scary, I know.

Why July 7? It’s the earliest possible weekend this summer. I considered waiting until after our family vacation to Destin at the end of July, but realized that August is a mere four weeks from when school begins. And if Drew isn’t potty trained by then, well, there just won’t be any school. And I will be forced to heavy drink.

When I was about 9 years old, my family and I went to Wet N’ Wild. This is where chlorine goes to feel like one of the essential elements. You breathe at least as much chlorine as you do oxygen until your lungs ache and your skin pulls tight against your deeper, more permanent skin. Which is screaming with sunburn. You can tell I loved this place.

My parents, sister and I climbed the ramp up to the top of a mammoth slide where you can go down as a family in one big raft. Once you get close to the top of the line, you’re narrowed one-by-one up some tight spiral stairs.

We waited about 20 minutes and everybody was really excited, laughing, in good spirits. Except me. I was making a valiant effort, but when I got a peek over the drop off, my chin started quivering and I told my dad I couldn’t do it. This was especially terrible because here was my little sister who would have gone down the slide by herself, backwards, blindfolded, with Mark Cuban. I squeezed back down the staircase against the flow, down this spiral not designed for two-way traffic, past smaller kids who were looking up inquisitively at this pudgy crying third-grader. I was the kidney stone in the bladder of The Mammoth, and it passed me with agony.

Sometimes I wonder if my dad should have pushed me over the edge. Maybe for the rest of my childhood I would have enjoyed Wet N’ Wild, Six Flags, the trip to Disney World and all our yearly visits to the Fair — instead of dreading them every single time. Or maybe it would have backfired and today I would be a vagrant selling knockoff Fendi to support my habit.

Is pushing your child over the edge worth the risk? I’d rather have a potty-trained mental case than a 40-year-old who relies on me to stay powder-fresh. (Because you can bet he won’t have a wife.)

I guess it just Depends on you.


For more from Julie, visit her blog at



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