In 2009, a local official from my city and his wife each faced six counts of felony child abuse during what they called a “potty-training war” with their adopted daughter. In 2011, a Dallas mother was arrested for gluing her daughter’s hands to the wall during a potty-training incident.
As a mother of two small girls, I understand that there is no frustration like that which comes from teaching a small child how to properly use the toilet. But there is no reason a rational adult should ever have to resort to such atrocities.
The proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” is spot on. But what about the parents? It takes a village to raise a parent, too. And in today’s modern age, we have easy access to “villages” through social networking.
On a dark and cold night in December 2010 my frustration over potty training my particularly stubborn 2-year-old, Lucy, reached a boiling point. My husband and I had exhausted just about every trick in the book. We tried sitting her on the potty for extended periods of time, offering encouragement and M&M’s as tinkle incentives. We sang potty songs we learned from Elmo and read Everyone Poops. My husband followed her around the house, waiting for her to make “the face.” I watched Dr. Phil and attempted to withhold her blankie and Pull-Up (her “currency,” as Dr. Phil would say). We both skimmed some of the nearly 2,000 books that Amazon sells on the subject. Nothing was working.
Dr. Phil had worked for my first daughter, Rachel. I took away her blanket, her sippy cup and her safety net of a Pull-Up and told her she could have them back if she pooped on the potty. She complied very quickly and never turned back. I think Lucy felt like her soul would be flushed down the toilet along with her waste if she were to give in to my demands.
Toilet training an obstinate child can make one feel a little like Bruce Banner—just waiting for the last straw to break before turning into The Hulk. I needed support and I needed a way to vent my frustration without taking it out on Lucy. After all, the last thing I wanted was for her to think the toilet is scary or the bathroom is the part of the house where Mommy turns into a wild, raging lunatic.
I tried to calm down and think about the stress-relieving techniques I was taught during my brief time in the Army. I put Lucy to bed, sat on my couch and turned on the television. As I was watching an old episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Captain Picard (and my own military experience) gave me an idea. I went to Facebook and began writing Captain’s Log entries. I made short, humorous quips about my potty-training progress (or lack thereof) in the voice of a soldier going to war. To my friends and family, it was a hilarious hit. They offered me continuous support and advice. Because they looked forward to my entries, I could anticipate my bathroom encounters with Lucy in a much happier light. Following are some of our favorite entries.
12/07/2010 Captain’s Log:
It begins. A new crusade has been launched, this time against a most stubborn and worthy opponent, nearly 3-year-old Lucy. As she so far has thwarted my efforts to see her express her waste in a proper latrine, I stand ready, patiently biding my time until I can catch her in the most terrible of acts.
12/09/2010 Captain’s Log:
In the most fruitless of attempts, I captured my prey and sat her in the appropriate position for more than an hour. Nothing. Her fury was great and my will and resolve finally broke. I released my captive without getting any, let’s say, “information” out of her. Both sides are exhausted and emotionally drained. Another more tactical mission plan needs to be laid out. War is hell.
12/12/2010 Captain’s Log:
Peace talks continue. More clearly, “Pee’s Talks” continue. Heavy armaments continue to explode unexpectedly. The enemy frequently runs past our patrol lines in order to drop bombs. More recognizance is needed.
12/14/2010 Captain’s Log:
I have severely underestimated my foe. After keeping vigil for hours with no results, I made the mistake of bathing with the enemy. After I left the shower and Lucy found herself alone, and under the conciliatory noise of the blow dryer, she unloaded the compliment of her bowel and, like a chimpanzee, opened the door and presented me with the material in her hand, in an ultimate show of defiance.
Oh, yeah. That happened.
12/16/2010 Captain’s Log:
The sheer audacity of my enemy baffles me. After a long stretch of surveillance work, I caught her preparing her stance to unleash some new hell upon the land. I leapt forward, grabbed her and began to run to the designated “safe zone.” Instead of the shock and awe of my ambush causing her to refrain from firing, she unloaded her arsenal down my leg and was out of ammo by the time we arrived.
So did that.
01/06/2011 Captain’s Log:
Today we have launched a full assault. We captured the enemy and removed her protective gear (diaper). We have replaced it with standard-issue underpants and are awaiting results. Hopefully, we will catch her in the act of bombardment, and will attempt to rehabilitate on contact.
01/17/2011 Captain’s Log:
VICTORY!!! The battle has been won, though the war will continue. Peace treaties are now under way; our side extended the olive branch of blankets, milk and a cookie before naptime. Negotiations, I fear, will be long and arduous. For now, we continue our battle cry of “Poop for Peace!”
It was a long haul, but we got through it. Potty time became a time of learning for Lucy and a time of comedic inspiration for me. It got to the point where if I made too many regular posts to my Facebook page, friends would get restless and ask when the next Captain’s Log entry would appear. Other friends who were going through similar situations at home appreciated the different outlook and would tell me their own stories, recounting them with humor instead of frustration.
Actor/comedian Bill Cosby once said, “Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.” Lucy, my youngest, now handles potty time even better than her older sister (who still occasionally forgets to flush). With all of the accidents, extra laundry, crying and overall grossness that come with the parental right of passage that is potty training a child, my stress could have reached a breaking point. Instead, I found support and laughter and leaned on my comrades-in-arms, my Band of Brothers, my village.