Starter Mom: The Potty Diaries

by Nicole Loughan

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Bathroom reading by thejbird, on Flickr

It’s time to face the potty. As many of you already know, kids must be potty trained to get into a summer camp or pre-school. Most programs will take toddlers on the condition that they arrive sans diapers. I am staring down this deadline, two months to camp, and I have one child who I know would like to be swimming without a water diaper and riding ponies like the big boys, wearing tighty whities.

I have potty trained one child so far, so you would think I know what I’m doing. I don’t. My methods took longer than they should have. I employed them later than I wanted to, and the results nearly destroyed my flooring.

It was a discouraging and frustrating battle, and I am about to do it again. The important thing that everybody told me the first go around was that eventually they all get it, and now I believe that to be true. As difficult as it was the first time, I know that even with the most stubborn child, they will figure it out. Keep that in mind, as you Lysol the floor in front of your toilet for the one hundredth time, and it will help keep you sane for the work which lies ahead.

I also got by with a little help from my friends. We shared our struggles, frustration and our tips, some of the best ones I will supply below. And the one program that did eventually work for us was the three-day method. It can be found at

It is a very detailed program which claims, “Start potty training on Thursday and be done by Sunday.” It starts with looking for the signs that your child might actually be ready, willing and able to be in the same room as a potty, and even possibly sit on it and do more than unroll of the toilet paper onto the floor.The quick and dirty description of this plan is you take three days of your life, stay home, go nowhere and watch your child like a hawk following the steps listed in the book to help them figure out how to use the bathroom.

I know of people who did the t-shirt no pants method, which would be great, but I live in a very populated area, and I have carpeting, so it was not going to work for me logistically or legally. Follow whatever potty method works for you, but for that nasty in between time where you are sort of trained but sort of not, partake in the advice my friends gave me:

Make the bed two or three times – If you have a bed wetter and you don’t want to have to change sheets in the night, make the bed twice. First, on the mattress put down a bed wetting cover, such as a GoodNites mattress pad, then put your first sheet over it. Top it with another pee pad then put another sheet over that. If there is a nighttime potty accident you just pull off the first set of sheets and you have another fully made bed ready to go.

Buy a ton of cheap underpants – I am fine with rinsing a pair of undies here and there, but when there was a major mess, I am a fan of the bag and toss. I saved plastic grocery bags and used them to wrap up underwear gone wrong. Plain white underpants are a great starter choice. Once they get the hang of it, let them pick out their own bottoms and they are much less likely to destroy them.

Have an emergency bag – No matter how prepared you think you are, you should pack an emergency bag in the car. I will never forget sitting at an indoor play place with my children then watching an odd trickle of water dripping from a twisty slide down unto the purple cushioned flooring. I watched it for a minute without registering what could possibly be, then I saw my own child fly down the slide, pushing the water even quicker until it finally all burst onto the floor. When she got down and I saw her pants, I realized it was pee, her pee and she had just painted the slide with it. The next kid down the slide was also mine, so at least we cleaned up after ourselves. Then I found myself in the precarious position of having two pee covered children, shoes and all, and one spare pair of pants in the diaper bag. We washed one pair of pants in the bathroom with hand soap and hung them on the hand dryer until they weren’t soaked. Now I keep an emergency bag under the passenger seat in my car. I keep one full change of outfit for everybody in my family, underwear and flip-flops included.

Good luck!

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