From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.
Even though she just turned two in January, we’ve been attempting to potty train my youngest daughter. She’s been fascinated by all things potty-related for months now, and the other kids that her babysitter watches are either potty trained or in the process. So when the babysitter asked for Pull-Ups, it only made sense.
Except – UGH. Potty training is kind of the worst. (I mean, not the literal WORST. I’m not clueless, you guys. But it’s up there on my list of Bad Things I Don’t Like At All right now.)
This lovely stage has its positives, of course, just like any stage in life. Seeing my toddler beam when she has a potty success is pretty awesome, and so is hearing her chant, “Mommy proud of me. Daddy proud of me. Sissy proud of me. Grandpa proud of me. Who else proud of me?” And as I talked about the torture that is potty training with some friends today, I realized that this annoying parenting project has reminded me a few things — things that are true about life in general, not just for parents and not just about potty training.
It’s reminded me of truths that are encouraging no matter what challenging season you’re facing, so I thought I’d share them with you today.
4 Things Potty Training Reminded Me About Life
1. A sense of humor goes a long way. I don’t care how old you are or how mature you fancy yourself, the truth is that poop is funny. And so are naked toddlers, potty dances, and all the many ways we beg and bribe our kids to just use the darned toilet.
But bathroom matters aren’t the only awkward or difficult things we can laugh about. When my husband and I can laugh together, we are automatically closer and less likely to argue (or more likely to resolve those arguments quickly). And sometimes when my oldest daughter drives me to the point of pulling out my hair, the only thing to break the tension is a joke or a funny face.
Sometimes life is hard and challenging and serious. It is. But other times we make things harder than they have to be, and a little humor can go a long way toward helping us get through a rough time.
2. Your kids are not the enemy. Just like I have to remind myself that my husband and I are on the same team, rather than fighting against each other, I occasionally need to remember that my children are not actually plotting against me. Yes, they often foil my efforts at organization, timeliness, cleanliness, being well-rested or having family fun time, but they are not the enemy.
Remembering that the people I’m dealing with – whether it’s my husband, my children, my co-workers, my friends or my extended family – are not out to get me is a game changer for me. When I step out of the role of victim and realize that, “Hey, they aren’t even THINKING about me, much less planning my demise!” I can see things much more clearly. And that’s the truth, you know? In most cases people are not sitting around, coming up with ways to ruin our days or our lives. They’re not making lists of ideas for irritating us or insulting us. They’re just living their lives — their lives that sometimes don’t look the way we want them to and might even affect us in less than ideal ways.
My daughter — brace yourselves for some TMI [too much information] here — is partially potty trained. She’s all over using the toilet for one bathroom function, but refuses to use it for the other one. [Is that too vague? Should I use the terms “number one” and “number two”? Oh my word, who thought it would be a good idea to use potty training as a metaphor for life???]
ANYWAY. The point is that, so far, she has not cooperated for the most disgusting of her potty business, and it’s made me so upset. But she’s not trying to hurt me. She’s not doing it to inconvenience me or gross me out. She’s just trying to learn how to be a person, and sometimes being a person (especially a little person who potties in the right way in the right place) is hard. She’s not the enemy, and we are in this battle together.
3. Everybody (and nobody) has the answer. Oh my, have I been reminded of this one! I knew I was feeling desperate about this potty training business when I resorted to asking for advice on Facebook. (I KNOW. Why would I ever do that?!) All the answers I received were actually kind, but WOW were they diverse! Everybody had an idea or an opinion or some insight, but at the end of the day, I’ve come to realize that absolutely nobody has the exact answer for my family.
Which is so true about every single situation we face. This world is not lacking for opinions. And crowd-sourcing is a great way to learn those ideas and beliefs, as well as to find some new ideas and suggestions that might help you out. But the truth is that nobody knows exactly what you need — so the best thing to look for are those friends who say, “I don’t know how to fix this, but I will sit here with you.” I love those kinds of friends, don’t you?
4. This season won’t last forever. It won’t. Just like our physical therapist assured me that my oldest daughter would learn to walk and that she wouldn’t crawl into her kindergarten class (she didn’t), I know my youngest won’t graduate from high school wearing training pants. And I know that someday I might even long for these days when she needed me so much — but let’s be honest; right now I’m just grateful this phase of lifting her onto the toilet every 20 minutes is temporary!
Side note: Tonight I pulled out the book I ordered to read with my older daughter. The one about the birds and the bees, you guys. CLEARLY the season of potty dances and pigtails did not last forever!!!
And this is one of the most encouraging lessons I have learned as an adult:
Our lives are made of seasons, and they do not last forever.
Each season has its beauty and its gifts, but some of those seasons are hard or frustrating or depressing or challenging or disappointing — or sometimes all of the above! But no matter how dark the days are, we can find a glimmer of hope by remembering that this season won’t last forever.
You might be a million miles away from the potty training stage of life. You might not have kids at home, or perhaps you have kids with special needs who will never be potty trained. Changing diapers might seem like the smallest of irritations compared to the challenge you’re facing today. I know. Maybe your tough situation is one I can’t even imagine, much less list out in a blog post.
Even so, I hope you are encouraged to remember at least one of these truths that I’ve learned from – of all things – potty training. This won’t last forever. You can do this. And when you do? When you make it through to the other side, when you see the sun again and begin finding the humor again? Go ahead and do the potty dance. It really does work for celebrating all sorts of success and survival!