By Rachel Stewart Johnson of Tank Fixed to Place Do Not Move
My daughter will be applying to college next year, so we have started to wonder how we can get her noticed. There are kids who have designed aircraft to transport trained lemurs to support relief missions in war zones. There are kids out there with perfect, effortless hair. Some of today’s teenagers get—I know this sounds weird—awards for things.
My daughter can’t do the obvious, which would be to spearhead a campaign to get non-sustainable palm oil removed from the Girl Scout cookie recipe, because there’s a girl out there who did that already. Shoot. What to do… finally, my motherly light bulb clangs on, full capacity, bright as all hell.
“You’ll have to tell them about the time I started potty training you by taking off your diaper and sending you outside, and your response to your first pee-down-the-leg experience was to not pee at all for the next 18 hours.”
Eighteen hours of pure will power. Eighteen hours of sheer determination, of speaking truth to power, of communicating oh hell no without using a single vocabulary word. It had to be the greatest pound-for-pound carpe diem humanity has ever witnessed.
I got excited remembering this. And it didn’t stop there! We could add: you also didn’t poo for six days. But…that might be bragging?
As a parent, having a war of wills with a 28-lb person is doomed because toddlers have far more in their arsenal than we do. As the adult, you’ve got stern looks. Loving but firm explanations. Withholding stickers from the sticker chart. Meanwhile, your counterpart can do a bowel movement on the floor of the public library during Story Time. They’ve got peeing on the sofa in the office of the preschool director. Their weapons of choice can’t be ignored, like so many cracker crumbs you can sweep away with a deft hand motion. No, they’ve got saturation into furniture fibers, complete with lasting odor. There is no way to win. It’s a body function fearscape, and you will not just lose, you will lose big.
When my daughter decided to never pee again, ever, I eventually called the pediatric advice nurse. I do sympathize with these people, who spend all day fielding calls from nervous first-time parents who do literally everything wrong all the time. And the first-time parent’s threshold for calling the advice nurse is not even a threshold. I called these nurses to ask about every sniffle my baby experienced, every patch of vague redness on her cheeks. I called to ask if my son was doomed to a life of having a bloated and dysfunctional stomach because he swallowed three pieces of gum in one week. I called to ask if I needed to rush to the ER because my daughter put an AA battery to her lips for three seconds. So I asked how to make my daughter start peeing again, and the nurse asked how old she was.
Two years, four months, I told her.
“That’s too young for potty training.”
Well. Apparently so. Apparently so. But there does not seem to be backsies in potty training, because I already put a diaper on this kid five hours ago and she glared at me and told me I’m naive and I must pay. Help me, Advice Nurse!
The advice nurse did not help. Eventually, my child relented and peed so much at once that the diaper was overwhelmed, magic absorption beads and all. This provided the only occasion I ever greeted a diaper leak with a fist pump of righteous achievement. Yes! Winning! This is fantastic! The diaper is leaking! The diaper is faaaaaailing!
Of course, my child never did go back to peeing and pooing contentedly into her diaper while we waited for her to age into a more well-developed state of maturity. No, instead she exacted some serious revenge in the form of four full months of drama and long no-I-won’t-go-ever-sorry-not-sorry episodes and cleverly-timed accidents. By the end I was convinced that the best way to potty train is to wait until Child is so old that she starts showing up on the toilet seat unannounced, murmuring under her breath about your pathetic shortcomings, and then she figures out how to buy underwear herself online. The package arrives and you think it might be the Mindfulness Through Meditation book you’re going to pretend to read, and your child darts in front of you and says no, Mom. Good Lord. It’s underwear. I’m 4 1/2 years old, for the love of God.
That’s the way to do it. Meanwhile, I am now convinced that my daughter can do anything if she can go from a blissful diaper lifestyle to not peeing for eighteen hours at a time. I look her in the eye: my child, you are destined for greatness. You have a goddess bladder. Write that down, kid! We’re writing that shit down, under “Accomplishments,” and also probably under “Awards.” Write down that there were no more than three or four times that your mom tried to donate you to the local elementary school PTA instead of buying the maracas for the music room that they really wanted. That is achieving, my child. There comes a time when you realize that being the fifth person on the third place academic decathlon at the tri-county regionals is nothing. Living through psychological warfare, toddler vs parent, and not becoming the subject of a somber documentary? That’s success right there.
About the Author
Rachel is a writer and mom of three in San Diego County. Her writing, both nonfiction and fiction, has appeared around the web in Pithead Chapel, Thrive Global, Literary Mama, District Lit, elephant journal, Thought Catalog, Litro Magazine, and elsewhere. Follow Rachel on Twitter @rachelstewjo and at her blog, www.rachelstewjo.wordpress.com.