the permanence of things

I have a friend who has just started potty training her toddler, and it gives me flashbacks to a very small John, sitting on the toilet and listening to me read “Little Blue Truck” over and over again. We started out setting a timer — every thirty minutes, the timer dings and it’s time to sit on the potty. This left me feeling impatient, and I felt like John didn’t know what was supposed to happen. Eventually, I plopped him onto the toilet and started reading. We sat there for forty-five minutes — or forever, who can say — and I remember praying, pleading that he would just make something happen. I was armed with stickers, dollar store presents, m&m’s, ANYTHING that would positively reinforce what he did on that toilet.

We gave up after an hour.

For several days, several times a day, we just sat in the bathroom. Sometimes I taped a diaper to the top of the toilet so it would seem like he was just going in the diaper, no big deal! Sometimes I sat him on the disgusting chamber pot of germs that is the “training potty,” just so it was more his size and he wasn’t intimidated by our regular toilet. Sometimes I acted out little skits about… you know what? The content of the skits doesn’t bear repeating (it’s gross). Desperate times, people. Desperate times.

One day we will have to restart this process of potty training with Ev — I’m not sure if this will help motivate him, but it brings me some delight, and that’s what you need to cling to.

I remember sitting on the floor, mindlessly eating the reward m&m’s, staring at my poorly crafted “POTTY CHART!!!!” sign, and thinking this will never, ever end.

Spoiler alert: it did end. Prizes were given, treats were eaten, underwear was purchased. The sun shone a little bit brighter at the end of it all and the birds sang a little bit sweeter. Just for us.

I’m not here to say “enjoy every moment — it just goes so fast!” It does go so fast. Enjoy the moments you can. Maybe someday you can look back and fondly remember making eye contact with your toddler while they do their business. I’m not that far in the future yet. I can’t even read “Little Blue Truck” without suffering some PTSD.

I’m here to say — that rough patch you’re in? The one where your child runs away from you in public places? Or refuses to put on pants? Or screams “BUTTS!” at passersby? It won’t last forever. That doesn’t mean you go from potty words to perfect angel. Let’s be real. It just means that the thing that aggravates you about parenting today won’t be the thing that aggravates you tomorrow. If the only way to make it in the moment is to say, “see you tomorrow” to your spouse
and lock yourself in your room so you can binge-watch “Mysteries at the Museum” by yourself, do it. Seems like a pretty decent coping mechanism to me. Don’t beat yourself up over this. Do what you can to survive in this moment, because this moment isn’t permanent. This season ends (much like your shows on Netflix).

Eventually, your mind will say, “read a book!” and you will. Eventually, your spouse will say, “hey! Stop avoiding me, let’s play Trivial Pursuit!” and you will, and you’ll lose badly but laugh a lot. Eventually, the mind of your tiny child will say “just pee in the potty and make everyone happy,” and gosh darnit, they will.

Keep up the good work, moms and dads. You’re getting there, one chaotic phase at a time.

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