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Mercy in Mamahood

The 3 P’s: potty, prayer, pride

By Sarah Read

It’s been 10 months of potty training struggles. Before age 2, my daughter showed an active interest in using the potty, so we started it early-on. She had gone off and on, even through messy, unsuccessful weeks at wearing “big girl” underwear. We would start with enthusiasm and end in tears, giving up and dropping the subject for a few weeks and using diapers again.

Potty charts, reward stickers and treats, pull-ups, underwear, timing schedules, bare-bottoms, potty chairs, potty seats, potty books, potty videos, talking about it a lot, not talking about it all… trust me, we have done it all. The dismissive advice I would get from other parents would often add to my annoyance. “Oh, just use stickers and keep putting her on the potty throughout the day…” or, “Don’t worry about accidents; just don’t put her back in diapers no matter what and eventually she’ll learn.” Well, you know what? My daughter likes stickers, but not enough to stop playing to go potty for one. And my daughter is stubborn. If I put her on the potty and she didn’t feel like it, she would simply wait three minutes and tinkle on the floor. Don’t worry about accidents? How about when those “accidents” are all day long around your house? Am I supposed to sit back while my floors, rugs and couch are ruined? No one would suggest such a thing if I told them our dog was the source of such messes. They’d tell me to build a doghouse in the backyard and be done with it.

We started a new system about two months ago with marbles. My daughter loves marbles. We have a Mickey Mouse jar; when she tried on the potty she could put a little marble in, when she succeeded in using the potty she could put a large marble in. We told her that when the jar was filled with marbles she could have a new, big girl bicycle. My husband even brought her to the store to sit on one. It wasn’t long before the novelty wore off and she was back to going in her pants again, mostly just to get a reaction from me. And try as I might not to give her any reaction, I’m sure my “it’s okay, just try again next times” were laced with the inner frustrations I felt from having to clean up the mess again. We would have some seemingly progressive days then back to the drawing board. When I knew she was going in her pants on purpose, I would take a marble back out of the jar, which was never popular. I began to feel as though we would never turn a corner, never reach the day when it would happen and stay that way.

It’s been five weeks of potty training bliss. My daughter, at 31-months-old, is finally and officially potty trained. She tells me every time she has to go, even in public, and never complains when we have to try. She is also diaper-free at night. It’s like I have a completely different child. What turned this magic switch? The only trick in the book that worked was, believe it or not, prayer. Did I ask Jesus to potty train my daughter? No. I did, however, pray that I be released from the agony of caring one way or another if she was trained or not. I prayed for patience for myself, for however long it took. The next day she was accident free and self-determined to use the potty every time and successfully stuck to it.

It brings to my mind this bible quote, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” Matthew 17:20 (NIV).

Now, granted, potty training my 2-1/2 year-old is not on the same realm as the miraculous cure of a child that was lunatic and vexed with a devil, as was the case in that biblical story but if any parents out there have had to deal with potty-training stubbornness, regression or potty power struggles, well, you can certainly appreciate the similarities.

Her Granny and Papa got her the big-girl bike, which she loves, but it seems to come second to the pride she feels in her own accomplishment, a sure sign it’s the real deal from the Man Upstairs. “Say you’re so proud of me, mama,” she will insist after she has used the potty. “I am SO proud of you,” I say. With a triumphant smile, she always replies, “I’m so proud of myself, too.”

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