Advice I was told, listened to, then ignored whilst potty training Little Bear, and was all the happier for it:
January this year, I started looking at toilet training Little Bear. I felt under a lot of pressure to make this work, and was slightly terrified about the idea of having to clean poo off the sofa and mop up endless puddles of wee, especially after becoming a nappy changing pro after the last 2 years.
Like everything as a first time parent, potty training is new and it's intimidating. Each time I adapt to Little Bear’s need and move from amateur to veteran, he’s ready for the next stage, and all my learning goes at the window as I start from scratch.
Why did I think January was the right time? I read an article claiming that ‘parents these days are leaving their kids in nappies for too long’. The writer claimed that nappies have now become 'too good’, and that parents have become lazy: delaying the inevitable need to train their tots to sit on the loo. This was followed with articles about ‘amazing’ parents training their kids to be nappy-free ‘from birth’.
So I got a toilet seat and potty and we started trying it out. Little Bear loved it, especially the dancing after he did a wee and the victory run I did around the hall when a dump came. But you know what, he loved going in his nappy more. I heard other parents thinking about it and the pressure got going. Someone even told us directly that it wasn’t good for Little Bear to be keep in nappies for ‘so long’ and implied she wouldn’t allow Little Bear to carry on in nappies... My wife and I ignored it, of course, but it put us under more pressure.
NHS guidelines seemed quite sensible, claiming you should wait until they’re ready. But then stipulated that this was normally between 24 and 30 months. So by March I was reading every mention Little Bear made about toilets as a ‘sign’ that he was ready on his approach to the 30 month ‘deadline’.
One weekend in April, we just went for it. Out came the pants (‘underwear’ for American readers). The potty moved into the living room. We spun lots of excitement about no longer using nappies and we got ready for a long (and messy) weekend. An hour into it... Little Bear got really upset. A quick glance on Google said that this was to be expected and we should push on through anyway... Fu*k Google. We stopped and out came the nappy again. It didn’t feel right to make my kid feel like that.
A week later in the pool, I asked the parent of a 3 year old when they had potty trained: “With the older kids, we went through weeks of agony when they were around 2. With this one... Well he really just switched last week. It was the easiest thing ever. We just didn’t push it, and he just switched. Can’t believe we wasted all that effort before”
I felt this was more my type of ideal parenting. The happy and stress free transition. I remember wishing I had done it for weaning, crawling, walking, every milestone. No forcing, just letting Little Bear take the time to transition.
Then I thought back to the article on how ‘lazy’ modern parents were, and about those parents from the generation above me who were so keen to get babies out of nappies as soon as possible. And thought: but wait, if I had to wash all of Little Bear’s nappies, or couldn’t rely on them to keep in his giant poos, I’d probably also want to potty train quicker. Hell yes! But the fact is, like the advance of modern medicine, central heating and washing machine, technology means I no longer have to stress my son out. Nappies are just better nowadays and we should love that fact, not complain about it.
Michael Gove recently implied that disposable nappies should be banned. But along with Jacob Rees-Mogg, they are only shy parents who like to avoid their parental responsibilities. Rees-Mogg even confessed, with 6 kids, that he’d never changed a nappy in his life... And Gove the he likes planning to get home after the kids are in bed so he doesn't have to deal with them. It’s these sort of people who probably have the antiquated opinions about when kids should start toilet training, the people who are least entitled to comment.
In August, when on our holiday in Sweden, Little Bear went nappy free and kept his pants dry (almost the whole time we were there). Granted, there were a fee wees in the garden of the family summer house, but no stress.
A couple of months later and the number of incidents has been pretty low and stress free for everyone involved. Occasionally driving the toy train to ‘Charing Cross’ is more important than the potential reward of the toilet dance, so we have a little accident, as he suddenly jumps up holding his willy ‘Oh! Errr, I need a wee’ when it’s clearly too late. But he’s happy, and I’m happy, and we didn’t need to spend months of agony in toilet training, despite the advice.
I have learnt this lesson again and again (and forgotten it just as many time): whatever practical advice you read about taking care of your kid, the chances are that you know better what works for your kid. We do hang around them every day after all, so we should trust our instincts more.
I'm Dave, dad of Little Bear. Also known as 'Pappa' to the little man as we try and bring out his Swedish roots