A while ago, I cajoled my 2.75-year-old daughter Penrose into sitting on her new potty. It’s blue, with a little bear on the front and a removable white bowl. We have one in the upstairs bathroom and one in the downstairs bathroom. She sat and sat (and sat and sat and sat, just like in the classic potty story) and miracle of miracles, pee came out!
Then she refused to sit on it again for months.
As we were reading bedtime stories on my bed, a while later, she suddenly announced that she had to pee. We ran into the bathroom, stripped off diaper and pajama bottoms, and she sat and sat and sat and, lo and behold, it happened again!
And then not again for months.
For a while, the only contact she had with the potty was me whisking her out of the bathtub when she got the look and popping her onto it, hollering in protest, rather than deal with the worst of all floating objects. I didn’t get it. Why wear a wet diaper when you could get it all out and into the septic system?
But suddenly, after re-reading our entire potty book collection, she decided she wanted something. Very badly.
Undies with hearts on them.
I went online that very night and made the coveted purchase. My mother sent thicker training pants, helpfully decorated with pink polka dots. It was on.
Or so I thought. For a while, she was content to hold her tiny underwear. Then she wanted to wear them over her diaper.
Last week, after re-reading Leslie Patricelli’s “Potty,” the original source of the heart-covered underwear, Pen got a glazed look in her eyes.
“I want to wear undies,” she said. “Undies with hearts on them.”
“You have some,” I reminded her. “You can wear them, but you have to pee in the potty.”
She was silent, working on some mental calculus.
“I want to pee in the potty!”
“Right now?” She nodded. We migrated to the bathroom, shedding layers as we went. And she peed! We celebrated! We put on the undies—with no diaper underneath. She did a little dance of freedom. We went downstairs.
“Tell me if you have to pee. Please, please, please tell me.”
She did not, of course, with predictable results. Was she too young? Was her body not letting her know when she had to go? Would she be in diapers and pull-ups until kindergarten?
Of course not. Since then, we’ve been doing undies in the afternoon, with timed potty breaks. After the first few timed sits she gets angry, but even if she sits every 20 minutes, she still eventually has an accident. At school she gets stickers for using the potty, and the day she got her first sticker was the proudest she’s ever been of herself. She’s peed in the yard, on a bench, in the potty, in the potty at the babysitter’s house, and on the rug.
We’re not following any one potty training method—my unsuccessful bouts with various sleep training methods left me a little gun-shy—but we’re trying to keep her potty associations positive. This morning she declined to use the potty, but she did want to wear polka-dot undies over her diaper. Turns out potty training progress isn’t a straight line, more like a rambling zig-zag, but I’m sure she’ll get there in the end.