Taking the Plunge

 It was the point of no return.

I was empty. A drained reservoir.

Driven by iron resolve and a vapor of hope, I lugged my tattered frame forward, gently grasped my child – placing him on the cold, heartless, sterile enemy: the big potty.

Then it happened – that moment where an everyday bodily function becomes a pinnacle of historical elation on par with the Wright Brothers first flight. A potty breakthrough!

If you’ve lived through potty training, you understand the excitement. It’s not just a milestone moment for your child, it’s a flush-fueled high-five for parents.

A classic misnomer

“Potty Training” often feels more like “Crisis Management.” At least it did for my wife and me after we just spent a week training our three year old (second attempt at it, mind you). We started out fresh and idealistic. By the end of the first day, we looked like we’d spent a month living without water or power. Forget competing in Survivor in some remote corner of the globe. Simply have contestants land on “Toddler Island” for a week of potty training. Then you’ll see some ragged people.

The goal of potty training is simple: no more diapers. The various means to achieve that goal are much more complicated. You can try “Gradual,” “Three-day,” “One-day,” “Speak only Hungarian” – there are countless approaches, all promising success. In the end, the planning for the project alone takes the time equivalent of building your own airplane. However, all of the strategy in the world is nullified without a key ingredient: buy-in from your child.

Just say “no”

We had our plan, chose our weekend, prepped our son and dove right in! Suddenly our house was swirling with talk of “big boy underwear.” Mom and dad released a floodgate of liquid treats: unlimited water, juice, milk, popsicles … what a day! And incentives? We were chock full o’ charts, stickers, candy and even a stash of toy cars to earn; just by going on the big potty! We probably spent as much money on rewards as were hoping to save by ditching diapers.

After three days, our ship to success was dead in the water. We endured 72 hours … 4,320 minutes … 2,592,00 seconds of “I don’t want to.” Treats, stickers, toys – all brushed aside. We could have offered our son his own theme park. Nothing worked.

We changed strategies. My wife hopped on the Potty Training Help Network (her Facebook friends). We were at our wits end.

 Everything changes

Potty training certainly represents change for children, but it’s disheveling to a marriage, too. Rare moments together are interrupted as one of you springs into Potty Assist Mode. For days, from sunrise to sunset, Sally and I talked about nothing but potty. Texts, e-mails, phone calls – everything was about what is working, what isn’t, why, and what we should do. We spent entire conversations in detailed discussion about our son’s performance on the potty. Seriously.

Then there’s this mysterious phenomenon wherein potty-training parents blurt out just about anything. I honesty heard my wife utter the phrase “magic underwear.” I also recall raving about a party that happens under the house whenever potty … Well, you get the picture.

‘Potty plusses’

With all of its challenges, potty training does offer a few positives for dads:

• For all of the times you get chastised for talking about bodily functions: Men, this is your free pass!
• Potty training is an opportunity to set aside other priorities like housework … going outside … showering …
• You get to spend lots of concentrated time indoors with your family!
• You and your wife will communicate again like you did when you were dating – late nights, early mornings. Only this time, you talk only about potty, not each other.
• You get to mediate on Bible verses about perseverance and hope.
• And yes, you will celebrate the milestone when success finally happens!

Really, the whole family wins. Potty training is a great team builder.

Let it rain!

If potty training is on your horizon, start planning now by going on date nights with your spouse. Go on a lot of them. You’ll want to feel connected before you begin.

Then pray.

Finally, educate yourself on the subject and get ready to never go to the bathroom alone for at least three or four days. There will always be a curious or bewildered toddler with you, learning and waiting for your (exhausted) guidance, cheers, encouragement and maybe an M&M or two.

We made it, and so will you. In the bigger picture of parenting, potty training is nothing more than a drop in the bucket.

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