Tag Archives: potty training

The Adventures of Catfish, The Poop Goblin


My three-year-old daughter Bridget has been blaming all of her problems on Catfish lately, even though he’s her favorite stuffed animal.

He’s a Siamese-looking cat with a fish on his collar. She snuggles up to him every night even though he keeps wetting her bed.

And I was already having a rough day the other day when Bridget walks up to report:

“Really sorry mama, but Catfish pooped your bed…”


I run up to my room to find a bunch of poop circles all over the duvet cover (which of course I’d JUST washed and changed).

I walk into my bathroom to see a three-foot tower of toilet paper exploding from the toilet bowl, leading all the way back to a nearly-naked toilet room on the wall, which was splashed in brown handprints.  Dirty crumpled pants were wadded up on the wet floor.

I take a deep breath…

“Bridget,” I say in the most understanding tone I can muster. “I know it was you who pooped my bed, not Catfish.”


“Catfish doesn’t poop. Look, I’m really proud that you’re using the potty like a big girl, but you need to tell me because you still need help with…”

“STOP LYING, THAT NOT TRUE!” she screams, stomping away all indignant and mortified.

unicornSee, a guy friend of mine once ranted on Facebook about how badly his female coworker’s blatant grabbing of a newspaper before walking into the restroom had shocked him. He said women were delicate creatures whom he needed to picture floating several feet above the toilet to do their business, yards of fluffy tulle skirts separating them from the foulness below as they plan their next unicorn ride (or whatever it is boys think we do in our spare time).

The crazy thing is how he has two high-school aged daughters. Because I have no idea how the myth of the fartless female could survive the raising of two actual girls.

For my part, I’ve been reminded that girls poop every day for the past six years. My daughters still think farts are hilarious and will demand credit for them (I should probably do something about that before they reach high school).

“Umm… Catfish stole a croissant too.”

Still,  I’m finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Honestly, I don’t understand what other parents mean when they say their kid was potty-trained “at 11 months” (or whenever) because it’s not exactly a sudden event.

It’s more of a process spanning many unpredictable months (or years) of still needing diapers when asleep, relapsing for several days, or wetting themselves whenever they’re distracted or because they’re telling you they have to go potty eleven seconds before it happens and there doesn’t happen to be a toilet five feet away…

Handling Number Two all by yourself is the black belt of potty mastery, and Bridget really, really wants to believe she’s already there.

But her skill level doesn’t match her confidence yet. She’ll ask me to “PLEASE LEAVE” if I’m hovering and shriek “NO! DO IT MYSELF!” whenever I try to help.

But I still do, to avoid the gross aftermath of her independence streak, which is why she started sneaking into one of our four bathrooms to poop on the sly.

I find out whenever she’s mysteriously changed into new clothes, stink lines wafting above her head, and I start suspiciously checking the bathrooms for clear evidence of a struggle:

“Why did you change your pants, Bridget?

“Um… Like these pants better.”

Understandably, she’s not been wanting to own it. So, poor Catfish has been stealing Brontë’s toys, occasionally peeing the bed and leaving poopy clothes all over the bathroom floor next to piles of half-dirty toilet paper. Even though he doesn’t wear any pants.

At least Bridget keeps apologizing on his behalf.



Bridget The Viking Wages a War on Pants

As I’ve mentioned before, my two-year-old daughter Bridget is a baby Viking: a freakishly-strong blonde who lives to dance, eat, and occasionally conquer all rules of civilized Christian society by violently head-butting them with her berserker rage.

And tonight, she waged a war on the meaning of pants.


Everything had been going so well. Earlier, she’d finally asked to use the potty instead of just using it as a step-stool or a comedy hat as she’d done for months, in what I can only assume was a blatant mockery of our attempts to civilize her.

Then she actually peed in it for the first time, like she was supposed to.

We were so ridiculously thrilled. Even her four-year-old sister Brontë was impressed, telling her, “You PEED in the potty like A BIG GIRL. I’m so proud of you, Bridge-git, because you are being a big girl more every day!”

Everyone clapped. I gave Bridget a chocolate, which she wolfed down in beaming celebration before squaring her shoulders and bellowing something unintelligible to the heavens (which I can only assume was a shout-out to Odin) before tearing out of the room…

And that’s when things got weird.

I’m not sure if Bridget worried about whether her potty capitulation meant she’d become too domesticated, or if triumphing over her bowels overwhelmed her with a sense of boundless power, but she ran straight to the pajama drawer and started yelling, “PICK! PICK!”

You see, every night before bedtime, the girls get to pick the pajamas they’ll be wearing and it’s kind of an amazingly big deal for them.

I’m guessing that’s because they don’t control most aspects of their daily lives. They don’t get to make many selections apart from whether to play with dolls or Legos, drink water or milk, eat dinner or NOT eat dinner, and which cartoon characters they want smeared across their bodies as they sleep that night.

So when I opened the pajama drawer, Bridget dove in with real purpose, finally surfacing with a Minnie Mouse nightgown in one hand and an Olivia-the-piglet top in the other.

“You have an Olivia shirt… do you want the Olivia pants, Bridget?”

“NO! NOOOO! NONONONONO… MINNIE!” (Angry V-eyebrows).

“Okay, that’s cool, you don’t want to match.”


“No problem. Do you just want to wear the Minnie Mouse nightgown? You don’t have to wear pants with it.”

“Okay, that’s fine too. Except you have two shirts right now. Do you want the pants instead?” I pulled out the Olivia pants and offered them to her.

False prophet

“NO!” Bridget insisted while shoving the Olivia pants away: “This!”

“Okay, but you have another SHIRT. You have TWO SHIRTS right now.”

“Pants,” she grunted through gritted teeth while staring me straight in the eyeballs, just daring me to suggest she wasn’t holding pants one. more. time. These were pants, goddammit, even if my limited peasant vision wouldn’t accept it.

I sat back.

Alright. Put on those pants then. 

Bridget scowled at me while balancing one foot over an upside-down Olivia shirt. She snaked her wiggling toes into an armhole before thrusting her leg all-the-way through.

Hmm. Now what?

One leg safety through, Bridget glanced down at the giant neck-hole and tiny armhole beneath her, suddenly grasping the complex dignity equation in which she’d landed herself. Not yet willing to surrender, she picked up her free leg and alternated pointing her toes at the neck hole and leg hole, aiming back and forth until she lost her balance and fell smack down on her toddler butt.

She started rolling around, jamming her leg in various parts of the Olivia shirt as though sheer force of will would magically transform it into appropriate leg wear. Finally, she somehow managed to cram both her legs into a single armhole, then, realized she was trapped, began thrashing around in a berserker rage, screaming “PANTS! PANTS! NO PANTS!”

I let her thrash until she was winded. Laying helplessly on the floor, her dignity somehow crashed amidst a random pile of brightly-colored piglets, she finally looked over and weakly gasped, “Help?”

I worked the Olivia shirt off her legs. She ran over to the pajama drawer, fished out the Olivia pants, and collapsed on my lap. I wadded up each Olivia leg like pantyhose, popped her feet through either side, held her hands and pulled her back up to her feet.

She laid a hand against my neck, pulled my face closer, and pushed her forehead onto mine. She pushed our foreheads together for several moments.

“Mama.” She gave me a kiss.

Eh, part of me knew she needed to learn for herself that even spite can’t turn shirts into pants, but another part weirdly hoped she’d manage to pull it off somehow.

And still another part isn’t sure whether she’d actually hoped to transform shirts, or was trying to challenge rigid definitions. Maybe we’d all just been blindly accepting rules about only wearing shirts on the top halves of our bodies and a single open-minded clothing messiah could break the boundaries of our apparel world by bravely venturing into unknown territory.

But not today. Today was about getting a little too big for your britches after successfully peeing in designated containers then realizing your jailers sometimes know more than you do about the boundaries of space and time.


Bidgie squeezed my hand and led me to her room, so she could hear her bedtime story and finally drift off into a dreamworld of dragons and Valkyries.

She was safe. Mama had saved her from herself and pants.









Memorial Day Weekend Hilarity

Hello everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day and fun three-day weekend.

We sure did. My crazy, high-energy toddlers can be challenging (aren’t they all?), but they really crack me up. The entertainment value alone makes it all worth it, so I thought I’d share some of the highlight reel:

Dad Makes a Mockery of Purple Princess Clothes

IMG_3602John: Can I wear your dress today?


John: No, I look awesome.

Brontë: NO, you’re too big. That’s for GIRLS. MOMMA, DADDY’S TRYING TO WEAR MY PRINCESS DRESS!

Notice my daughter’s look of unbridled toddler outrage. Not only is her dad taking her dresses without asking, he’s  getting boy cooties all over them.


Battles for Violet the Lizard

We went to a cousin’s birthday party at John’s Incredible pizza. I told my husband he should demand free entrance because the sign says it’s his place, but no one else thought the idea was funny. And rightly so.

Violet the lizard
Turns out my husband has mad skee ball powers that gave us a cheap toy return on our entrance fees. As if by magic, he dropped a ball straight into the 300 ticket slot. He claims it was pure luck, but I think he’s just being modest.

After playing a variety of arcade games and collecting tickets, we went with the kids to the ticket redemption center so they could pick out some stuff. They selected two miniature Army guys with tiny parachutes, two kazoos, and one plastic lizard.

Brontë named the lizard Violet (after my cat) and she quickly became the most sought-after toy in the house. Brontë and Bridget fight over turns with Violet, pretending to brush her hair, read her books, carrying her around in a plastic cat carrier, and wearing her on their shoulder while they eat dinner.

Lizard castle
They even built her a lizard castle, which also functioned as a sister fort.

Finally one evening, I caught Brontë quietly staring at Violet. Brontë lightly poked her a couple of times then looked at me, concerned.

“Mom? I think there may be something wrong with this lizard.” Brontë told me as she kept poking her. “She isn’t moving. We may need to take her to a doctor.”



Profanity At The Zoo

IMG_3611We also had a terrific time at the zoo, checking out all the different animals and running around like mad.

I even learned something new. We were standing next to some zebras when one of them got worked up about something and started yelling. It sounded A LOT like a donkey.

I’ve never heard a zebra make noise before, but I didn’t expect to hear donkey calls. I thought zebras would sound more like warbling deer. Now I can’t help but see zebras as nothing but donkeys wearing elaborate striped outfits.

The kids were having so much fun, in fact, that we didn’t notice the time flying by. And right as an employee finally walked up to us to politely tell us the zoo was closing, Brontë stopped suddenly, looked at me with enormous eyes, and said, “MOM, I REALLY, REALLY NEED TO GO TO THE BATHROOM.”

We immediately rushed over to the nearby restrooms because when a four-year-old tells you they need the bathroom, it’s urgent. John and I were negotiating who would look after which kid when the zoo employee told us to all just go in together since everyone else had left anyway.

So, we all walked into the bathroom together as Brontë beelined to a stall. She scrambled onto the toilet seat while dropping her drawers… and two baseball-sized turds rolled across the floor.

Brontë looked down, threw both her arms in the air, and shouted:

“Well SH*T, looks like I just crapped my pants!”

I pressed my lips together hard while my brain screamed dontlaughdontlaughdontlaugh, but I just COULDN’T HELP IT.

John, sensing I was about to break, heroically rushed over to help as I quietly left the bathroom to go into hysterics. You don’t want to encourage your children to have potty mouths by laughing when they swear, but it was just…

IMG_3610SO FUNNY. I don’t know how my husband held it together. Her enunciation was perfect. Her arms gestures added just the right emphasis and if crapping your pants isn’t the perfect situation for using the S-word, then I don’t know what is.

I walked back in after collecting myself and helped get everyone out of the zoo. John and I told Brontë she shouldn’t be using the S word but tried not to make a big deal out of it, because flipping out seemed like handing our kids detailed instructions on how to really get a rise out of adults.

My cousin related this little gem to our grandmother, who called the toddler use of the S word an “abomination.” That seemed like a strong word to me.

Fortunately, no one saw or heard any of this: neither the toddler S bomb, nor the rolling turds. I’m not entirely sure whether we just spared humanity from this scene or if everyone else was robbed of the joke.

But I hope everyone else had a fun weekend too. Happy Memorial Day!





False Breakthrough in Potty-Training

Brontë: I need a toilet.

Me (feeding Bridget): You want to go potty?

Brontë: No, I just need a toilet.

Brontë toddles off, returning with her Minnie Mouse potty. She puts it on the floor and just as I start to get excited, flips the lid down and stands on top of it.

Using her potty as a step stool to retrieve a TV remote from a shelf, she hands me the remote and asks, “My Little Pony?”

Me (flipping on the TV): Sure. Why not?

Dang it. At least she’s getting some use out of it, I guess.

Poop Warfare: The Continuing Potty-Training Saga

Princess Celestia has to go sometimes too

Brontë and I continue to work on potty training, and I’ve just about exhausted my bag of tricks.

It’s starting to feel like a two-year-old has taken me hostage. She has her finger right above the poop trigger, and either I meet her crazy demands, or this whole place is going to explode.

Recently, she demanded that a unicorn accompany her to the potty chair. Not just accompany her, but the unicorn needs her own potty too. Only the best for Princess Celestia.

I’m not sure what it says about me that I fulfilled this demand, setting up a secondary potty chair and even talking Princess Celestia through the process to maintain the unicorn fantasy.

It seemed reasonable enough at the time. Who wouldn’t be reassured by a fluffy cupcake unicorn, crapping right along with you?

What’s not reasonable? My daughter also decided to empty the stuffing out of her Doc McStuffins pillow all over her bed yesterday morning. Whether she is delving into a possible connection between stuffing and McStuffins, or simply being a Toddler Destruco-Agent, I wasn’t certain…

Toddler resource-gathering activities

I’ve been trying to hit this potty training thing from every angle. We’ve done stickers, candy rewards, lavish praise, bedtime stories about potties… tried to employ various methods from smug little books about potty-training in three days or less, but to no avail.

Brontë enjoys the candy and stickers but remains quite resistant.

I finally saw some success after leaving her naked and giving her no where to go. She repeatedly asked for a diaper but was denied. She finally resorted to actually sitting on the potty and trickling out the littlest bit of pee.

Of course, I praised her as through she just painted the Sistine Chapel. Maybe she would be convinced to do it again.

But she was having none of it. I just caught her on her bed, trying to pack the disemboweled pillow stuffing around her butt to make a diaper.

So THAT’S why she tore the pillow up.  She was making a diaper.

You would think a child with enough creativity to build a diaper from scratch would have this potty thing down. Kids are a conundrum.

Later that evening, I went out to dinner with girlfriends. I needed a break from the Potty Wars.

But Brontë was quite upset, so upset that she crapped in her hand and rubbed it ALL OVER the mirror in her room. She really put some elbow grease into it. My poor husband.

When I came home, I walked into her room to greet her and was met with a fecal-smeared wall. She looked up at me with initial defiance before suddenly reading she was both literally and figuratively in a world of…

Her eyes grew wide as she walked up to me, looked me in the eyes, and said, “I missed you, mommy. I love you.”

The parenting books DO NOT PREPARE YOU FOR THIS.

Parents are just flying by the seat of their pants. Try to be forgiving. ‪#‎Brontëkeepsitreal‬

Everybody poops. Everybody.

Monsters put poo in my diaper. It wasn't me.
Monsters put poo in my diaper. It wasn’t me.

Big stink lines wafted from my two-year old daughter. She was blurring the background view as she stood in her overripe diaper.

“Did you poop, Brontë?”

“NO!” She yelled, running behind the couch.

“It’s okay if you pooped,” I reassured her, “Everybody poops.”

Popping her eyes above the couch, she considered what I was saying.

“Mommy and daddy poop,” I told her, “Grandma and grandpa poop.”

She paused to reflect on this as I continued, “Princesses poop. Anna and Elsa poop.”

At this, she burst into choking laughter. “PRINCESS POO!!!!” She screamed, eyes tearing up as she continued to belly laugh.

What a novel concept, the very idea that the goddesses of frozen castles and marshmallow monsters would poop just like the rest of us.

“Did you poop, Brontë?”

“Yeah, I poop,” she confessed, breaking into a giggle. “I poop princess poo.”

Detailed Parenting Advice about Controlled Crapping

We installed a potty into my womb so all my kids were fully trained before they were even born.
We installed a potty into my womb so all my kids were fully trained before they were even born.

I’ve been wondering if I’m a terrible parent lately because my daughter isn’t housebroken yet. My folks keep hinting in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that it’s about time she uses the potty. According to them, I was well past diapers by her age.

I’ve noticed the Baby Boomers put a lot of value on early potty training, as though it were evidence of potential child prodigies. Milestones in general seem important in the parenting world… when did your baby start crawling? Walking? Speaking? The thinking seems to be that if your child walks or talks earlier than most, then he or she is a quick learner, obviously highly intelligent, and therefore bound for great success. Hugo was potty trained by six months and walking by seven? Holy crap, that kid might cure cancer someday!

With all this boasting, it’s easy to start feeling inadequate (two years old and still not potty trained? Hope she’s not slow).  Worried that my little girl was falling behind her peers, I decided to buckle down and start potty training…

So we tried. And tried. And tried some more. Epic fail.

I thought Brontë might be more interested in using the potty if she picked out her own, so we got her Elmo and a Minnie Mouse potties (one for each story of our house) that make music. She loves Elmo, Minnie Mouse, and music. I told her all about how babies wear diapers and to be a big girl, she could start using a big girl potty. She looks at me like I had clearly lost my mind.

Not easily discouraged, I started reading her books about using the potty at story time because she loves story time and gives it her full attention. She seemed curious about the toilet saga, but whenever I asked her to sit on the potty, she screamed “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” like I had just told her to pour lemon juice in her eyes. I tried giving her candy and/or stickers just for sitting on the potty a few minutes. She learned to sit for a couple minutes before demanding chocolate, but that was it.

I tried leaving her naked in the backyard for hours then rushing her over to the potty whenever she started to go. This resulted in nothing more than a lot of frustration and cleanup sessions.

Potty training was causing us a lot of grief. Brontë felt like she was letting me down and I was at my wit’s end. I decided to forget about it for a couple months, then try again.

The next round didn’t go much better. Baffled, I turned to friends for advice and was given a book about potty training your child in three days or less. Apparently it worked for my friend, which was hardly a surprise. She is one of those Type A, super efficient, direct women that sets her sights on a project then plows through it like a pitbull on PCP. She probably didn’t even need the book. She probably potty-trained her kids in six hours just by looking at them a certain way.

My attempts to potty train in three days or less, however, turned into a three day power struggle from Hell. Completely at my wit’s end, I started wondering whether it was realistic to potty train her at that point and whether it really even mattered. It’s not like she could put it on her resume.

So, I started doing some research. Turns out, Baby Boomers potty attitudes are actually much mellower than those of previous generations. People used to be downright scary about potty training.

In the 1920’s and 30’s, people thought bowel control was the supreme mark of your child’s moral character and your worth as a mother. Experts believed that children who wouldn’t go to the bathroom on command were doing it on purpose, and letting them get away with it would set them on a lifelong course of disobedience and moral deviancy. In 1932, the government issued an official manual, Infant Care, that instructed parents to start potty training by three months and complete it by six to eight months using any means necessary. Parents were advised to use soap stick suppositories on babies that were just a couple months old to get them used to going to the bathroom on a rigid schedule (shudder). Back then, parents would beat their kids for not using the potty, believing they were being disobedient.

Later, Freud traced some psychological problems back to rigid potty training (you think!?). Of course, Freud thought withholding bowel movements (“anal retentiveness”) was part of a power struggle that creates future control freaks, whereas I’m thinking being beaten by your parents for not going to the bathroom on command will just flat mess you up. Society later softened somewhat from these rigid methods, but still put a lot of weight on how early a child used the potty. In the 1970’s, early training was part of the general drive to make kids independent as soon as possible.

Nowadays, it feels like early potty training is part of the overall drive toward competitive parenting, where we first hook kids up to Baby Einstein playlists in infancy then shuffle them around in soccer mom minivans from one after-school activity to the next in a mad dash to outcompete. Today, “late” potty training is probably viewed more as laziness than moral bankruptcy, but the pressure remains.

The French have a great saying that roughly translates to “you can’t dance faster than the music.” In our culture, however, we seem to believe that faster is better. I’m not so sure.

Experts now say that most children don’t have the physical capacity to control their bowels until sometime between 18 and 30 months. Many suggest that most kids start showing an interest in potty training around the time they become physically capable of it.

Like everything else in parenting, of course, no one agrees on the best method. Some believe earlier training is psychologically harmful, whereas others believe later training is problematic and takes longer. I personally tend to question belief systems that require a certain method or product that wouldn’t have been available for much of human history… did cave men know that 18 months or earlier was the optimal time for training? Did they stick to a schedule or have infants riddled with bowel difficulties for the rest of their lives? It’s hard for me to believe the entire human species was at a loss for proper bowel training until someone came up with the three-day-at-18-months method.

It kind of reminds me of how so many people are convinced infants need rice cereal to be healthy, even though rice cereal wouldn’t even have been available to most parents throughout human history, and is still unobtainable in many places.

I believe that, like so many other aspects of parenting, you’re better off watching your kid and trusting your instincts. If you give potty training a try and it all goes haywire, it’s probably best to try again later. If your kid has a medical problem that prevents him or her from using the potty, then stricter training isn’t going to solve it. Every child is different and what works for one kid isn’t necessarily best for the next.

And as far as falling behind his peers, well… don’t take all the early potty training boast to heart. When a culture believes early bowel control is the be-all, end-all sign of a gifted child and excellent parent, people tend to remember earlier success rates than they otherwise might. Maybe junior was hitting the potty by seven months, but continued to have a lot of accidents for the next couple years.

Hell, it’s easy to feel inadequate as a parent in general… you’re always either worried you’re not strict enough and will raise a felon, or that you’re too harsh and are crushing your little one’s spirit. No one really knows the correct answers.