It's ten at night, and I'm exhausted as I stand in the boy's underwear aisle pleading with my two-year-old son. Several people walk by and laugh as I continue my conversation in an overly-excited voice. "Wow, look at those fancy underpants! Wouldn't you like some with the Spiderman on them?"
My son responds in a not so friendly voice, half a yell and half a growl, "I said I don't want the Spiderman! I don't want these or these or these or these. I just want underwear! I said I just want those underwear!!"
At this point it is clear that there has been a communication failure somewhere along the way. I'm holding six or seven pairs of underwear in every style available on the shelves, but my son seems to insist that the pair of socks several rows above him are the "underwears" he wants. When I pull them down however, he gets mad and tells me that they are socks. After about fifteen more minutes and some more strange stares from passersby, I realize that he thought we were coming to the store for more diapers.
Finally I tell him the bad news: we have diapers at home and are leaving empty-handed unless he picks up underwear. Will he? He gives me a resounding "No" for an answer and I begin to turn the cart to leave. Suddenly his whole attitude changes in an instant.
"Wait, wait, wait!" he shouts, "I need these ones." He picks up a package with Disney's Cars all over it and hops onto the back of the cart as if we didn't just spend an hour going back and forth about underwear.
At this point I have realized that the easiest way to potty-train is to expect nothing and everything at the same time. We have days where there are so many "accidents" that my husband and I take turns giving our little guy a bath, and then there are days that we both run to the bathroom in excitement after we hear a surprise flushing sound. There are also days we end up fishing toys out of the toilet after we hear the surprise flushing sound. The success of our potty-training has no rhyme or reason, and what works on Sunday will not necessarily work on Monday.
We have tried the pants-off method, we've tried the potty-every-half-hour method. We've tried treats and stickers, toys and trips. Nothing works and everything works. It all depends on the mood and mind of our fickle two-year-old.
When we get home, he proudly shows his grandma the underwear, then flees and makes a roaring sound at mommy when I say how nice they are. He's pretending to be a dinosaur now, and dinosaurs don't have mommies that say how nice their undies are.
I sit down to put my paperwork in order for the day and remember the advice that my mother gave me: "Everyone is different, and everyone develops on their own timeline. Let your little one show you when he's ready, and eventually he will be. After all, how many of your friends are still in diapers?"
The advice is solid, if not a little vague. It helps to remind myself that this won't last forever, and that someday I will laugh at how many different tactics I tried just to get him to use the toilet.
Suddenly he runs up to me, tugging on his new underwear. "Mommy, I need these off, I need the potty."
"Aha!" I think, "Success!" This whole potty-training journey has been a long one, and I'm good and ready to be done with it.
We head off to the bathroom and he does his business. When he's done he talks half to me, half to himself, all the while in the cutest little voice, "What a good job I am! I'll flush this now like a big boy! Watch it mom!"
I can't help but smile and wonder how much I'll miss this kind of thing when he's bigger and doesn't need me for every little moment...
And suddenly potty-training doesn't seem like such a long journey after all.
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