Time for a poo party

So I’m pretty bloody relieved.

Harper is toilet training. Like, on her own. Without prompting. She is initiating sitting on the toilet, and is doing both poos and wees. In the toilet.

I’ll say it again.

In the toilet.

* * * * *

If you don’t have kids, then this might not mean anything to you, but for those who do – poos and wees in the toilet is like your best friend.

And it’s a relief for a myriad of reasons, some of which are pretty darned obvious. But the main one? That I specialise in paediatric continence.  It’s a medical area in which I’m meant to have a particular skill set. And, until recently, my three year old has resisted all of the tricks that I have gathered, over years, to try on all of my patients.

You know when you feel like a fraud in your own job? We’ve all had the experience. Anyone who says they haven’t is lying to themselves, or others, or both. Hopefully, the longer you’re in a job, the less this feeling creeps in, but it still does, from time to time. And it doesn’t matter that I’ve been talking about wees and poos for over a decade. It doesn’t matter that – having first heard about the poo party five years ago, from my mentor Michael Harari – that I can draw it, in any colour combination, and elicit cheers of joy as I enrol other kids in the process. It doesn’t matter that I know about incentivising sitting time, and the names of all of the best books, and about doll play, and scheduled sitting on the toilet.

If your own kid refuses to sit on the toilet, and you run the continence service, you feel like a bit of a dick.

Someone much smarter than me once said: “There are three things you can’t make a child do – sleep, eat and toilet train. All you can do is facilitate this process.” I don’t know who it was, and – as occurs increasingly these days – perhaps that person was me. But it’s true. You can’t easily deposit food in the gastric antrum, you can’t induce stage 4 sleep in a restless toddler, and while you can lead a child to toilet water, you can’t make her wee.

So I pretended to play it cool. I ordered about twenty books that mentioned wee and poo, and brought them into the night time routine. I started sticker charts. I bought bright bots and themed undies. I got engaged in any mention of poos and wees, a potentially endless set of conversations. WI acted like a robot when there were accidents, but equally tried not to make nappy changes into a formula one pit stop. And I drew the poo party.

Not interested, Dad.

Meantime, at work, I would see fully toilet trained two-year-old children. And I know that’s early, but every two year old was doing it to me – in a clear conspiracy. Meantime, as my own precocious daughter marched toward three-and-a-half, advanced in all other areas, she had absolutely no interest in the toilet. In the back of my head I knew the stats from the fifties, where toilet training began at several months of age. I had medical stats that I didn’t really want embedded in my cortex about worsened bladder control the longer kids were left in nappies. And I know, I know – I absolutely know – from day to day experience that pushing this kind of thing only serves to undermine it, but that doesn’t serve the nagging thoughts.

So what did I do? Maybe we eased back a bit – I’m really not sure. But things just started to click. All I know, is that that ‘Frozen’ undies are heaven sent. And so are toddler-sized toilets at daycare. And so is peer pressure. And books, and words, and wow, I think kids are pretty cool too.

The answer? I still don’t really know. And I guess that’s the wonderful, beguiling joy of being a parent. That in the heads of these beautiful, frustrating, enchanting children, you can never truly know what makes them tick.

And it just reinforces this: the concept that parents are ever in control of their children is true insanity. They control us from the day they are born.

You’ve just gotta make it look like you know what you’re doing.

Just like at work.

* * * *

What has worked for you? Have you had a similar experience?

If you are looking for a great resource, the wonderful people at the Continence Foundation of Victoria have created a brilliant handout on just this issue please click here for their fantastic step-by-step resource, ‘One Step at a Time‘, and the app here.

Find this and much more over at the Resource Page.

1 Comment

  • Great post Mark. It has been interesting watching your journey with this whole process. Am so relieved we are on the other side too. I don’t think you can underestimate the power of play-dates with kids that are toilet-trained, that was what really made her click with it. Good ol’ peer pressure hey? I guess it has its good points and its bad…

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