The Day Potty Training Officially Cracked Me & Made Me Wish We Could Afford a Nanny

Erik Alexander
Erik Alexander

Anyone with toddlers can probably attest. Potty training is one of the hardest things you’ve encountered as a parent so far. I know I sure as heck can. It really felt like we were climbing a mountain … in flip-flops!

There were highs full of celebrations with potty treats and dancing while we cheered our girl on. But then, just as things were looking good, it took a sharp turn for the worse. Get ready, because there are just as many lows. I am talking moments full of sheer and utter dread. There were days I felt so defeated. Just when it seemed like we had started hiking up that mountain again, we’d fall almost right back to the bottom.

But I am here to tell you there is hope! Be prepared for anything. Starting out on the potty training journey, I was so eager for it to begin. In hindsight, maybe I was a little too eager.

  • I quickly went to Costco and got a great big jug of M&M's to serve as our potty treats. And we were off to the races!

    It started great! Sometimes, she would tell me when she needed to go and other times I would ask her if she needed to go. Many times she’d say yes and other times she wouldn’t and messes were made.

    After about a week and half into this new journey, the novelty of the whole process wore off. I didn’t know what to do. I read many, many articles about what NOT to do and one really stood out. "Don’t lose your cool." Well, that’s easy to say.

    We were well on our way on our as[c]ent up potty mountain when I walked into her room. "Look what I did Papa!" I didn’t know whether to faint or throw up. That day I looked into getting a nanny. Then I remembered we were broke. D-mn. REALLY!? I just wiped poop off the walls, floor, bed frame AND toy box and I am supposed to be cool as a cucumber?

    Bless my baby’s heart. I knew she was learning. And I knew I’d get hot headed sometimes. She was still processing this. She was really trying hard, too. And as gross as some days were, it was adorable to see her effort. I didn’t want to come across angry at something she couldn’t control or didn’t understand. I absolutely did not want her to feel like she had failed. I needed to be prepared for anything. I needed to get over it and know I am making memories, and one day we would laugh at this.

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  • I learned early that losing my temper wouldn’t help.

    Not only did I feel like a jerk because I yelled but she would go to nursery school and tell all our business. So, I walked around with my pillow and screamed into it randomly.

    Once the novelty wore off, I was at a loss. I didn’t know how to keep it fresh, new, and exciting. A fun environment is what she enjoyed. Occasionally, I would forget to remind her to go potty. Whether I was with our youngest daughter or cooking dinner, sometimes, especially if we were doing good with this potty routine, I would ‘drop the ball’ by not keeping her on schedule. Because of that, accidents were also made.

    In the midst of feeling perplexed about what to do next, a dear friend told me what she did with her daughter. She said, ‘Get a potty clock! And bring books into the bathroom.’ The clock will help get you there in time and the books will keep her entertained. It’s funny, I knew about the books but when you are so far up this mountain you forget about helpful suggestions from others made in the past.

    We have a grandfather clock that just so happens to chime every 15 minutes. Perfect! That was our potty clock. I grabbed some new books she hadn’t read before and I would read to her to help her relax. My dear friend’s suggestions were brilliant! It was like we took off the flip-flops and put on mountain boots!

    Those suggestions were awesome! She was pottying all the time. It got to the point where she would remember she needed to go and I didn’t even have to remind her anymore. She loved getting her potty treat and everything was great, except she stopped pooping. I read many things about this happening. It is very common. A lot of it has to do with feeling shameful or embarrassed about this process being gross and because of that she held it in and would not go. We were still at a wall with going ‘number 2’ until I had an idea.

    When I was a kid, I created this game for my sister who is 10 years younger than me. I transformed my room into a place called ‘Rainbowland’. I used my motorized disco light to cast colors all over the room with exciting Disney scores playing in the background. She would walk on clouds (pillows) until she got to the door where I had a treasure box full of Mardi Gras beads. My sister was able to pick a prize and then it was over. Quick and fun.

    That’s it! I needed to make it fun.

  • If I was able to have her enjoy going to the potty, for whatever reason, I felt like I would see big results. So, I recreated Rainbowland.

    I made a ticket with her name so when she poops in the potty she gets a ticket to Rainbowland. I made a treasure chest and started to fill it with different things I knew she loved. I ordered rhinestones from Amazon, I added Mardi Gras beads, dress up clothes, necklaces and bracelets. I wanted to keep it new and exciting, so I replaced different items to keep it fun and fresh. Each time she goes she sees something that wasn’t in the treasure box before. And it worked!

  • She is still as excited to go to Rainbowland now as she was in the beginning.

    She is thrilled when she goes to the potty and gets her ticket. To see her excited like this absolutely makes me melt. It is such a cheesy idea, but it worked for us!

    New Orleans in the summer is no joke. It’s freaking hot. With that said, Rainbowland takes place on our third floor.

    That is the guests area, and since we rarely have overnight guests we keep the thermostat set ridiculously high. We had just had a milestone with pooping in the potty. She got her ticket to Rainbowland and up the stairs we went. I opened the double doors and it was like the heat of an Arizona Walmart parking lot almost knocked us over. My baby looked up at me and said, ‘Papa, why is Rainbowland so hot? I think the sun is too close to it!’

    Touché baby girl, touché.

  • The struggle is real when it comes to climbing potty mountain! I quickly found I would use whatever tactic that could work.

    And for us, this has. They get big so fast! It’s easy to get caught up in the emotions of the potty training journey, but keep in mind this too shall pass.

  • I cannot believe she is 3 years old already.

    It feels like yesterday we were trying to figure out how this tiny preemie could keep her baby formula down. Now she is using the bathroom on her own! This stage will quickly fade into so many others, so I savor every single second. We could not be more proud of our big girl.

    This essay was written by Erik Alexander and republished with permission. You can follow Erik and his family on his blog, Instagram, Facebook page, and YouTube channel.


potty training