The Rockwood Files: Train or Get Off the Pot

By Gwen Rockwood, columnist and Motherlode mama of 3

I should be ecstatic right now. I should be dancing in the streets because my almost 2-year-old daughter is making some tell-tale moves toward our ultimate goal: potty-training. Without much encouragement or nudging from me, she has suddenly taken a huge interest in all things potty-related. (I’m guessing she’s hitting the milestone a little early, thanks to the steady stream of big brothers she sees going in and out of the bathroom.) So why am I not climbing to the top of our jungle gym and shouting joyfully to the world that we’re just a few weeks away from TOTAL DIAPER FREEDOM? What’s wrong with me?

I’ll tell you what’s wrong. I’m really busy this week, preparing for 20 or so relatives to drive and fly in from hundreds of miles away to celebrate Thanksgiving at our house this year. Did you miss that number? I said 20, as in TWENTY PEOPLE who are expecting to eat. Not just eat, but “dine” on really good food that doesn’t come in a take-out box from P.F. Chang’s or Dixie Café. For a woman comfortable whipping up traditional classics in the kitchen, this would be no problem. For a woman like me whose go-to dinner entrée is macaroni and cheese straight out of the Kraft box, it’s sort of a big, anxiety-inducing deal.

Last year we hosted Thanksgiving last year for lots of people and no one left with food poisoning. Apparently they liked it enough to come back for more this year, so that should give me confidence. But I’m going to need every bit of time I can get between now and November 27th to get things ready. There’s an insane amount of grocery shopping to do, not to mention lots of prep work in the kitchen. Of course I’ll have to spend at least a day or so cleaning and organizing the house so we can deceive our relatives into thinking our house is immaculate, orderly and smells like a heavenly mix of cinnamon and banana bread.

What I don’t have time for this week is the intense focus that potty-training demands. Here’s a little nugget of parenting truth you won’t read in any of the how-to books. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that the child’s readiness is all you need to be successful in this transition. It’s just as important that the parents be equally ready to take the leap.

There are lots of checklists that will help a mom decide if her kid is ready to potty-train. But there ought to be a checklist for moms, too. Something like: “Are you ready to spend the next few days (most likely weeks) closely monitoring your child’s fluid intake, facial expressions and subtle body language so you can help her race to the nearest potty in time? Are you ready to sit in the bathroom reading the book “Potty Time with Elmo” multiple times while your kid sits happily on the toilet, pretending she needs to go when actually she’s just enjoying the extended story time? Are you ready to either stay home for several days straight or risk an “accident” at the grocery store?

No matter how badly you want to ditch the diapers, if you can’t answer “yes” to all those questions, you may have a problem. An experienced mother knows you can’t just dabble at potty-training and be successful. You’ve got to really commit to the job and embrace the reality that it can be a time-consuming, messy process – a process that does not necessarily mesh well with 20 relatives coming for Thanksgiving.

So that leaves me with a dilemma: Do I try to potty-train my darling girl and get ready for Thanksgiving at the same time (knowing full well that I’ll be a crazy woman long before the turkey ever comes out of the oven)? Or do I keep her in diapers a week or so longer, hoping beyond hope that this magical window of opportunity will still be open when the last piece of pumpkin pie is gone? These are the questions that try a mother’s soul. Perhaps the answer will come to me while I’m making the grocery list.

From my family to yours, have a blessed (and accident-free) Thanksgiving.