Letters to Charlie: The Toddler Potty Training Edition


My dear Charlie,

It feels great to write this post, the mother of a boy who pees in the potty! I strut victoriously, as if this achievement wasn’t entirely yours to claim. Because, really, Charlie—you did it.

Here’s how it went down:

As you recall from my last post in September, your Dad and I stopped pushing the issue. You were more than ready physically, but your brain hadn’t quite caught up. Though I hated, hated, hated changing the diaper of a 40-pound, wriggling 3-1/2-year-old, we decided to give you more time.

Even the Grandmas—with 50+ years of experience between them of helping to potty train children—were stumped. You were defiant, adamant, EXPLOSIVE about not taking this step. I requested an observation by a behavioral therapist, fearing there was something much deeper behind your attitude.


Then in early October, Grandma B suggested pulling off the proverbial bandage. Being supportive, though passive, was obviously not working, and we were likely enabling your insurgency. Your Dad and I would try anything at this point, so we sent you to school in underwear for the first time, our fingers crossed.

You didn’t get it right away. In fact, you spent at least the first two weeks peeing your pants. You didn’t seem to mind at all, even when that meant you couldn’t play outside because your shoes were wet. You would just play inside today, thank you very much.


You also started acting mean. While stuck in traffic, you’d taunt me with the threat of peeing in your carseat. (I know there are critics who’d say 3 year olds can’t taunt, but they’re wrong, so very wrong.) I asked you to grab new underwear after you peed through your pants at home, only to later discover you’d opened a tube of Desitin and painted all over your clean pairs. “Now I can’t wear underwear, Mommy. Sor-ry!”

(Mommy took a Time Out with a glass of white wine after that one.)

At some point, we got you to pee your pants while standing inside the bathroom. At least this meant you weren’t getting the furniture or carpet wet. Then one day, I had the idea (a flash of brilliance, obvi) to let you hold a diaper against your body and pee into it while standing in the bathroom. Ashleigh and Savannah were over; Ash played some special “potty music” for you (I think it was a waterfall setting on a sleep app), and you were able to go.

For the next several days, that’s how you’d pee: walk into the bathroom, drop your pants, pick up a diaper, hold it against you, and go. You knew when you had to pee and you were able to let us know. We had few, if any, accidents. In fact, we started slowly cutting the diaper into smaller and smaller sections.


Then came your father’s flash of brilliance. You could continue peeing into the diaper, but you had to do it while standing right up against the toilet. And one day, he snatched the diaper away just as you started peeing, and it went straight into the potty. You peed in the potty (technically)!

Within a few days, you had no more need of a diaper. And on Halloween, you pooped in the potty for the first time! Just like that.


It’s amazing how this success has affected your attitude and behavior. It’s as if this one puzzle piece is in place, and now the rest of the picture is coming into focus.

Potty training was definitely one of the toughest challenges your Dad and I have experienced as parents. One of the longest, too—I think we started working on this after you turned 2. There were many moments when we faced one another, exasperated, out of ideas, conflicted about what was best for you.

Yet, we learned a lot about you through this process. My dear boy, you have a very healthy sense of self; no one is going to push you around. I’m not so worried about peer pressure as you get older.

And if kids get too pushy, just make sure you have a tube of Desitin on you.


This entry was posted in Charlie, development, Letters to Charlie, parenthood and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Letters to Charlie: The Toddler Potty Training Edition

  1. the other jessica says:

    Love this.

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