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The Soggy Side of Sears®

Sometimes potty training happens when you least expect it

By Nancy Kennedy
Reprinted from Mom on the Run (Multnomah) copyright 1996. Used by permission of author.

I know from experience: the one thing mothers care most passionately about is potty training. The problem is, we're not content to let things happen naturally. It's as if our child's ability to keep her Tigger panties dry is a direct indicator of our worth as a parent. Not only that, potty training becomes a contest among mothers where one says, "All of my babies were trained by their first birthday." Leaving you no choice but to respond with, "Oh, so late? Mine were all trained by nine months."

I well remember my first guinea pig—I mean, daughter.

I remember setting up Alison's potty chair in the living room, sitting her on it, and keeping her on it until she did something. Anything.

I tried "I'm a Big Girl" charts with stickers, Big Girl underwear, wild applause and bribes of M&Ms. However, in spite of all my hard-wrought efforts, Alison was unable to perform. For an entire week I had to feed her prune juice and raisin cookies. (I'm happy to report she finally goes. Which is a good thing, considering she's in her 20s and living in Hawaii with her new husband.)

As for me, I received my own toilet training in the hardware department at Sears® when I was about 3 years old and, despite my mother's best efforts, still in diapers. That day I'd gone with my dad to do whatever it is dads do in the hardware department at Sears®. In the middle of him doing his hardware thing, I decided it was my time to go.

I tugged and pulled, yanking my diaper free, then pulled my dress up around my waist, marched over to the display toilets and hopped on the nearest one. My dad, bless his red face, leaped with a single bound over the chuckling crowd just in time … for me to puddle all over his outstretched arms.

I recently met a woman in Kmart®. In her shopping cart were a toy golf club set, a potty chair and a toddler named Jacob. Although I didn't ask, the woman wanted to talk about it.

"He'll go in the yard, he'll go at the park, he'll go against the car tires. He hits the knot hole on the tree out back, and once he hit—with perfect aim—the entire length of the back fence." She took a breath and continued. "He goes everywhere. He goes around the toilet, but he won't go in it. I've tried making a game out of it: 'Aim for the Cheerios in the water, Jacob!' I've tried everything."

Hearing our conversation, a third woman joined us. Her shopping cart was filled with training pants, a potty chair and a toddler named Erin. "Just last week," she offered, "we were in the ladies' room at a very crowded restaurant. As we walked back to our table, Erin announced, 'Give Mommy a sticker—she went potty all by herself!'"

In a short time, the aisle at Kmart® filled with other mothers, toddlers, potty chairs and potty paraphernalia. As we stood there, passionately discussing the bathroom habits of little ones, the very subjects of our discussion—as if on cue—covered their ears with their hands while ringleader Jacob shouted, "No more potty talk!"

But potty talk is what moms do. How to do it, when to do it, even what to call it.

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When Laura, my second daughter, came along, I was tired of fighting over the potty. I didn't hassle her until one day when she was 2 1/2. I watched as she got her own diaper, laid it out on the floor, took off her wet one, climbed onto the dry one and pulled it up across her bottom. That's when I said, "If you're big enough to change your own diaper, you're big enough to use the potty." It was time for Intensive Potty Training 101.

"Laura, you want to wear Big Girl underwear like Alison, don't you?"


"Laura, you want to go in the potty for Mommy, don't you?"


"Laura, you want to go for Daddy, don't you?"


I changed tactics. "Laura, if you go in the potty, you can flush it bye-bye."

"Don't want to."

I changed tactics again. "Sit on the pot and go!"

She didn't. She wouldn't. Instead of happy sounds of tinkle, there was weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth—mine. Meanwhile, Laura happily changed her own diaper and calmly played with her Legos®.

After a week or so of unsuccessful training, I reached my limit. In a desperate last-ditch effort, I grabbed my car keys, tucked Laura in her car seat, gave her a boxed apple juice to drink and drove off … to the hardware department at Sears®. It worked with me, and it just might work with my offspring.

Maybe it was the perfectly timed apple juice. Maybe it was the row of pristine white thrones. Whatever it was, well … let's just say, like mother, like daughter.

Come to think of it, maybe that's one for the record books.

Reprinted from Mom on the Run (Multnomah) copyright 1996. Used by permission of author.

© Nancy Kennedy
Nancy Kennedy is an author and speaker. She has written several books, including "When Perfect Isn't Enough : How I Conquered My Fear of the Proverbs 31 Woman"! She lives in Florida. She mentions on her web site that her favourite verse of encouragement is, "God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us." (Ephesians 3:20).


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