Potty Training: Toddlerhood’s Trust Fall

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On a random Saturday, I was going to the bathroom when my toddler walked in, sat in her mini toilet across from me, took off her diaper, and peed. To say I was shocked is an understatement. Was this her way of telling me she was ready for potty training?

Potty

I wasn’t thinking about doing this just yet- at this point she was only a year and 10 months. But then, I thought- well, we’re stuck at home quarantining anyway and I have a 4 day weekend coming up. Why not? So I grabbed my choice of potty training education, and off we went.

However, this post isn’t about whether you should potty train or not. It’s not about readiness, methods, or tips. It’s about something I realized halfway through day two of our journey.

Potty training is literally the trust fall of toddlerhood.

Here’s what I mean by that:

Before this, I don’t know that I have ever “trusted” my child. I had never before had to place trust in her. Through potty training, I had to trust that she knew her own body well enough to tell me or express to me by running to the toilet that she knew she had to pee. In turn- this is the first time she ever felt “trusted”. She felt the weight of a responsibility or expectation from mom, but one that mom truly supported her in.

I know this can be a stressful moment for many- and I would be lying if I said the first day or two weren’t a little challenging- but I never thought of potty training as such a pivotal moment in a child’s development. Whether they are 1, 2, 3 or 4 (or 5, 6… no judgements here), potty training is an enormous opportunity to empower your child, encourage cooperation, and give them a so desired taste of autonomy.

As a control freak, it felt extremely foreign for me to sit back and watch her do things herself. Small acts like pulling down her shorts, flushing, and washing her hands, just to name a few. I constantly found myself correcting her behavior, suggesting she do something differently, and one of the times she simply looked me dead in the face and said, “No, mama,” and proceeded to do it her way. Again, shock. But…. also…. wait what is that?…. a smidge of…. pride?

Yes, pride.

But also- it made me reflect even more. What is trust if it’s not 100%? What am I teaching her if I trust her to go potty, but only how I see fit? Sure, it’s my responsibility to guide her and ensure she’s doing things properly (no touching the pee for instance), but it’s also her chance to make mistakes or do things wrong in a protected environment of learning and – you guessed it- trust.

When she made a mess in the sink from washing her hands, she realized it took longer to get back to playing. When she peed on the floor the one or two times, she felt embarrassed (and probably didn’t  enjoy me shrieking and running her to sit on the potty) But at the end of every “mistake” or “accident”, she got the chance to try again. I assured her that she could try again because I knew she could do it. And she did!

The entire process (we are fully day trained now- and only have accidents sometimes overnight) felt like a constant trust fall- me onto her and her onto me. Viewing potty training like a trust exercise allowed me to actually relax and let go. If she was ready to be trusted with the responsibility, she would succeed (which she did!)- and if she wasn’t, we’d simply have to keep building her confidence to do so. But in the end, we kept picking each other back up and enjoyed the four day weekend. And now we have an even deeper connection, with a newly added level of trust.

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