Potty training is a special time in our family, marking the beginning of a new stage in the child’s life when he can take part in the time-tested ritual of relieving himself in the most sacred of porcelain receptacles. And really, if you think about it, the toilet is a holy place–a place where many a college student goes to make a sacrificial offering of whatever contents were consumed for dinner that night, as they pray for mercy and insight on why, oh why did I drink those last seven shots of tequila? Similarly, the toilet is more than simply a rite of passage for a toddler—it’s very much like a newfound religion.
My four-year-old, for example, has adopted his own ceremonial traditions for honoring the potty. When he feels the urge to make the sacrificial number two, he first professes his intentions to whomever is in the room…or grocery store (you’d be amazed at how quickly a four-year-old can figure out a P.A. system). Then, after slamming the lid hard against the back of the toilet in a way that almost resembles the strike of a gong, he roosts upon the celestial throne of white…and then sits there for an hour and a half until he remembers why he sat there in the first place and finally does his business. Inevitably, he sings to pass the time, much like they do in many types of religious services, until finally the number two offering is made, at which point he proceeds in belting out the Happy Birthday song to the pooh he just created.
…and the Lord said, “It is good.”
My two-year-old, being brand-spankin’ new to the potty, is still trying to figure out how best to pay it homage. So far, he seems to prefer blessing it with a poorly aimed stream of urine, but I suspect his process will become more sophisticated as he grows in the faith.
Eventually, my four-year-old won’t take an hour and a half to use the potty, and my two-year-old will learn how to make wee in a straight line: these aren’t the tricky parts of teaching a young child how to use the toilet. No, the hard part is simply getting them interested in using the toilet over a diaper. After all, up until that point they had become accustomed to a certain level of service and wore a disposable toilet. Breaking them of this luxury can be a huge undertaking. Fortunately for my wife and me, our boys were pretty open to the idea of potty training, and even sometimes make it a social event. Still, it’s not like there weren’t challenges.
When we decided to start potty training the toddler, we agreed that utilizing the four-year-old to help encourage him would be an effective measure. After all, the toddler was of that age where he wanted to do everything his older brother was doing.
For those who have never parented, understand that potty training changes the adults more than it does the child. When our first-born finally took a dump in the toilet, it elicited a response from us that was doused in utter joy and absolute relief. I can only imagine that life-altering feats, such as winning a Nobel Peace Prize or sitting next to a stranger on an airplane who doesn’t smell like sour milk, must feel like this. For this reason, when my wife and I started dancing like drunken idiots at the sight of the colossal pooh that rested in our downstairs toilet, it wasn’t simply for the sake of encouraging my son (whose broad grin may have been a simultaneous reflection of his pride and stomach relief). We were genuinely excited, because having to coerce your child into using the potty for the first time can be exhausting.
A couple years later it was our two-year-old’s turn to use the potty for the first time. When a bit of it kerplunked into the potty, we invited our four-year-old to join us in the celebration. Moved by the spirit, my wife and I raised the roof, chest-bumped one another and swung our feet this way and that in a display that must have looked like a couple of Muppets river-dancing while on speed.
The four-year-old stood still, studying the crap in the toilet. He looked at his brother, eyebrow aslant, then looked up at his parents, who were now doing some version of the chicken dance, and said: “but guys…I mean…I pooped just this morning.”
Ah, the boy was still young in the faith–he’d yet to really give much thought to such topics in wee-ology. Someday he would understand. Perhaps then the spirit would flow through him as well, compelling him to dance his own dance of a drunken idiot while making ungodly Boo-yah! noises (which, in hindsight, I’m not particularly proud of) as his son or daughter splashes him with holy water to exorcise the demons of poor rhythm and hammy theatrics. Until then, my wife and I will have to continue raising the roof in expression of our joy whenever a child of ours uses the potty for the first time, thereby renouncing the evil of us having to buy boxes and boxes of overpriced diapers.