I rinsed the conditioner out of my hair in record time, dried off, and dragged the baby potty out of the corner of the bathroom. Suddenly, Liam walked over to it, pulled off his diaper, and went. My mouth hung wide open in shock.
For months, I had been feeling the pressure of potty training from a host of well-meaning people in my life. I'm sure they never meant to discourage. But when they casually say, "Oh, my son has been potty trained since he was a year old!" it's hardly helpful. Perhaps they ask, "Liam isn't showing any interest at all?" out of genuine concern. But really, it seems more likely that parading their potty training prowess (the earlier the better!) makes them feel a little better about their mothering. Don't be mistaken: I'm guilty of it, too. I take way too much credit for how my kids sleep through the night when, really, I did very little to form their sleep habits.
Aside from those comments, I haven't been concerned for even a second that Liam is three years old and not interested in using the potty. From the vantage point of his biased mother, Liam is incredibly bright, using words like versatile and impressive and bacteria correctly in sentences. But still, potty training has been an uphill battle I haven't had the energy or desire to fight with him. He has very clearly told me, "I would rather wear a diaper today, Mom." So I've stood my ground - for my son and for my sanity - and responded to well-meaning advice givers with, "I just don't think he's ready yet. But I'm sure he'll let me know when he is." As many a wise pediatrician has said, "I've never sent a [developmentally appropriate] child to kindergarten in a diaper."
That first afternoon after we said goodbye to diapers, we felt adventurous (or possibly just a strong case of cabin fever) and headed out on a quick errand to Lowe's. By the time we stood in line with wood in our cart, Liam squeezed his legs together and whispered, "I have to go right now." I left the wood at the counter and raced to the back of the store, which felt like half a mile. By the time we got into the bathroom, it was more than I could juggle trying to hold Lanie in one arm, the diaper bag in the other, and somehow lift Liam up high enough for him to reach.
"But Mommy, I don't know how!" he whimpered.
"Sweetie, you're doing such a good job. Just be patient and relax. It'll come!"
"I don't think I can."
"You can, buddy! You've been doing it all day long. I am so proud!"
After Liam had been successful and we'd finished jumping up and down at his success, a kind-faced woman walked out of the stall next to us. She bent down to Liam's level and looked at him with gentle eyes and said, "You are so lucky to have a mommy that is so patient with you. My mommy wasn't very patient with me and I still have trouble going to the bathroom in public." Tears filled my eyes. The discouragement of the past few months evaporated as her words filled the room. She had no way of knowing what had preceded this momentous day for us, or even that he had just started to use the potty that day. But her words meant everything.
As we left Lowe's, I felt as if I could conquer the world. Liam did, too, with dry Lightning McQueen underwear and a few gummy bears in his hand. It was the sweetest reminder that my words, too, have such deep impact. How am I bending down to the poor in spirit as Jesus did, kindly lifting their heads with my words? How am I looking for opportunities to bless the lady in the next stall whose name I don't even know? The coworker who's having marital issues? The little boy in my own home who's been hearing "no" more often than "yes"? Jesus found me - the discouraged potty-training mom - that day in a musty bathroom at Lowe's. He bent down and gently lifted my head through the kind words of a stranger and reminded me that I'm going to be ok in this crazy mama gig. He's guiding me steadily along.
To my fellow potty training moms: After over a week of no accidents, I'm declaring Liam officially potty trained. He really only had one accident since declaring he was done with diapers, which just goes to show me that he was truly ready. Praise. The. Lord. But this post is in no way meant to discourage the mamas whose little people aren't ready yet or have been struggling with potty training for months. My one piece of advice: don't push it. And don't let others push you into it. When your little guy or girl is ready, he or she will certainly let you know. There's no point to rushing them through childhood or pressuring them to achieve what they just aren't ready for. You can do this, mama!