Ages 2-5HumorParenting Fails

I Forgot To Potty Train My Daughter

It appears that I forgot to potty train my child. My youngest child, that is. Rest assured that the older one is totally set for sleepaway camp and out of state university but the youngest? Well, it’s just too late. I guess we’re going to have to buy stock in Depends.

I didn’t realize that three was the point of no return. Books like Diaper Free Before Three could have clued me in had I bothered to read them, but I prefer to source my parenting information from the internet. That’s where I found this quick and dirty version of the three day potty training plan that I can’t use because, as the author explains, “[t]he closer you get to age 3, the less likely it is to work.” Great.

Part of why I missed the boat is that I deluded myself into thinking that we were getting somewhere. She’d had a few early successes and I figured the rest of it would just sort of happen. Wrong. She stopped showing any interest in the potty and I…well…sort of…kind of…forgot about it.

That’s when I decided maybe it was time to try the same trick my mother had used with me. According to family legend, my mother was able to potty train me at age two by handing me a pair of new underwear and delivering the following ominous warning: Now, you don’t want to mess up your pretty panties, do you?

photo by flickr user Daniel Lobo
photo by flickr user Daniel Lobo

I know. Pretty panties? In her defense, it was the 70s, but if I ever have a complete mental break I suspect it will involve me rocking in a corner and muttering to myself over and over again — mustn’t mess up the pretty panties!

Still, I am potty trained so…the other day I handed my daughter a new pair of underwear and gave her a more current version of the speech — Hey, check out these super cool gender neutral underpants! What do you say we keep these clean and dry?

Well, my daughter delivered a prompt reply — right in said underpants — and it was kind of the opposite of clean and dry.

So what’s left? It seems like all of the methods essentially boil down to naked-time-all-the-time or bribery. I’m not opposed to either. It’s just that in practice neither has actually gone so well. She doesn’t really want to hang out naked and she loses interest in the bribes.

The answer seems clear: we need a better bribe. Or awesome-er underpants?

I’m not going to give up. Actually, I’m pretty sure I can’t give up. Legally, I mean. That’s probably neglect. Or un-parenting? Wait, un-parenting is a thing. Do they just let their kids shit all over the house? I actually don’t know what to do. If you were hoping for a lesson at the end of this post, you can keep on hoping. I am at a complete loss. Off to buy stock in Depends.

p.s. If you’re wondering why I trained the first child and then forgot how I did that by the time I had my daughter: (1) There are 6 1/2 years between them and (2) I tend to block out things involving poop.

Featured image by flick user Jay Ryness. 

Jenny Splitter

Jenny Splitter is a writer, storyteller and over-scheduled mom of two living in Washington, DC. She spends her glamorous days trying to write whatever she can, counting 1-2-3 in a slow yet threatening manner to her children, playing with gluten and working to eradicate dog hair from the planet (or at least her home). Find her on Twitter , Google+ and Facebook

Related Articles


  1. With my eldest “big girls underwear” was actually a strong incentive.
    With the little one I just had to deny her diapers at some point. She was totally able to use the potty but just didn’t care

      1. Yes, something like this happened with the little one, too.
        The pull ups were fine, they were comfy… Kindergarten did its best with sending her to the toilet every so often, but she just didn’t care. Then, shortly after her third birthday there was the day we went to pick up her sister from a birthday party, and since it’s only 60 yards or something like that we walked, of course. Only that she pooped in her pants while we were on the way and when we got home her butt was bleeding and red. I told her that it was bad for her and just left off the pull ups. There were less than three mishapps since. Same thing during the nights: the diaper would always be wet. Once I simply left it off she just got up and went to the toilet…

  2. Heh. I completely forgot how to potty train too, or at least how much work it feels like. Reasons why I’m thankful for good childcare – Mo’s 2-year-old teachers started the process and we kind of followed along in their wake.

    1. I know. My son basically got the rest of the way there once he went to daycare and saw other kids doing it. Of course my daughter is around other kids at the gym daycare but really could give a fig about their bathroom habits. Oh well.

  3. I find it interesting how the way we think about basic things like this are informed by culture and change with time. Where I live (Denmark), the expression “potty training” has gone out of use. I know my parents generation used it, but no more. Parents today talk about “getting rid of the diaper”, and about assisting kids through the process, but not about “training” – that would bring up a notion of forcing something that (according to local culture) is supposed to come naturally. For the same reason books that talk about “potty training infants” are really weird to me.

    For us, we mostly observed that they gradually were using the diaper less, going to the toilet more, and at some point (and at a time of year with warm weather!) decided to try dropping the diaper, while making the whole this as much of a non-issue as possible.

    1. There are also lots of American parents who don’t like the term or practice of “training” kids but I’m not really one of them. My kids aren’t always motivated or interested in doing all of the things that are supposed to come “naturally” and sometimes stuff just needs to get done — like learning how to use the toilet before preschool or sleeping in their own bed — for me to retain my sanity.

Leave a Reply