Our daughter Ella is almost three. She was our little surprise baby. I had always wanted a third child; try as I might, I simply did not feel done after our first two were born. I tried to shake it, but Ella’s little soul just needed to be out in the world. When I discovered that I was pregnant on a rainy Labor Day, besides being in a state of total shock, I got so excited for all of those baby things to enter my world again. The sweet little hands, the coos, the first milky, dreamy smiles, that baby smell. I wasn’t sad about sleep deprivation or the curtailing of certain freedoms that come with a newborn. I felt blissful and grateful and blessed. Except for one thing. Potty training.
My other two kids were potty trained by three. But it was hell getting there. It was never a smooth transition; it was never ‘no big deal’ like it is for some toddlers. There were many bumps in the road, false starts, and total relapses.
Right before Christmas, Ella’s daycare teacher decided to give her a little coaxing. She has such a gentle way with kids, and after a few days, Ella was going on the potty all the time. At day care. At home. At Costco. At friends’ houses. My husband and I were cautiously gleeful. Could it be that for one out of our three children, potty training would be a seamless, uneventful cakewalk?
It was not to be. After a few weeks of Ella’s super dialed-in status, where I raced out and bought big girl underwear, pull-ups, and Skittles, the power struggle began. Sometimes when toddlers realize how important something is to their parents, it’s just too much pressure. Sometimes, they just need their independence and a way to express their will. I have theories but no answers. I do know, from my experience, that potty training happens completely when my child, not me, is ready.
It’s okay. I know that we will all figure it out someday soon. Ella is not even three yet. At daycare, she uses the potty all day long, but at home, it’s just not happening. There is that diaper-free light at the end of the tunnel, and I can wait. I can be patient. That, after all, is one of the many lessons of the third child.