The lovely Genevieve; owner of the new, fabulous online high end baby gift company: whilst working part time in project management (the boring bit); mummy to the gorgeous little Evelyn who is just over 18 months, so a little older than Noah and wife to Neil, who Genevieve feels is “long suffering”, has kindly written up a fantastic post on her experiences with potty training. I had so much fun reading this post and I am sure she has had lots of fun getting it to work with Evelyn, I know I will be using her methods as guidance – it sounds like a fabulous approach to potty training.

Hi nice to meet you! The lovely Mummy Constant, after I had told her some of my experiences, asked if I’d like to guest blog on her blog which I was very honoured to do! I hope I don’t prattle on too much, but writing this has really helped me through the process most definitely!

Becoming a mum gave me the inspiration for my business, but more than anything else it has been the most amazing rollercoaster experience that just keeps going! It can be hard work though… Talking of which…

My Potty Diary…

Why exactly I decided that we would begin potty training at 18 months falls into many camps, but it was a fixed point in my head and definitely came from me not the hubby, who thankfully is fabulously supportive of our parenting style and very involved in every decision we make together about our little monkey. Chatting about the whole Potty Training with my sister-in-law (who also has our gorgeous nephew Ethan) some time beforehand when it all seemed a long long way away… I had arrived on the idea that Easter would be a good time to do it – the long bank holiday gave a clear window, a time that we could wipe of all activities and I could take some holiday off work to do it… ideal, given our very busy and wedding strewn year ahead.

It wasn’t just the bank holiday weekend that was a driver – I think a lot of influence came from my mum, it often does with out me realising. She breast fed so it was natural for me to, she’s worked throughout her life so I expect to… and she potty trained us kids just before 18 months so the expectation was set for me to follow (amongst many other things no doubt).But other more pragmatic factors were in the mix – we want a number two in the not too distant future, and the idea of being pregnant or dealing with a new baby and trying to potty train at a later date was horrifying. We want to move, that doesn’t mix with Potty training at all… I also very importantly have a new carpet being put down in May and I want as little wee as possible on it!!

Whatever you read, it’s stressed time and time again that it’s really important that you mustn’t start too early for the child and that ‘the right time’ is really dependant on the child, so we only really considered starting the whole process when she started showing us signs that were ever increasing in the months and weeks before. Evelyn had many of the classic signs you hear about:

  • Able to tell us when she wanted the toilet
  • Able to tell us what variety(!) she had done
  • Interested in taking her nappy off
  • Interested in following us to the toilet and copying us
  • Wanting to flush the toilet for us
  • Happy to sit on the potty for short periods of time – completely un-phased by it
  • Staying dry for longer periods of time
  • Regular “poo” time normally with obvious signs beforehand

Obviously my daughter is my gorgeous little munchkin and the apple of her daddy’s eye. No one is more clever, cute or totally remarkable! (Rave rave!!) …but then you and anyone with one or more of these little people will know exactly what I mean, we all feel the same about our kids.

At 18 months I know I’m in the lucky position of her having a strong speaking ability – although that has major down sides too believe me! I have a feeling I may have talked at her so constantly from birth she had to develop her speech quickly to protect her ears from my constant battering and get me to shut up! So basically I have the confidence that she will be able to let me know before she needed to go once she got the idea… I hoped so anyway! Our “parenting approach” or whatever you want to call it, has always been to assume she can do everything. (Well within reason! Cooking dinner and doing the ironing can wait until she’s at least 3 or 4…eh hem). We just try and never limit her by a “standard” expectation of a child at whatever age she is. Give her all the tools she needs without spoiling her and encourage but (try) never to push her – it’s a fine line, and we’re careful that most of the time we stay the right side of it! So far, she constantly surprises us and it is such a pleasure to see her grow into a confident capable little person!

Planning for Poo & Wee!

Sooooo… I work in project management, planning is in my nature and my job so I planned for this as I would anything really. Research, engage with the relevant parties involved (grandparents/friends/family!), plan for all eventualities and purchase equipment!  The main uncomfortable bit was the unknown timescale…

I bought potty chairs – for stability really, she’s so clumsy! And she liked them! She had one in the bathroom and one in the living room for a while beforehand (until one went to her Nana’s) and she sat on them fully clothed and in the altogether waiting for her baths – it seemed sensible enough preparation really so she could get used to strange contraptions. In the week leading up to ‘the event’, I bought a book called “The Potty Training Bible” by a lady called Jo Wiltshire, it looked like a good, light and friendly book that didn’t instruct like a drill sergeant or go too into the psychology of it all. It presented the common options (there’s four basically) in a way that appealed to me.. no judgement one way or another it just left you to choose which one suited you and your little one best. From early to late training and options halfway between the two. As we all know, no one kiddie is the same as the next so it was a really useful read.

After reading the book I “prepared”. I bought pull ups, both night and day, a big pad of paper and some stickers in star, balloon and fairy shapes – bear with me it will make sense!  Then a humongous pack of kitchen roll and a few training pants – which by the way are very expensive and yet to prove their worth! And of course some little knickers – there is officially nothing cuter than mini knickers or “knicky-knacky-noos” as we like to refer to them! Our local Sainsbury’s is very aware of the name as my little girl repeated it all the way round the store for 20 minutes after I picked them up..!

I decided on the method I thought would work best, explained the theory to Neil and then as per my researching nature, read lots more articles, blogs and websites that varied widely in opinion. Some told me babies in other countries were commonly trained at 1 or before for practical reasons with no issues. Most said it should be no problem at 18 months if they showed signs of readiness (18-24months seemed the most common starting age range). Others told me that her bladder wasn’t ready until 20 months, a few utterly condemned my decision to start what was in their opinion ‘too early’ naming 2 as the minimum starting age. Basically I think you will find whatever you want to find on the internet to support your argument whichever way you go with it so none of it was particularly useful really, just confusing. I’d advise against the internet really… I was on it constantly in the early days of pregnancy and after having Evelyn, scaring myself stupid regularly – it can be really useful of course, but some things can’t replace your instinct as a mum. I knew she was ready, that’s really all I needed to know.I thankfully found most friends and family were genuinely interested and encouraging, but it is bizarre isn’t it, how much emotion can be stirred up by a decision regarding where poo and wee are deposited and when! And by goodness everyone has an opinion!

Personally I think it really depends on the parents and the chosen parenting approach with their little ones generally… active / passive / etc etc. No decision can be wrong because it’s right for that family at that time. No one knows their child like a mum or dad and at the end of the day, that’s where it begins and ends.

So I had prepared, I had researched, I had my plan in place – I also had very artistically (if I do say so myself!) drawn up a chart with squares on and masking taped it to a kitchen cabinet with the stickers out of reach above. I don’t think you need to, but I got her to decorate it with her animal stickers as we have millions of the things and I keep finding them in random places, like inside my boots, on washing hung to dry and bizarrely in my sock drawer…

Go! Go! Go!

So anyway – we were ready… Why did I feel like my head was about to be chopped off… Wriggly fingers of dread kept clutching at my stomach, doubt creeping in, was it too soon, was I setting her up for a fall and as the morning of Day 1 arrives I had to push all the apprehension away and really just take a leap of faith – which although it sounds a tad dramatic, really did feel like I was about to jump out of a plane! However, instead, out of our much more grounded beds we jumped – for our nappy free day on Good Friday!!

Day 1

It feels like a massive journey for me to get here and I so want her to succeed from this point on, I think that’s why I’m terrified to start! She’s in good spirits though so that’s a good place.

Off comes the nappy from bedtime – we are going bare bottomed now for some time and in her sleepy morning state we pop her on the potty with her cup of milk and wait… Nothing…

She soon gets bored, gets up and toddles off to play so we realise we need to give her the ground rules quickly. We take her back to the potty and go over what we’d like to happen and she love her, she takes a real interest – particularly in the caricature of herself on the potty and the stickers!

So the deal is Evie; if you need a wee wee or a poo poo (please don’t judge my words!) we take you to the potty and you can go wee wee or poo poo and mummy and daddy are here to help. If you go for a wee wee or a poo poo – look what you get to put on the chart!! “Stickers!” she squeals “want now p(l)ease mummy”… Hooray! Good start! I explained it was only when you did something on the potty, stars for a wee and a big balloon for a poo. (She loves balloons.)

We asked her if she needs a wee about every 5 mins for the rest of the morning and 5 times she did manage it! There were a couple of accidents and dribbles but with each success, we raised the roof with dancing and singing and clapping and of course a sticker and then we waved the product off down the toilet, letting her press the button to flush the loo.

After her nap she even sat down and did a poo, but she looked absolutely terrified and we had to sit on the floor and cuddle her to keep her from getting too distressed and basically keep her sat down. Awful. Ugh. But she recovered very quickly thankfully once the deed was done and was very excited to stick her balloon to the chart!

The rest of the afternoon was a washout… Wee puddles appearing every so often so the kitchen towel came in good use. But we stayed positive after such a good start. And took her to the potty after every puddle saying oh well never mind every time nothing was produced.

We congratulated ourselves that night, we had started!

Day 2

Much the same as day one we had some hits and misses but by the end of the day we had achieved 5 stars and even a balloon under some serious encouragement as every time her bum hit the potty when trying to do a poo she shot bolt upright again! Obviously lots of reminders and then mad excitement when she managed something.

Day 3

Day three dawned and we were shattered but feeling positive. How naive we were. The novelty had most certainly worn off for Evelyn. Protests began at being taken to the potty, hated sitting down, tears and lots of cuddles needed. She jumped off the potty as quickly as she sat down and instead asked to sit on my knee constantly and wee’d or poo’d on me more times than I care to remember as a result.

Despair started to set in… and by naptime we were ready to throw in the towel. When she was in bed, we argued about how to proceed, whether we should, whether her bladder was ready, her age, the methods, we consulted the book and shouted (quietly) our frustrations at each other! No-one really tells you how intense this stuff is – or at least can be! We then calmed down, I called my mum for a bit of keep calm and carry on moral support – he had a shower.

Then we sat down and agreed on an action plan with no shouting which was good and had lots of cuddles, a very important ending in an argument/heated discussion I think.

So we realised a few things – in no particular order…

  • We had in our excitement probably been overcrowding her quite a bit.
  • That she needed a little bit more incentive like a chocolate button or two!
  • That reminding her every so often randomly was not working and that we would set the cooker alarm every 25/30 mins and only remind her if she looked like she needed to go.
  • That we would use the fairy stickers to get her to decorate her potty and get her to sit on the potty and focus on something else.
  • That I was going stir crazy and needed to get out.
  • That with a bit of tweaking she might do even better.
  • That we were not going to give up at the first hurdle.
  • That we’d monitor over the next few days and stop if things didn’t improve.
  • Finally that actually she’d done fantastically so far and had shown us she was very capable as we’d had lots of wins!

So under instruction I left, leaving my fantastic hubby in charge and did a bit of retail therapy. When I got back I definitely felt re-energised and a happy girl faced me with a bare bottom cuddle when I got back and so we carried on! It wasn’t a great rest of the day results wise but we saw the funny side and kept smiling.

She did manage 10 stars after all – that was double the day before! My jeans deserved the balloons though…

I also may have had a glass of wine or two that night… and a wonderful lady on Twitter @TheBoyandMe offered me real moral support after I read her blog on her potty training experiences and had contacted her to say thank you for the perspective.

Day 4

What happened over the next two days I don’t know but it was like a penny dropped for everyone involved. We kept consistent I guess and happy and positive no matter how exhausting it felt and our little monkey just seemed to – get it!! Four stars and a balloon with a few minor accidents and a cuddle encouraged poo – yey!

Day 5

Today hubby went back to work and a big big big thing happened… she took herself to the potty all on her own with no fuss and went for a wee!!! Eureka!

That morning went much the same as the day before and we had mostly wins with lots of stars. I was sitting having a cuppa and she was playing in front of me, when she suddenly got up and without a word disappeared to the kitchen, it was only when I peeked around the corner that I realised she was sitting on the potty!! I think I shocked her a bit by squealing but I was so excited!

Feeling invincible I decided to visit a good friend Natalie who lives a five minute car journey away so it could be our first visit away from home attempt. Despite best efforts Evelyn would not go for a wee before we left but thankfully did do a poo! (Still with cuddles but less protest) So despite a pair of waterproof pants, the overflow soaked her car seat… I’d forgotten to put a towel down. When we got there we set up her potty and chart and she did a wee right away (the show off), but during our few hours there a couple of accidents happened when she was having too much fun to want to go to the potty! However she still did really well and 9 stars and one balloon down by the end of the day, we were happy Bunny’s.

Day 6

Daddy’s day at home while off I went to work. Another very good day with lots of successes and only two accidents which were both were our faults because I was on the phone to him and he wasn’t concentrating – she was stuck in the high chair! 7 stars but oddly no poo today!

Day 7

Nana and Grandads day! While I go to a photo shoot on the south coast for Gurgle Box with the lovely @attachmentmummy and Daddy goes to work. We packed up all her bits and I had drawn a 2nd chart for her plus a whole new set of stars and balloons. One of the potty’s went too.

She wore pull ups in the car, but un-phased she took them off at Nana’s and did a wee on the potty at Daddy’s suggestion straight away, showing off to Nana and giving hubby a chance to demonstrate what we’d been doing.

Before he left to go to work she’d toddled off to their kitchen where the potty was and had done another one on her own. Nana reports a fab day with ZERO accidents and many self initiated trips!

Day 8

Another successful day at home even with a slightly upset tummy mostly self initiated. We did get a little bit of poo on the carpet… and had a little trickle, but only one when she was playing which she checked, held it and ran to the potty to go. Two balloons and ten stars! I also forgot to give her any chocolate a few times and she wasn’t bothered so we decided from now on chocolate would be only for a poo.

Day 9

Back at the wonderful Nana’s & Grandad’s to let us go to a friends’ get together that afternoon and evening. Nana reported ZERO accidents and again several self initiated trips! Hooray! Not only that but a self initiated Poo!!! – No fuss whatsoever and very proud of herself!! Nana rang me up and laughed at me while I shrieked and squealed down the phone at her! But she also says she’s being less interested in the stickers – good sign it’s all becoming normal behaviour now and Nana and Grandad are do an amazing job at keeping up the consist approach.

Day 10

A test trip… That afternoon we planned a family trip to the local pub’s fabulous carvery to celebrate Neil’s upcoming birthday. We took the potty but no stickers and sat it unobtrusively in the corner of the room by our table out of sight. We stayed for two and a half hours, with no accidents and Evelyn asking to get down to use the potty whenever she needed it. We were so proud!

Onwards and drywards

I know things might be up and down for a while and we will have days with occasional accidents possibly even for a few years yet who knows – although I’m hopeful not. But you know what, in ten days I feel we have as a family broken the back of it, it’s all so much easier and normal now. She’s just taken it in her stride. It’s been a journey but we’re there now and we’ll stay here happily for now.

I am pretty nervous about a flight we have to make to Geneva for a family wedding at the end of April – and need to invest in a small or travel potty, but I’m confident in our little girl who is before our eyes becoming an independent self-assured little monkey.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 18th April 2012