No two words can strike fear in a mother’s heart like “Potty Training.” The mere thought of transitioning your child from diapers to porcelain throne is enough to provoke an epic parental panic attack. The commitment. The accidents. And don’t forget the pressure from the Judgey McJudgersons of the child-rearing world. While we find relief in knowing our days are numbered for changing Pampers packed with unpleasantness; potty training is a delicate combination of repetition and patience. Now, imagine trying to accomplish this milestone while having your eyes closed?
For mothers like me, who are blind or visually impaired, potty training can be the definition of overwhelming. For obvious reasons.
A few weeks ago, I started potty training my eldest daughter, Nuala, three and a half. It’s been the most exhausting and most frustrating part of motherhood thus far. My cesarean section was a piece of cake compared to this. Seriously. If potty training has taught me anything, it’s that you’ve got to have a sense of humor to be a mom. Here are 10 Lessons I learned during potty training a toddler while blind.
10 Lessons Learned During Potty Training While Blind:
1) It’s True What They Say About Opinions.: Ever heard that age old adage about people having opinions? Well, there is not truer statement when it comes to potty training, especially when you’re a disabled parent. “Oh, you waited because you’re blind?” “I’m sure you’ll be relying on your husband to handle this part of motherhood.” “You know, your daughter is almost 3 and a half; she should be out of diapers.” Honestly, I have never heard so much “crap” in all my life. (Yeah, crap!) Take it from this mom, you will know when your child is ready to be trained. Tell all the grandparents, childless co-workers and social media mavens to shove their advice where the sun doesn’t shine. Pushing your child to train before they are ready can do more harm than good. Use your mommy instincts and start when you and your toddler are ready. Peer pressure caused me to attempt to train Nuala twice last year. EPIC FAIL! All it did was scare her and stress me out. While our potty training adventure had its fair share of challenging moments, she was ready this time and that was half the battle.
2) Flooring is not your friend.: It doesn’t matter if you place your plastic potty on hardwood, linoleum or carpet – bodily fluids will find their way under your feet. They will run down your legs. They will stick to that new pedicure. I can absolutely guarantee if you’re a blind mom, you will be doing some serious replacement sock shopping once the potty training fiasco has ended.
3) You’ll Relive Your Slip & Slide Days.: If you grew up in the 1980’s like I did, then you had to have heard of the Slip & Slide. If you have no idea what I’m referring to, I strongly suggest you Google it because you’ve missed out on some serious awesomeness. Potty training will absolutely make you nostalgic for this vintage water toy. For instance, when your child has an accident (AND DOES NOT TELL YOU), leaving behind a gigantic pool of urine to which you will slide across your living room floor, full speed, ultimately landing on your ass. Fellow blind moms, consider yourself warned.
4) Sighted or Blind – Husbands Are Useless.: If you read my blog, then you know how much I love my husband. I mean, really, I adore him. Except for these past two weeks when he was absolutely useless! On one particularly exhausting day, I asked “Mostly Wonderful” to take over training while I took a half an hour nap. By the time I woke up, Nuala was back in a diaper, and Aoife (my 1-year-old) had Buzz Lightyear sitting on the potty. When I asked my husband what the hell was going on he said, “Potty training is exhausting. I got tired.” Welcome to my world! There is no “I” in “Team”, but there most certainly is one in “Potty Training.” I hate to break it to you ladies, but if you’re the stay at home parent, the burden will be placed mostly on your shoulders. Don’t expect too much out of your men. After all, they “tire” easily. I’m going to remember that the next time “Mostly Wonderful” is feeling frisky.
5) Being A Dog Owner Counts as Experience.: Congratulations, if you’ve ever housebroken a puppy, then you officially have what it takes to potty train a toddler. While not a guide dog user myself, I’ve trained several breeds of dogs over the years. In training Nuala I found myself referring back to that pack leader terminology. “Sit.” “Stay.” “Do your business.” And my personal fave, “Wait right there, mommy has to clean up the poop.” Ahh, memories.
Pictured: The potty charts we made for the girls.
6) Plastic Potties Stick to Tiny Cheeks.: I don’t have a bathroom on my first floor. With another baby running around, I had no choice but to keep a plastic potty in my kitchen for training. It doesn’t matter what brand you buy, the tiny plastic cup that will catch your child’s business will ultimately stick to their butt cheeks when they try to stand up. And you know what happens then…. SPLASH! Yeah, SPLASH! All over you. All over your kid. All over the floor. All over the walls. Why someone hasn’t come up with a solution to this problem is beyond me. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
7) Bribery Costs a Small Fortune.: My mom once told me that she gave me pennies to put in my piggy bank when she potty trained me. Another mom told me she used M&M’s as a reward method. Well, let me tell you, times have changed. My daughter would not do anything for an M&M and she told me I could keep my pennies. She wanted Finding Dory “surprises.” So I shelled out almost $50 bucks for some Dory inspired trinkets to reward her for her bathroom efforts. Don’t agree with my bribery methods? Walk a moment in my motherhood shoes. Trust me, you will be more than happy to plunk down your hard earned money if it means you’ll hear the magical sound of urine hitting the inside of that plastic toilet.
8) Your Child Will Expect a Parade.: Years ago, I remember watching Kate Gosselin with her sextuplets being potty trained. After each kid would poop, crazy Kate took a picture of said child’s excrement to put in their respective baby book. At the time, I thought this woman was certifiable. Fast forward eight years and not only did I photograph Nuala’s poop – I called my parents via FaceTime so they could see what their grandchild had made! How’s that for crazy? Until you’re in it you have absolutely no idea how crazy things will actually get. You will cheer. You will applaud. You will admire. And your kid will love every fricken’ second of it.
9) There will come a time when you will lose your “shit.”: There’s no use in denying it because it’s going to happen. As much as you want to be upbeat and positive during potty training, there will come a point when you’ve reached your limit. You’ll be tired and cranky and your kid will have an inadvertent accident. While none of us means to do it; you will flip out. It will not be our finest parenting moment, but your family will get past it. And if not, there’s always therapy. KIDDING! Here’s my advice, don’t get mad; get wine. Oooh, or chocolate. Oooh, or better yet ice cream. Well, you see where I’m going with this. Cut yourself some slack momma’s, shit happens.
10) You’ll cry when it’s over.: Nuala has just started her third week of potty training. We are consistently wearing underwear and pull-ups. She has not pooped in her pants in over a week. She can run to the potty in the kitchen, pull down her own pants and do her business herself. She yells for me when she needs me and I help to make sure she’s clean. I should be ecstatic that my baby is potty trained, right? Nope. I cried. I actually ugly cried. Why? Because my precious baby girl isn’t such a baby anymore. She’s on the fast road to preschooler and I’m not ready for that. Oh man, am I not ready.
The moral of this epic tale is that every mom needs to find her own way. Sighted or blind, we adapt to overcome the trials and tribulations of parenting. Sure, we’ll make mistakes. There will be plenty of messes to clean up. But there is absolutely no greater feeling than knowing you helped your child to accomplish what they thought was impossible.
As a blind mom, I don’t have the privilege of “seeing” everything my kids do – but I am certainly capable of feeling every emotion that comes with each new experience. In the case of potty training, that was a lot of love, at times frustration and a whole lot of laughter!