7:15 – 8:01
After a rousing opening ceremony that included the symbolic “Tossing of the Diapers,” a reading of the critically acclaimed Babies v. Big Boys: How Potties Shape or Destiny by Brian Graves, a technical workshop detailing how Daddy wears his underpants, the “Donning of the Underpants,” and the singing of the Potty Training Anthem (of which the phrase “Let Mommy and Daddy know if you need to go potty” comprise the entirety of the verses, chorus, and bridge), we’re off and running on a 3-day odyssey that will test the strength of our character, the depth of our love for one another, and the war chest of underpants we recently purchased at Target.
A few things are immediately evident. First – I probably shouldn’t have waited until the night before to read the epic, 50-page , 3-Day Potty Training Manual. This is apparently a document meant to be consumed well in advance and read multiple times as more hinges on the next 3 days than I was made aware of. Second – I probably shouldn’t have had 17 drinks while watching football yesterday as I may not have retained as much of those 50 pages as my wife had hoped. Third – I can’t ask the boy if he “has to go potty,” I can only request that he “let me know if he has to go potty.” This is based on the premise that he’ll never be able to use the restroom as an adult unless someone asks him if he needs to first.
8:11 – 8:20
Jake proudly struts off to the library in some jaunty new Cars underpants to resume his self-taught piano studies (which I make a note to include on his Harvard application essay). Within seconds, from the corner of my eye, I see Lindsay run past holding Jake in outstretched arms yelling a combination of “oh no, oh no, oh no,” and “it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay!” I sprint to the bathroom just as 4 drops of pee fall into the bowl. Per the book’s instructions, Lindsay and I proceed to go ape shit. There’s high fiving, choreographed dance routines, a champagne shower in the locker room, a trophy presentation, and a listing in Who’s Who Among America’s Toddlers.
In all of the revelry, we almost forget the battery of rewards stockpiled for this occasion. Lindsay decides to start with stickers and offers Jake his choice of one. In a move completely out of character with a toddler, he immediately proceeds to lose his mind when he can’t have 2 of them….so I cave and offer him a 2nd sticker (“3 days of positivity” says the book)…but of course now 4 drops of pee and some wet underpants should justify 3 stickers. We finally settle on 2 stickers and a $7 Mokeskine journal he can now use as a sticker book (damnit, Lindsay) and a new pair of Cars underpants.
The advantage of “3 days of positivity” is that Lindsay isn’t allowed to yell at me either…which is good because every time I turn around there’s a pregnant whirlwind snatching up a soggy 2 year old and rushing him to the bathroom. There is no feasible explanation for: A) where all of this pee is coming from, or B) how this little pee ninja keeps sneaking past me. After 3 more accidents, 1 Matchbox car, 16 stickers, and 3 more pairs of underpants it’s becoming abundantly clear that we don’t have enough cars, stickers, or underpants. Lindsay bravely ventures to Target on Black Friday while I mindlessly repeat “let me know if you have to go potty,” 256 more times.
The good news is that the couch remains pristine. The bad news is that we’re down 2 kitchen chairs and a throw pillow. The underpant reinforcements have arrived as well as a 5 lb. bag of M&Ms and a 5 lb. bag of Skittles, building our already impressive reward arsenal to Montana militia standards. Still no poop which is both remarkable and unsettling like building clouds on the horizon, but we’ve found that if we keep Jake in constant eyesight while chanting our “let me know if you have to go potty,” war cry, his bladder and bowels are locked up.
The grandparents have shown up, a plan which I must have missed the prior evening in my Jameson and turkey induced fog. Somehow, in their less than 60 minutes with us, they manage to break our “3 days of positivity” rule, pump 2 huge slices of sugar rich pumpkin cake into an already volatile toddler, Jake slips on his own pee and hits his head on a table, and he’s been given an unsolicited, questionably styled and questionably timed haircut that bears a striking resemblance to Haley Mills from the original Parent Trap. So now he’s jacked up on the sugar from apple juice the book told us to keep pumping in him all morning, pumpkin cake, and M&Ms…and he looks like a deranged dutch boy who pees all over the floor. Also it’s nap time.
Not only have I lost track of accidents and underpants today, I have also lost track of accidents and underpants in the last 2 hours of this nap debacle. After 2 initial false alarms orchestrated solely to work the system for more M&Ms, there was a legitimate 3rd call to the bathroom which involved our first turd. Confused, and a little scared, I screamed for Lindsay to come help…turds are kind of her milieu. Turd is addressed, plopped into the toilet, and bid a fond farewell as it begins its ocean voyage. Jake is unimpressed and demands M&Ms. I convince myself that I might have heard a drop or two so I concede…I just want an hour or so to myself and I’d probably give him all 5 lbs. if he asked for them.
I hear the faint sounds of stirring through the baby monitor and I spring into action. We can’t afford to be down another set of sheets already. I run through the house like OJ running through the airport in those old Hertz commercials, hurdling baby gates, putting spin moves on dogs, stiff arming Lindsay at the top of the stairs, and burst through Jake’s door. “Tell me if you…” aww fuck it “Do you have to go to the bathroom?” I yell. He nods yes so I hustle him to the bathroom and hoist him up on the toilet. His underpants are already wet but I pray there’s still just enough in the tank to give us both this little win. Naked, he stares at me drowsily chewing on M&Ms and, like angels footsteps, I hear the sweet tinkle of a surprisingly impressive stream.
For the next 2 minutes, I make it rain M&M’s, stickers, and Matchbox cars in a celebration the likes of which our house will never see again. The skies part and a single ray of sunshine beams down onto the toilet, bathing the boy king in a triumphant glow. And he looks at me as if to say, “I got this, Dad…I got this.”
The next 4 hours are proof that Jake doesn’t, in fact, “got this.” More accidents, more false alarms, more juice and M&M induced miniature rampages on furniture and dogs, and at one point he actually somehow stepped in the toilet. I have no idea how…but his underpants were dry but half his leg was wet.
After a painfully extended bedtime routine which now includes 3 potty intermissions, and 2 extra books, we had a brief tuck or no tuck debate, said our prayers with added emphasis on the possibility of divine potty training intervention, we turned off the lights and retired for the evening…then had 3 more false alarms and one boy-who-cried-wolf incident involving a turd, some tears, a 2nd bath, and the promise to believe him from now on.
Find out what happens next – Click to read Dad Sucks at Potty Training Day 2