On Potty Training

The thought of never buying diapers and no longer contributing untold pounds of garbage to land fills appealing. But then there’s the reality of actually being out in public and having to stop what we’re doing to find a clean, public toilet and dealing with that whole thing. So, rather selfishly, I prefer to keep changing dirty diapers. I know people who swear by the potty training “boot camp” method. (For those not familiar – you take a weekend to arm your house with lots of lysol, old rags, salty snacks and juice and go diaper free – letting your little miracles of secretion “figure it out.”) Works like a charm, I’m told. I, however, have opted for the “I’ll just wait until he voices some interest” method.  Forgive me, Mother Earth.

But not to worry, here we are. I blame those go-getting toddlers at school. Apparently months of your mom asking if you want to go potty and buying you cool underwear does not compete with another 3 year old whizzing in the toilet.  A couple of weeks ago as he was playing cars, he suddenly stopped and said, “mommy, I want to go on the potty.”  For a fleeting moment, I thought perhaps this is my cue to start the boot camp or (HA!) to try potty training 2 kids at once! But then Nolan put his hand out, mid-stream, and fits of laughter ensued. Shortly thereafter, Nolan carefully watched as I took Hunter’s diaper off and while I was steadying the older, the younger swiftly peeled his own diaper off and dashed out of the bathroom laughing. We found him a minute later, yelling “potty! Potty!” while proudly pointing to his own puddle on the floor (which, sadly, is becoming an increasingly common occurrence). I’ve tried rushing him to the toilet but it’s not as funny. It’s actually rather frightening when you’re 19 months old (much like flushing – from a distance, hilarious, but up close, terrifying).

Now, when I pick Hunter up from school, he is diaper free and I get a report about his most recent liquid intake and outtake. We live a block away so it’s not usually a problem. But of course, there are still some afternoons when I can’t escape the “special treat” scam. So one afternoon, I had both boys and we went to get an ice cream and sit in the courtyard of one of the huge skyscrapers. It was around 3 so there were some business people around but it wasn’t very crowded. We took a corner table and I got to hold our cup while the boys ran and jumped and did what toddlers do. And then one of them stopped. And just like that, I got the look. You know, that look that says, “ut oh, I’m peeing right now. I didn’t mean to. I swear 35 seconds ago when you asked me if I had to go, I didn’t. I really didn’t. But maybe I did. Because it’s happening. Right now. And I’m not sure if I should cry or laugh or be angry or embarrassed so I’m going to stand here very still and wait for you to react.” Which of course, after seeing this look, I calmly said it was ok and we would pack our things up and go home. Accidents happen. No big deal. We’re still learning how to pee without a diaper and we’ll get you cleaned up and dry in no time.

What I was really thinking was more like, “Ah, now what? It’s everywhere! Do I tell that guard over there that my kid just peed and they might want to hose that corner down? Do I bring him into the bathroom and try to clean him up right here? Will Nolan’s diaper in my bag fit him? Do I have a towel to put down in the stroller?” The two men at the table next to us, who I’m sure witnessed the whole thing, I felt were shaming me so in a matter of seconds, we were dripping our way home. I stopped and apologetically tried to tell the guard without embarrassing Hunter, but he just brushed us aside. I wasn’t sure if he didn’t quite understand or if he just didn’t care. But I felt bad about it.

Now, I’m pretty sure it’s that he just didn’t care. And the witnesses, who I was sure were shaming me, maybe were not. Why? Why, you ask?

Because in China, peeing in public, while maybe not hilarious, is totally acceptable. But if you’re a faithful reader, you know this. There of course was the Toys R Us incident and the all too popular split-crotch pants. Taxi drivers regularly pull over to relieve themselves on crowded streets. Most, at least try to be inconspicuous, but what they are doing is still very obvious. When you see your first bare bottom, it can be alarming but you quickly learn to chalk it up to cultural differences and look the other way.

And then, just when you think you’ve seen it all…

Nolan and I were in the very same mall with the Toys R Us. We rolled up to the elevators and saw a girl, pants around her ankles, starting to squat in front of her mom. She got up when she saw us and I thought, “no way”. But then, 5 feet away from us, the mother yelled to girl to hurry up and back to squatting she goes. (Okay, so I don’t know exactly what the mother said but her tone and gesturing sounded exactly like, “hurry up and get on with it”.) A minute later the puddle in front of her expanded to quite an impressive size, right there, inside the mall, in front of the already aggravating elevators. I was busy picking my chin up off the floor as they swiftly hopped in the next elevator going down. There were a couple of other people, who I’m sure saw, but appeared unfazed.

So all my anxiety about having to find a clean, public toilet seems silly now.  Sorry all you uppity Americans with your cleanliness standards, but when you gotta go, you gotta go. Potty training in China is easy!

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One thought on “On Potty Training

  1. Pingback: Men in Fur Coats and Other Fun Things to See in Shanghai | Avery Adventures

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