Surely the 5th time’s the charm, right?
That was my hope as I entered yet another go-round of potty training a toddler. I had surely learned all the lessons I needed to know regarding this topic, and he would nail this thing in 12 hours flat, we’d go buy ice cream and superhero undies, and then we could move along. That’s how these things usually go, right?
Here I am in the midst of some long days focused on bodily functions, but you know what? I think I have actually learned some things from this most recent bout of toilet-racing and bed-changing! Would you believe you can find gospel truths in moments such as these? I have noticed some wonderful principles in action that have me reflecting on this amazing earthly experience.
- Everybody poops.
We started using this phrase when one of my older children was still a toddler. He was just entering that adorable stage of repeating the things you say in his cute little baby voice. This is also the time that those messy diapers take a turn for the worse and can become rather putrid. This little one overheard siblings and parents making gagging sounds and saying thing like “Gross!” and “Disgusting!” when he happened to be in their vicinity with a recently filled diaper. One time I was changing him and he said, “Gross” as I removed his diaper. This stabbed at my heart, and I didn’t like the idea that he saw himself or his natural bodily functions this way. So I said, “It’s OK. Everybody poops.” He giggled and repeated it. Eventually, any time someone spoke of soiled diapers, he would shrug his shoulders and say, “Everybody poops.”
Spiritual application: Likewise, we are all soiled with the stench of sin. We have challenges and trials in our lives that are difficult to endure. We are sinners; we make mistakes, let people down, and don’t do things we know we should. While we hope these are not enduring situations, others can sometimes bring us even lower by pointing out our flaws and weaknesses. Would that we could all shrug our shoulders and say, “Everybody poops” as we look to the Savior to clean us up and train us to be all that we can be.
- Sometimes we just need to experience things for ourselves to truly understand.
Our method this time has been to let the boy run bare-bottomed at first, then experiment with pants on but no underwear, then finally try underwear. There were lots of warnings: “Don’t pee on the floor! You have to run to the potty!” The first day of training was super exciting. There was a big potty, a little potty, cups of apple juice, focused attention from mom. Child peed once on the couch, once on the office chair, and pooped on a kitchen chair (which was wood and probably the most ideal place to clean up poop in the whole house, so I lucked out there). You could just see things click into place each time, and he understood our warnings. “Oh, peeing on the couch makes it wet. Peeing irritates my skin. I don’t want to sit on a chair with poop on it.” Next day? No pee or poop. Anywhere. Except the toilet.
I patted myself on the back for doing such a spectacular job! I figured he was a quick study and we would rock the commando step. We slipped him into some comfy pants and things were going swimmingly. Until his friend came over. The trains, people! Those toy trains are so distracting! I left them for a few minutes playing downstairs, when suddenly I hear steps and “Mom? I pooped my pants!” Oh no! He certainly did poop in his pants. And then he walked up two sets of stairs. And then his friend walked up after him. And now we have a poop trail with little footprints in it. Faaaabulous. And then later that night he stood at the top of another set of stairs, and I was totally looking at him while observing a wet spot blooming out between his legs. He was quite surprised and said, “I peed!” More bathing and carpet scrubbing.
But then … that was it. No more accidents in the pants. Those are really not much fun, I guess.
Spiritual applications: Sometimes we can’t understand a warning until we experience the consequences. Sometimes our habits lead us to make the same mistakes in different circumstances. When we recognize what we did and what the cause was, we can be aware and learn to not repeat those same mistakes. Sometimes it takes me a lot more tries than it took my little guy to get this part right.
Also, our spirit/will/determination can overcome the conditioning of our bodies.
- We are only one choice away from getting back on track when we fall off.
Some of those potty training accidents are naaaasty. I admit that after the poopy pants, I was tempted to call it all off. As I was rinsing the child in the tub, he turned to me and said, “Next time I will poop on the potty.” And I realized that’s all that mattered. He might have made a mistake, but it’s the NEXT choice that really matters. And it’s the same for us all. Will we do it again, or will we make the effort to change? Chances are, if he had decided that pooping his pants was fine, it would have continued to happen. But he did not like the experience and wanted more for himself. He knew that he only had to do better next time and not get hung up on the current mistake (that was just about cleaned up anyhow).
I want to be just like that toilet-training boy.
I’d love to hear other insights you have about the spiritual lessons of potty training!