Potty Training: A Moral Victory or Just a Physical One?

BlogHer Original Post

I have a confession to make: My daughter turns five today, and she just started sleeping all night in underwear, not Pull-Ups.

I have another confession to make: This fact mortifies me.

Perhaps it's because her friends potty-trained before she did, and most of them were night-trained at the same time they were day-trained. They just suddenly used the potty ALL THE TIME, holding it for hours, not wetting the bed. Even though I've come a long way, baby, from the early days during which I'd assume any ninny off the street could mother better than I could, I'm still insecure about the night-time potty thing. Why? I don't know why. Ask Freud.

For years, whenever I met a new mother who had a child the same age as my daughter, I'd monitor her casual conversation for mention of the word "Pull-Up." If it came up, I'd sigh with relief. Aha! I'd think. My kid is not the only kid in the world still sleeping through the warm trickle. I'm doing GREAT!

And, because I'm so insecure about this, I feel inclined to announce proudly that she was day-trained years, YEARS ago, folks. YEARS. Because of course, that means I'm a good mother. Right?

Where do we get all this moral attachment to potty-training?

I think there might be a cultural relation. Public urination is illegal in most states -- we as a society want you to put your pee in the right place.  Or maybe it's biological. If your cat is mad at you, she'll take a dump in your favorite shoes. Or maybe it's linguistic -- we say we're "pissed" if we're angry. Clearly, depositing your body's waste is a highly emotional business.

First off, if your child isn't on an acceptable schedule, people will morally judge you publicly, as they have Christina from A Mommy Story:

Cordy is nearly four and half years old, and is still not potty trained. Yes, throw all your tsk-tsks at me, I've heard them a hundred times already. We're not committed enough, we're not doing it right, we're letting her control the situation, we're lazy - those are the primary reasons stated by complete strangers for why our daughter insists on remaining in diapers. As if it really impacts their lives if my kid is wearing a diaper.

There's also the humiliation and frustration of being covered in excrement by someone who, really? Is supposed to love you, not hate you for trying to help him or her. Writes Jess of Sassafras

It was the Holy Terror wailing, pissed off and pissed on toddler who's will was stronger than our plans, our hype, the presents, the posters, the parade into big-boydom.

Then there's the questioning, the constant questioning, of whether pushing your child to hold the pee will permanently damage his or her psyche and it will be ALL YOUR FAULT. Writes Kristina at The Marathon Mama:

I want to make a good man. I have this fantastic little boy who I more or less live for, but I'm thinking lately that to make him into a good man will take some hard work. I'm a Freudian at heart, so of course all of my maternal anxiety stems from my kid's bathroom antics.

So really, what gives? Why do we get so worked up about potty training? Is it a moral victory?

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