Something unbelievably wonderful happened this week. My nearly-three-year-old Harry woke up and out of the blue announced that he wanted to wear pants, not nappies. After carefully choosing a pair festooned with Spider-Man logos, he solemnly paraded around his bedroom admiring his sartorial magnificence in his bedroom mirror.
I am delighted. I am over the moon. I am relieved. So you might be surprised to hear that I don’t plan on potty training my baby Olly – not ever.
You see, there’s enormous pressure on mums to get their pre-schoolers out of nappies and into pants. I had originally decided that I would let Harry decide when he wanted to wear pants, rather than forcing him into a situation he wasn’t ready for. But then all my mum friends’ toddlers seemed to potty train almost overnight and I started to worry that I was holding Harry back.
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My mother had been very supportive of me waiting until Harry was ready, but even she had recently begun to say things like: “Isn’t he in pants yet? Oh dear…” making me feel incredibly pressured to just get on with it.
First of all, I tried planting the idea in Harry’s mind. I put him in pull-ups instead of nappies. I let him choose brightly-coloured cushioned toilet seats with his favourite characters on. I installed a Lightning McQueen potty in our bathroom and let him pretend to drive while sitting on it.
But while he was politely interested in all these things, he still insisted on wearing nappies. Then I began to buy and borrow books about potty training, like teddies who learnt to use the potty and moles who discovered where poo comes from. I encouraged him to use the toilet during the day, even when we were out and about. Again, Harry treated all these things as a very fun game but he still wanted his nappy on.
Growing desperate, I decided on several mornings that Harry was ready for pants and simply put them on him. Every day I did that, we ran out of dry trousers by midday, and Harry was getting increasingly distressed. He was mostly distressed that I stood over him asking if he needed to loo every five minutes, instead of letting him play.
So I stopped. I gave up. I decided that Harry would do it in his own damned time and that as long as he was in pants by school, it didn’t matter. But just because I decided that didn’t mean I wasn’t a bit anxious.
After all, I’ve read that in 1957 the average age that parents started potty training was 11 months. That’s Baby Olly’s age – I cannot imagine how they did it. Presumably hand-washing cloth nappies is the only thing harder than trying to potty train a reluctant toddler. Especially in large families; imagine how many nappies you’d need to wash and this in the time before washing machines were common. No wonder they whisked them out of terry towels so fast.
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On top of that, I’ve been reading about ‘elimination communication’; parents who attempt to use their baby’s cues and signals to avoid using nappies at all. Essentially, they attempt to potty train their very young babies, sometimes even their newborns. They do this by reading their signals and learning their schedules. Then they zip their baby over to the toilet or potty before he or she lets loose.
Well, every parent is different and I say good luck to them. However, I have spent most of my two boys’ early years covered in vomited, milk, snot and mashed up banana – I have no desire to add poo to that list too.
Anyway, I decided that as long as Harry was potty trained before he started school I would leave him to it. And then, once I had stopped prompting and nagging and suggesting and promising stickers, he just decided to do it by himself. He’d seen the boys at his preschool using the toilet and simply decided that he was ready to do that too.
So, I have made a decision about my 11-month-old Olly. I am not going to try to potty train him – because it’s not about ‘training’. Little boys and girls aren’t puppies, they don’t need training. They are little people and it’s entirely possible that they have their own ideas about when it’s the right time to ditch the nappies.
I’ll show Olly the potty and the special toilet seat. I’ll read him the books about teddies using the toilet, if he asks. But I am not going to put him in pants until he suggests it. I am never ‘potty training’ again, I am simply going to help my children decide to be dry.
What do you think? When did your kids get out of nappies? Is there a right age or does it depend on the child? Share your experiences with me and other readers using the comments below.