Further potty woes

Potty training is kicking my ass. I have now decided that hearing yet another friend say that their child is potty trained/ making huge strides in potty training/ is out of diapers/ wearing “big boy” pants or any other reference to potty training is much much worse than having another girlfriend tell me she’s pregnant. The pregnant thing I can almost handle. The potty training… it is slowly killing me.

There are signs that a child exhibits that indicate to a parent that they are ready to go on the big potty. My son exhibits nearly every one of these signs. He knows about the potty, all parts involved in going on the potty, he stays dry for long periods and wakes up from nap and sometimes bed dry. He hides when he does his business and is rather uncomfortable when he has a poopy diaper. However, if you ask him if he’s poo-poo he replies, “nope.” However, my child is 2 and this is the standard answer for everything. “Oleg, you want juice?” “Nope.” Get up to get said juice. “JUICE!” Child squeals with glee. See what I mean.

The trusty husband is convinced that the Russians broke our child. This is no disservice to the Russians, the caregivers at the orphanage or the system at all. I have always been and always will be a huge supporter of the people who took care of my son for the first two months of his life. But you imagine trying to potty train 15 kids at the same time. Rather than the classic wait until they are ready, Russian orphanages potty train children all at the same time. They herd children into the washroom and sit them down until they do their business.

When we talked with the doctor at the orphanage she told us the boy’s reaction to sitting on the pot was quiet. Pot. At the time I thought is was a misinterpretation. It wasn’t until I got the photos back from the disposable camera we left that I realized that pot was not a misinterpretation, but the actual device used to potty train my child. It explains so much.


While the boy shows readiness to use the potty, he also shows some more disturbing behaviors that, I am sure, are directly related to how he was “potty trained.” The boy hates to be left alone while sitting on the potty. He refuses to go in the potty. In 8 months we have gotten him to pee 3 times on the potty. Then there is the fear of the public toilet. I am not talking about, “uppa Mama” fear. This is uncontrollable screaming and shaking fear even at the mere mention of going into a public toilet. Monday morning I went shopping with Kathou and Chickadee and we both needed to change diapers. Kathou went first, but as soon as the boy got close to the washroom door (he didn’t even see a toilet) he went ballistic. I changed him in the back of Kathou’s car.

I understand his dislike for the potty. I really do. I would be traumatized by his potty experience also. For that reason I am cutting him huge amounts of slack. HUGE! I’ve tried putting the potty seat away and giving it a go another day, but he loots my closet and finds the seat, pulls it out and plays with it. He asks repeatedly to watch the Elmo Potty Time movie. He pretends the arm of his chair is a potty. He puts the Little People on the “potty” in his car garage. He knows that he needs to flush, wash and dry his hands. The kid has every aspect of this potty thing down except the going. It. is. driving. me. insane. I will continue to give him time. What else can I do? Hell, I even bring up that when he can go on the big boy potty he gets to go to school. He gets excited, we have about 18 hours of potty ok-ness, where he sits on the potty without trying to rip my head off, doesn’t go and then wets himself as soon as he crosses the threshold of the bathroom. Then at the mere mention of going potty he will flip out. It is a vicious cycle.

15 Comment

  1. Wow. You make it sound like so much fun – I can’t wait to try it.
    Bless your heart…hope the potty doesn’t break you.

  2. Maggie says: Reply

    He’ll get it eventually. I still think it’s good that he’s showing interest even if he’s still afraid to doo the deed.

  3. mom says: Reply

    That little guys life has been a huge roller coaster ride in the past 2 yrs so keep cutting him slack. Boys, sorry Derek… are always a little slower to catch on to potty training, so quit fretting and enjoy the huge strides he’s made so far! Cover your ears on child comparisons and give your son what he needs most. Love and reassurance. He’s had to master a new language while entering into a completely and utterly new environment leaving behind the only home and family he’s ever known. How many of those kids that are now potty trained had as many transitions as our little guy did. Relax!!!!!and realize there is no contest here or prizes to be won. What ever terrifies him will only be overcome with time and patience. Hang in there guy’s cause they grow up much to fast as it is!!

  4. Potty training is one of the hardest jobs of parenting, I swear. One thing that helped me… I told myself if my Boy went to college in diapers I wouldn’t have to worry about him having premarital sex! yes, I’m weird. But it did make me relax a little. 🙂

  5. Rhonda says: Reply

    Elle – I think that your little guy is a few months younger than Clyde, if I remember right. Although its not a lot of time, I think it makes a HUGE difference. Now, looking back, I know that we started Clyde on potty training too soon. He wasn’t developmentally ready yet, and he couldn’t recognize the urge to go. At the time, I thought he just refusing to learn it, but now I know he wasn’t ready. He had a few other developmental milestones around the same time that he trained.

    This article helped me:

    Also, I read somewhere that boys ideally become ready to potty train around their third birthday, which is later than girls. I don’t think you are behind in any way.

  6. Rhonda says: Reply

    OK, I can’t delete my comment, but I just re-read your post and see that you already know all of the signs as to whether or not he’s developmentally ready. I will simply say, yes, potty training sucks.

  7. Carla says: Reply

    Potty training does suck. Both of my boys showed ALL the signs (except the youngest never did show the sign of staying dry all night). I started training JM at 21 months, he got it 10 months later. 10 LONG months later. 2 years 7 months was how old he was (and yes I know to the hour how old he was). At least 5 months of which I wanted to haul off and physically harm someone who mentioned that their darling child trained in 2 weeks when they turned 2 years old.

    Samuel, showed all signs (except that being dry at night thing) around 20 months. I started, but calmly sat back and thought “this ain’t gonna work.” Yep, self-fulling prophesy? He did not train until he was 3 years and 4 months. Oh we had moments where it clicked. We had days where he would use the potty and stay dry all day. But he was NEVER trained until 3 years and 4 months. We will not even discuss the, um strain, that put on me when others would mention their darling 18 month old was trained. 20 months of potty training a child who was showing all signs of being ready…he just plain did not want to do it.

    I could not force them to learn. It was a truly humbling experience for me because I had to give that control up to them. They had to WANT to use the potty. That desire did not happen in either of the boys until they could stand to pee. Yes, standing was the trick in our household.

    I hope that you find that magic something that gets you past this oh so frustrating stage. It will happen eventually, but that does not help one bit at this point. Potty training is the one thing I dread with the addition of another child. More so than getting up multiple times at night. More so than dealing with puke, nah…I might dislike puke more.

  8. Lea says: Reply

    I would let him play with the potty chair (sit on it while watching a video with his clothes on for instance) and watch the video a million times and everything else potty related as much as he wants. After what he went through at the orphanage, this may be how he slowly allows himself to become comfortable with it. I read about one child who had a similar experience at the orphanage and was terrified of the potty for a long time. Her parents didn’t push her, although they did try to interest her in everything about the potty. When she was four, they asked her when she was going to start using the potty and she said she would when she turned five. When we turned five, she started using the potty and never had an accident or any other problems with it.

  9. It’s more normal than you think. If you hit 4 and he’s not potty trained, you can start to fret. But it likely won’t happen. It does take longer with boys … and it takes longer in todays disposable diaper world, because it’s not as uncomfortable. If you really, really think he’s ready, I think Target still sells the padded underwear, and padded underwear with plastic on the outside for when you’re out and about and don’t want to worry about soiling the carseat. That’s what worked with us and Eddie. But I’m pretty sure he was over 3 by the time it happened. And they all still claim to want “company” in the bathroom … to which we protest and protest that they CAN do it by themselves, that they are only 15 feet away even if there’s a wall. But sometimes the boy will still stand there ready to pee his pants until we give in. Though that’s happening less and less … finally. Just remember that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel … but that you’re still VERY early in the potty training game. 🙂

  10. This is what I learned after potty training 3 boys.

    Potty traing a boy too early (before 3)makes your life HARDER. I say ignore all of his ready for potty signs until he is 3 or even 3 and a half. This is why- Lets just pretend that he starts to go in the potty just like you want. Do you think at 2 he will be able to wipe himself thoroughly and correctly???? NO! He will get poop all over his bum and the toilet seat and his underwear/pants. You will not stop wiping his bum- it will be SO MUCH WORSE! And if he is so scared of public bathrooms- how will he ever go when you are out somewhere? He won’t and you will start the vicious cycle all over. Not to mention that kids always need to go at inconvenient times. I suggest that you stop the potty training- if he wants to sit on the potty- say NO. Pretend with him with his toys- let him watch the videos- but end there. By the time he is a little older he will see the potty as such a privilige he will potty train really fast. Just my thoughts on the matter.

  11. Wendy says: Reply

    My first daughter turned 2 years old and told me she wanted panties that very week. She had one or two accidents and was done. My second daughter knew what the potty was all about but would refuse to use it some days. Finally, after 6 months of this, I told her that little girls that potty in their pants cannot swim in the big pool because they will pee pee in it. She thought about that for a few days, then never had an accident during the day again. (Night took much longer) My third child, my son, was not nearly as ready at the same age. He finally started ‘getting it’ close to 3 years old. We would try a little, he would be unsuccessful, so we would stop and wait a month or so and try again. One weekend, it just clicked. His body and his mind all worked together and he got it.
    As for the public restroom terror, don’t push it. Once he is potty trained, if he still has that fear, invest in one of those little potties with the disposeable liners (or teach him to pee on a bush!) That way you won’t get caught somewhere when he has to go and you would have to force him into the restroom.

    Good luck!

  12. I was getting really stressed out about getting my youngest potty trained before he turned 3. All of the signs of readiness were there, except he wouldn’t go in the potty. He’d sit there forever and not a drop of potty. During my second trip to Russia, my Mom had him potty trained in 2 days (one month before he turned 3). He’s been fine ever since. She didn’t do anything different than I did (she might disagree with that statement) he just was ready, and finally decided to do it then.

    My advice: stop stressing, and if he isn’t potty trained by 3, maybe you could send him to your Mom’s house for a week. Worked for me. 🙂

  13. Actually age 5 or 6 for boys is when you should be concerned but even for your son after his early trauma (institutionalization like in all IAs) there will be delays in some areas.

    Let him play with the potty and watch the video. Somewhere emotionally he is not ready. For every 4 months in less than optimal care (foster home or orphanage or baby house) the child is 1 month behind so find his emotional age even if he is ahead in other areas this may be where he is emotionally younger. He will catch up in this area too.

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. Bodily functions of other people are difficult to control. Keep the boy in pull ups. He will figure it out.

    Why wouldn’t anyone have a fear of public bathrooms? It is a very scary place especially with the self flushing toilets.


  14. Lori says: Reply

    Hi, off topic but I hope you see this.

    In your old blog I think I recall a link to a really site that talked about a not so great adoption agency.

    A friend has asked if I know anything about the adoption agency she is using and because the name sounds familiar I really need to know if it is the same one.

    Can you email me? LDBM2003@yahoo.com

  15. Lauri says: Reply

    Im sure your have tried this… but Its worth mentioning.. have you tried just keeping the potty chair in the living room/family room.. on a mat or towel and allowing him to wander/play in his big boy undies and use it when he wants too…that’s what we do.. and Livi goes in her potty with a few slip ups here and there.

    My sister thinks its totally gross that I allow her to use her potty in the living room or kitchen… but hey it works for us.

    Livi wont poo in her potty and screams for a diaper to do her business in… yikes

    The public restroom fear is just puzzling and I can understand your frustration… I would do a social story book for him with pictures to help him with the anxiety.

    Good luck

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