I was just looking back at the little journal I keep about Aodhan’s day-to-day experiences and realized that it has been almost a year since he went from our well-loved cloth diapers and into a new stage of using the toilet 100% of the time. When I think back to that month, when I realized that he was done with the idea of diapers, there was no real magic trick. Sure, we let him make the toilet his own by decorating it with stickers and washable markers and he did receive a gift at the end of it all. But really, it was patience and letting him keep his dignity about the whole process that made it so easy and manageable.
Newborn Aodhan and I hadn’t even heard of Elimination Communication, and although we did quickly key into his signals for needing to pee or poop, we never put a name to it and were happy to have him wearing organic cotton and organic bamboo diapers. In the first four months, we used TotBots’ size ones, and then transitioned into my all time favourite diaper: Motherease.
When Aodhan started walking at 14 months, I started making a potty-chair available to him and talked with him about what it was and gave him some baby-sign signals that allowed him to harness additional ways to communicate that he needed the toilet.
He was both interested and not interested – depending on the month, depending on other things happening, depending on his mood. And to be honest, I couldn’t have cared less. I wanted his learning and mastering of the toilet to be on his own time and without pressure from me or anyone else. In the grand scheme of his life and happiness, what is a few puddles on the floor?
We let him guide the way, and by the time he was 2, he was averaging about a 50 percent usage rate with the toilet. Usually, before a bath and first thing in the morning, he would tell us that he needed the can and he would use it quickly and hop off. I was pleased to see that when he did use his diaper he never seemed to feel shame or embarrassed about it. I suppose in his head he saw both places (toilet and diaper) as options when he needed to pee or poop.
Just after his second birthday, acknowledging his interest, I bought a toilet learning book for Aodhan. Potty is a hilarious book that he wanted to read over and over again, relishing his chance to scream out UNDIES! at the end. I think it really helped Aodhan realize that other kids transition from diapers to toilet and that there was a sense of development about the skill he was learning.
And then, one day in November, while I was downstairs answering the door and he was upstairs playing – his trusty potty by his side – he just used it. He didn’t, as usual, ask to be ‘put on the potty’. He just used it. And that was it. With the exception of a handful of ‘experiments (I hate the word ‘accident’), he never looked back.
My own desire not to have a pee shower during my sleeping hours and our family decision to not give up co-sleeping, meant that I kept him in cloth at night for another month. But, by the time he was 2.5, he was 100% diaper-free. It was remarkably easy and relaxed. I was proud of him and he was proud of himself – he was wearing UNDIES!!!
Before Aodhan was born I had heard from colleagues that children should be toilet-trained by 2. That they will never learn to use a toilet if you don’t stick them on it and not let them off until they use it. I just can’t imagine ‘training’ a child to use a toilet. They need to come to this knowledge on their own, figuring out how their body works best where their pee and poop is concerned. We use the term toilet-learning because I think language is more than just words. Words carry so much meaning, packed inside their letters. ‘To train’ carries images that I don’t associate with having a child, but: learning, understanding, figuring it out? Those ideas make sense to me – whether talking about a toilet, learning to sleep or social behaviour.
A year of not doing diaper laundry has been awesome, but having a kid who is comfortable and confident in his bodily functions? That takes the cake.
We used the resources that made sense to us: books, stories and experience, but in the end, it was just patience and keeping our cool no matter how much pee was on the floor.