When my daughter turned two I figured potty training would be a snap. I bought her an adorable Elmo potty that yelled, “Hooray!” whenever flushed, and she was fascinated. My daughter already showed many signs of being ready. She told me she needed a change, she said when she was going to go poopie, and she was interested in mommy going to the potty. After two successful ventures on the potty seat, I felt smugly confident that my daughter would be trained in no time. Though she was a bit cranky when she went, my husband and I rewarded her with cheers, clapping, and candy. With all this praise, and the introduction of treats there was no way she wasn’t on the fast track to leaving those diapers in the dust.

Fast forward to seven months later, and my daughter was still not potty trained. She started to become resistant when it came to sitting on the potty afterward. My doctor told me to wait for warmer weather because it would be easier to train my daughter if she was running around the house naked. I saw no trouble in this as my child absolutely loves not wearing clothes. It took about one day for my kid to realize that the reason mommy let her go bare butt around the house was for the sole purpose of using her potty. After that I received nothing but the repeated words of, “I want diapee!” until she was covered up and out of potty training danger.

Frustrated I sought out advice from friends who had slightly older children. While a few told me to make the experience fun with books and candy, I was well past this stage. My daughter made it clear the potty was her enemy, and no amount of chocolate, stickers, or colored charts was going to make her see it as “fun.” Many mommy friends told me that the easiest thing to do was go all out military mommy, and just make her sit on the potty until she finally went. Though it seemed upsetting to me, I figured it was a sure way to get her to at least go without her diaper, even if pee ended up on the floor.

Armed with my cleaning rags, and my carpet rolled up I set out on my adventure. I watched as my daughter went from asking for a diaper, to a full meltdown, screaming because she needed to go, yet refusing to have an accident. I diligently fed her watermelon, juice, and water to ensure her bladder would be full, but she held on like a champion. After five hours of holding out I couldn’t bear to watch what seemed like torture to my poor baby girl. I finally gave her a comforting hug, wiped her tear streaked face, and put a diaper on her, which she proceeded to fill with everything she’d stored for half the day. I couldn’t believe it. One friend jokingly said, “Stop worrying. It’s not like she’s going to be heading to middle school in diapers,” but I can’t say the thought didn’t cross my mind that this could be a possibility.

After a Facebook rant about my potty training woes, a few kind individuals stepped forward to tell me their truth. Here is what I’ve come to understand. Learning experiences vary from person to person. It is pointless to stress over quickly potty training my daughter because it isn’t a race, and she will learn, eventually. Despite how a child may excel at one thing or another, it is not indicative of how they will handle all situations. For the first time, instead of people telling me to just lock myself in a bathroom and be the boss, I was told that in some cases it’s best to simply back off. Some kids just want to do it when it feels right, and you can’t force the issue. All of the women who’d dealt with similar situations backed off, and their child eventually decided when they wanted to learn to use the toilet; to be clear, these children were all trained well before kindergarten! It was a relief knowing I wasn’t alone in this power struggle and that maybe I wasn’t such a failure after all. I let go of my expectations, and stopped pushing. It wasn’t getting either of us anywhere anyway.

Here we are, a month away from my daughter’s third birthday. Her vocabulary is advanced for her age, she picks out her own clothes, she enjoys her preschool prep and ballet classes, and no, she still isn’t potty trained. However, she now tells me when she has to go, and wants to sit on the toilet with her diaper on. She no longer sees the toilet as her enemy. She’s asking to visit the restrooms at the mall, the trampoline park, and at Target. Sure, it’s annoying, but her interest makes the short detours well worth it. I know that some people may look at my potty training as a lazy fail, but making this process a traumatic experience is simply not the way to go about things. It’s more important to try to avoid comparing a child’s progress because some kids simply aren’t ready, or are too headstrong to be forced.

The potty training experience is yet another reminder that everyone’s situation is different. Sometimes learning needs to be more a more organic endeavor. A child declining to learn something quickly isn’t necessarily a reflection of poor parenting skills. Kids all have a unique mind of their own, and learn at their own pace. My daughter has a lot of amazing qualities, and I’m not going to skate over them because she hasn’t won the potty training race. For now, I will take her cue’s and only attempt potty introduction when she’s interested; for a little while longer, I will enjoy the fact that I do not have to go rushing to find the nearest public restroom every half an hour. There is, after all, an upside to all those stinky diapers.

Marisa Svalstedt

Marisa Svalstedt is a stay-at-home mom living in her hometown of Bethel, Connecticut, with her husband, and their daughter. She received her MA in English from Western Connecticut State. In addition to writing Marisa enjoys photography, modeling, and crochet.