As a feces-phobic disdainer of diaper changes, I decided even before I was married that any children of mine would be potty-trained as early as humanly possible. This did not bode well for my eventual move into motherhood.
So when my firstborn entered the world—a strong little bugger who could hold her head up at a week old—I began putting her on the toilet and singing the theme song from Disney’s Frozen. You know the one: “Let it go, let it go! Don’t hold it back anymore…”
Then I discovered that early potty-training was actually a thing—a method, to be exact—called elimination communication (or E.C., for short): gently responding to a child’s natural signals to eliminate. A quick Google search resulted in an abundance of information and articles on how one is actually supposed to go about the whole process; but in the end, we (my daughter and I) just sort of made it our own.
It was easy to learn her signals. As a brand new mama, I was enthralled with every movement, every sound, and determined to discover the meanings behind each one. Once I became tuned in to her body language and peeing/pooping tendencies and she to my hand signs and verbal cues, we fell into a natural rhythm. We didn’t always get the timing right; but it was so gratifying when we did. Elated is how I would describe myself when I situated my daughter on the potty seat just in time for a blowout, when she pooped on the potty a record of nine times in one day, or when on a camping trip as a one-year-old she learned how to pee in the woods! The bonding time, diaper savings, environmental friendliness, and happy baby sans diaper rash were simply icing on the cake.
We still used diapers to catch those “whoopsies,” so traveling in the car wasn’t a huge deal. When it did work out to use a restroom on the run, I used this great foldable toilet topper which I kept in a little case that I sewed and attached to the diaper bag so we’d be prepared.
One area in which we did struggle as my daughter grew older was timing, especially for going pee. She would use sign language to let me know she had to go, but if I wasn’t paying attention or didn’t grab her and run fast enough to the bathroom, she’d have an accident. Her communication skills eventually improved, though; and with some pretty underwear and stickers as extra incentive, she went completely diaper-free shortly after her second birthday. Which was a good thing, because I had just given birth to kid numero two.
It has been a bit more challenging this time around with a busy toddler pulling me in all directions and a whole new set of signals to read (the intensity of toots is the new main indicator for number two); but my son is now learning the ropes of toileting, too, and his big sister is his greatest encourager.
Despite the strange looks and awkward questions I often get when excusing myself to take my 8-month-old son to the restroom, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I love that I’ve become a more observant mom.
That my kids and I enjoy potty talk together (nothing uncouth, just silly stories and songs while seated on the commode).
That my baby claps for himself after he pees on the toilet.
That my daughter grabs a book, marches up the special steps her daddy built, and does her business like she owns the throne.
On a practical level, the E.C. method is super economical. Conserving even two diapers per day by utilizing the potty instead yields an average cost savings of about $13.00 per month (for the brand my family buys). But it’s the other kinds of savings that really matter to me: the stink, the stubbornness that tends to come when toddler meets toilet-training, and the war stories that are written when attempts to instruct said toddler in the art of relieving oneself go awry.
Every child, every parent, every learning style is unique; to each his own. In this particular leg of my own parenting journey, I made some self-serving choices for which I am now surprisingly grateful. At the end of the day, I’m glad that routine practices are becoming practiced habits and that my little ones know they can answer nature’s call the way that Mom, Dad, or Sissy does—a way that won’t have to be unlearned later on, because it’s only natural.
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