Oh Crap! A mom’s experience with potty training

Potty training is exhausting. I think that the rip-the-bandaid-off style of the Oh Crap! Potty Training method might be the most exhausting. But for us, at least, it worked well and fast. In under 3 weeks from start to finish, my 24 month old was day-time potty trained. Here’s my review of the method, and my honest recollection of how it went for us. Link to buy the book at the end.

We embarked on potty training using this method a couple of days after my daughter turned 2. After the birthday party, we had a full 7 days at home with no daycare. So we ripped the bandaid. We got rid of diapers. Priority numero uno of this method is having a solid game plan. You have to be totally ready – mentally, emotionally, physically, to embark on what will be some of the most tiring and frustrating days of your parenting career (and you have to remain calm and collected during those stressful days, or it’ll backfire!) The book recommends taking 2 weeks from having read the book and deciding to go for it, to actually starting the process. There really is a lot of mental preparedness that goes into this, as a parent. Here’s what you’re preparing for:

The Oh Crap! method breaks down a condensed and rather intense process into blocks of learning. Blocks do not represent days, but I’ll share how many days we spent in each block.

Block 1

Block 1 requires your child to be naked all day, no leaving the house, all eyes on their little butt so you don’t miss a single pee or poop as it happens. That’s not even the exhausting stage. My kid did great in Block 1, and I thought we were going to get through the whole process unscathed.

The idea is to move them through the stages of bodily awareness, from:

  1. “clueless”
  2. “I peed”
  3. “I’m peeing”
  4. “I have to pee”

In that first morning, she had 7 pees on the floor (thanks to the juice box we gave her to give us more opportunity to practice). I caught all of them mid stream and relocated her to the potty, explaining that pee doesn’t go on the floor, it goes in the potty. She started out clueless to the sensation of peeing, but after all that practice of me naming it when she felt it run down her leg, she quickly progressed to “I’m peeing,” and even started to get a two second “I have to pee” warning. By 10am she had it figured out and peed in the potty every single time for the next day and a half. Poops were the same deal – she just GOT IT.

But then block 2 happened, and we had to really work for it. Turns out that cleaning up tons of pee and poop off the floor isnt the exhausting part – it’s battling your own internal voice that’s telling you you’re failing, not making progress, doing it wrong, or that your child isn’t ready afterall.

Block 2

This block introduces clothing, without underwear. The idea behind going commando is that underwear gives them the sensation of wearing a diaper in that it clings to their bums and makes them feel concealed, like no one will see if they pee or poop. That sensation triggers muscle memory to pee or poop anywhere/anytime, as they’ve done for every day of their existence thus far (that’s the logic behind the complete ditching-of-the-diapers approach with this method, as well).

Block 2 usually involves some resistance as your kid realizes you’re serious about this new arrangement and digs in their heels. We got the resistance. We saw the pee dance and had her sit on the potty, and then she’d get up, say “all done pee”, and then pee in her pants 30 seconds later. Or she’d full out refuse to sit on the potty with a terrible-two’s style tantrum. We felt like we were failing. We started to lose hope. We were frustrated. I caught myself getting short with my child for having an accident. These were dark days.

During Block 2, she started acting out a lot. She was under a lot of pressure. Even though we tried to be supportive and helpful to her in the process, she was being asked to suddenly stop doing something she had innately done every single day of her life prior, and start doing something that required a lot of body awareness and self-control. While necessary to learn, it’s a huge responsibility for little kids. The pressure was getting to her. She started waking through the night again, crying out into the darkness, “peed in bed! Pee goes in potty!” Heartbreaking.

This brings me to the fact that we didn’t even try night training. We chose to take it one step at a time – daytime potty training, while allowing a diaper to sleep in (totally permissible in the Oh Crap! book, by the way). So the fact that she was waking up freaking out about peeing the bed showed how deeply the potty training pressure was infiltrating her thoughts.

I’m lucky that we had a couple of friends who had used this method, and when we felt like ripping our hair out and drowning ourselves in vodka, we could check in with our friends and hear that they, too, went through the gamut of emotions: like sadness, disappointment, anger, guilt….

But just as the book and our friends promised, if you stay true to the cause and keep the stress and tension as low as humanly possible, and keep your eyes on your child every waking minute for any subtle sign of a pee/poop dance, you will succeed. The training will “click” for your child. For us this happened on about day 10.

Block 3

Block 3 doesn’t necessarily coincide with having the training “click” for your child. Block 3 is about testing their new skills outside of the home environment, and for many people (us included), this happens at daycare. My daughter started back at daycare on day 7, when she was still missing the potty (and I was missing her pee dance) about 30% of the time. Daycare was no different. Luckily, our daycare provider was willing to work with our game plan (and was willing to clean up pee off the floor all morning until it “clicked”). There’s a whole chapter in the book dedicated to working with daycares, though, as not everyone is as lucky as we are when it comes to flexible providers.

Block 4 and Beyond

This block of learning contains the details that you encounter in everyday life after potty training, like using public restrooms and introducing underwear (yeah, your kid is still commando after about a month).

By this block of learning, you’re starting to feel better about yourself and this whole process. Our real test of block 4 came with a trip to Avery’s cousin’s house. It was a 3 hour round trip in the car, a new environment, a trip to the park, and a restaurant trip, and she had zero accidents and even peed in the restaurant restroom. Accidents are much less common (we only had one this week, 3 weeks after starting), and only happen when she’s far too engaged in play to stop for a potty break and think she can hold it for longer than she can). But we feel justified in saying that our daughter is potty trained now because we no longer have to really think about “potty training”. We now have to think about things like if she pees before we need to leave the house, where the public restrooms are at every place we visit… But we no longer have to think about her peeing her pants while we’re out for a walk. We can take her to daycare, to the library, on car trips, and we know that she knows – reliably – that pee and poop go in the potty, not in her pants/carseat/the floor.

Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right (Oh Crap Parenting)

Potty training with the Oh Crap! method, like with slower, child-led methods, is a long process. It’s going to be another couple of months probably before we get rid of the little potty and just have her always go on the big toilet. It’s also going to be a few months before we night train (even though she always wakes up with a dry diaper, she seems relieved to know that she won’t have to worry about going potty when she’s sleeping, and we’re going to give her that break). We’re going to bring the potty with us in the car for long car trips, pack a spare pair of pants, and continue to remind her to go pee before leaving the house, probably for the next year. But right now we have a kid who knows how to get her pee and poop in the potty, rarely has accidents, can hold it for long enough to get to the potty within a reasonable distance, and feels confident in pulling her own pants down and using the potty even when we’re not in the room with her. And it took a little over 2 weeks.

If you think you can handle the intensity of this potty training method without showing your frustration and stress to your child, I absolutely recommend the Oh Crap! method. It’s fast, it’s dirty, and it works.

*side note: If you’re thinking of trying this method based only on what I’ve written in this blog post, know that the book contains all of the step-by-step instructions for the Blocks of Learning in just one chapter. That’s the simple stuff. The rest of the book is chock full of supportive, myth busting info, and SO MUCH TROUBLESHOOTING. It’s worth the $7.


Coming out is constant

This is not news to anyone who defines themselves with an invisible identity – be it sexual orientation, disability, or a life experience like loss or trauma. You’re going to encounter people on almost a daily basis who make an assumption about you that you feel the need to correct. Or maybe you just want to feel authentic and share who you are and what’s important to you, totally unprovoked. Both of those scenarios are familiar to me.

Today I had my hair cut at a new place. I was priced out of my old salon – just couldn’t afford it anymore as my stylist became a master stylist, and inflation increased salon fees. A new hair stylist is stereotypically someone you’re going to open up to. You’re stuck with them for an hour, and awkward silence is sometimes worse than awkward small talk. So I made small talk with my new potential stylist.

I wanted to share that I had a toddler. Pretty soon that led to a discussion of her genetics – the stylist wanted to know where my daughter got her curls from. I explained that my daughter had two moms, and our sperm donor has his own kids who have super curly hair. I figure her hair comes from his genetics. I say this with confidence, because I’m asked all the time.

The stylist replied, after a moment of pondering, “so your boyfriend or husband… Wait, can you explain that?”

“I have a wife. My kid has two moms. We used a sperm donor to have our kid.”

“Ooh, I see. I was like, ‘how does she have two moms?’ You just assume that a woman is with a man, you know?”

And there it is. I’m totally OK with people making the assumption that I have a male partner. I get it. We’re socialized to make that assumption. What I don’t like is when it’s used as an excuse, rather than as an awareness building exercise… When someone uses the “I just assumed…” line on me as an excuse (it happens a lot), it comes out as almost an accusation on me for being confusing. For having a confusing family arrangement. I’d love it if one day someone said “oh I’m sorry, I assumed…” and then continue with a recognition that they didn’t have to make that assumption, and don’t have to in the future. That it’s ok to use the term “partner” until someone discloses the gender of their partner.

Anyway, I shrugged it off. But then she continued to dig herself into a hole. She asked if I was married (after I referred to my wife multiple times). She said “it must be nice to be able to get married now, right? You can do a lot of things now, actually.”

Ummm, yup, I guess I’m pretty lucky to have almost equal rights here in Canada. Not sure how to respond. And without a response from me, she continued…

“I mean, I can see why people didn’t want you to get married, too, but I guess it doesn’t really matter.”

Oh god. This woman needs so much guidance and information.

To put icing on the cake of subtle prejudice and ignorance, she ended with this comment, as she was holding up the mirror to show me the finished hair cut: “your wife must be really happy that she found you!”

I stared blankly, trying to figure out what reason she had in mind, as someone who has known me for 30 minutes and has never met my wife.

She responded to my blank stare with, “because you’re really pretty! It must be really hard to find someone who looks like you, you know, in the gay scene.”

And there it was. She slapped me with possibly the most offensive lesbian stereotype in existence – the stereotype that all lesbians are butch and/or unattractive by Western beauty ideals. That butch = unattractive. That femmes don’t exist, or are some rare exotic gem that all the butch lesbians must be clamouring over.

Anyway, despite this yucky social experience, I liked the hair cut. And you know what? I think I’ll go back to her, because I’m paying for the haircut, not the conversation, and I think she needs to spend more time talking with me.

a little potty training spoiler

We’re potty training. I’m slowly drafting a big post about our experience using the Oh Crap! method, but we’re only on day 7 and I’m currently feeling the stress. Avery’s feeling the stress. It a highly intensive and stressful process, for both kids and adults. Poor Avery has been expressing her stress through restless sleep and frequent tantrums. She has been waking through the night crying “peed the bed! Pee goes in potty!”, despite the fact that she still wears a nighttime diaper specifically so she can sleep well without worrying about going potty. My wife and I haven’t talked about much besides potty training over the last 7 days. We’re constantly trying to discern if we’re going in the right direction, if this is working, if we’re supporting our little potty learner enough…

Don’t get me wrong, we are seeing progress. We are not giving up. I’m hopeful that in a couple of weeks I can publish my review of the Oh Crap! book and have a positive message about how well it worked!

Wish us luck! And send vodka.

My kid is 2

It was a long time ago that I used to do monthly updates on Avery’s development. The last general Avery update post I did was 6 months ago. She’s two years old today, and I can honestly say I’ve loved her a little bit more every day of her two years on this planet. She has developed into an intimidatingly intelligent individual. She is the kindest person I’ve ever come across. She oozes love for her family, her pets, and even herself (she gives herself hugs and she kisses her own ouchies). She’s still cautious, which brings me relief, and she observes all situations before entering them as an active participant. She sees beauty and awe in things like picking wildflowers and tasting fresh raspberries from the garden. I hope to always remember the sound of her voice and the look in her eye when she sees a new berry to pick and exclaims, “woooow!”

She feels deeply (which all 2 year olds do), but instead of always pushing back at us with a “no!” or a tantrum when she doesn’t want to do something we tell her to do, she often looks down, ignores us, thinks about the order she’s faced with, and will more often than not comply. This is consistent with the parenting tidbit I read in Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue, that toddlers take 30 seconds to process what you’ve asked of them. By not rushing that process, she more often than not complies. She’s a GOOD kid. That said, she also knows how to throw a wild tantrum complete with flailing around on the floor like a fish out of water and a demon voice straight out of The Exorcist. But we’re proud of her passion, too.

Time for some mom-boasting:

She can count to 20, and can identify the numbers up to 20 even when they’re out of order.

She knows the whole alphabet, upper and lower case, and spells everything in her sight from street signs to brand logos on clothing. She has been able to spell her own name for months now, and is trying mightily to use crayons to write letters, beyond just spelling verbally.

She sees colour in everything, and identifies even more obscure colours like aqua, silver, and peach. One of her common random quotes – when she’s just talking to herself – is “see rainbow colours everywhere!” It’s from a book, but it’s such a cool thought for her to be having.

She loves puzzles. She takes apart and puts together at least 5 puzzles a day, every day. Some days she does over a dozen puzzles. I think I have purchased every used puzzle that has been listed on Kijiji within a reasonable driving distance. Seriously – we have a friend in town who was complaining recently that every time she tries to buy a used wooden puzzle on kijiji, it’s snapped up before she can contact the seller. That’s my fault, sorry.

She sings all kinds of songs, and we can understand not only the melody, but the lyrics. Her favourites right now are twinkle twinkle little star, itsy bitsy spider, and old MacDonald.

She recalls things from her morning at daycare and tells me about them on the drive home. She tells me what she and her friend ate, and if they played with toys, went to the water (splash pad), or went on swings and slides. The other day she launched into this detailed story about how the water table was dirty and full of brown leaves, and her daycare provider had to clean it out. I LOVE how much detail she can communicate to us now.

She’s got a great arm, and loves throwing a ball back and forth, or throwing the cat’s toy ball for him. She’ll throw in a perfectly straight line all the way across the house. She also has a lot of fun kicking a soccer ball, and amazes us by kicking the ball around the yard at a full-on run, in her bare feet (it’s an actual soccer ball). She was (adorably) clumsy for many months after learning to walk, but now she’s pretty fast on her toes.

She seems to love practice. Whether it’s reciting her letters and numbers, doing the same puzzles over and over again, or making music on one of her kid-sized instruments, she has patience and determination that I definitely lack. She seems so engaged in learning new things right now, and so willing to keep practicing until she feels confident in what she’s learning. This age is really exciting as a parent because she’s so hungry for knowledge and understanding, and I love helping her figure things out and providing opportunities to learn new things.

The picky eater stage is fading, finally, but it might just be because the veggies we eat are garden-fresh. the only veggie she still won’t touch is tomatoes. She wants to keep trying them and picks cherry tomatoes off the plant thinking she’ll like it this time, but she legitimately does not like the taste.

This is a big “Avery do!” age. She wants to do everything herself from getting dressed to buckling her car seat. We let her (but we tighten the carseat straps for her!). She usually needs some help getting her shirts over her head, too – she has a pretty big head…

And finally, from a baby who WOULD NOT SLEEP without considerable drama and frequent wake-ups and high-needs for rocking and nursing and co-sleeping, she now sleeps in her own bed all night with only one wake-up some nights. She wakes for the day at 5am, but she usually just paddles over to our bed and climbs in for a lay-in until 6:30. It’s a dream come true. We didn’t use any formal sleep-training on her, but we did guide her with a lot of gentle practice to get her sleeping in her own room in her own bed. Sleeping longer stretches without wake-ups was purely developmental for her – it happened when it happened. Night-weaning may have played a part in the longer sleep stretches, though.

Ahhh, weaning. I always thought I’d be breastfeeding her until she was at least 2, but we weaned just 2 months shy of that milestone. She definitely still wants to nurse, and so do I. She still gets a lot of comfort from physical-touch and closeness and will come to us in the middle of play for comforting cuddles a dozen times a day. You will NEVER hear me complain about that. Once she gets her fill, she’s off on the next adventure.

For posterity, she’s 36″ tall, and still 30lb (hasn’t gained weight since her 18 month doctor visit – just stretched out). Now here are some pictures of my favourite two-year old in the whole entire universe.

Vacation time!

It’s August, but we’re having an Autumnish week here at the cottage. I’m not really a sun and sand person, and usually spend our summer cottage time tucked away under an umbrella, or submerged completely under the cold water of the Bay. But this weather is my weather. I’m wearing jeans and a sweater. I’m cuddled under a blanket, watching the waves crash in. Yesterday we all went swimming in the rain and the Bay felt so warm in contrast to the cool, rainy air.

Avery loves the sun and surf, though, so I’m a little sad for her that she’s spending so much of her summer holiday inside the cottage. She’s really into colouring and reading to herself these days though, so she has her arsenal of indoor activities to keep her busy. We go for walks and collect stones, and we’re trying to go swimming with her at least once a day, even in the rain. This kid loves the water. The wavier the better. She bobs around in her water wings and practices her dog paddling, shouting, “weee!” as the waves rock her. Swimming lessons this winter will be so different than the last two seasons we had her in the pool, when we had to hold her and lure her onto her tummy with toy boats and noodles.

Avery’s 2nd birthday is this Friday, party on Saturday. I’m so excited to give her gifts. More excited than I remember being as a child when I was waiting to get my own gifts. We’re serving her requested food at her party – pizza and cupcakes. What an actual, full-grown child she’s becoming.

We have 5 more days at the cottage, and I’m soaking up every minute of quiet, alone time with my wife and kid.

Parenting Beyond Pink & Blue

I read this book for last month’s parenting book club. It’s a parenting guide for the gender-typical parent of gender-typical kids, who want to learn to be aware of, and to minimize, the impact of limiting stereotypes on their sons and daughters. Stereotypes that are limiting include boys being unemotional or un-nurturing, and girls being bad at math (among MANY others). My wife and is somewhat gender-atypical (i.e., she doesn’t adhere to many feminine-stereotypes), so a lot of the warnings in this book around boxing girls into a female-stereotype box weren’t issues for us – our kid gets lots of stereotype-myth-busting experiences in our family. However, the book is also just so chock full of information that even we got some useful stuff from it, and I enjoyed reading it.

Parenting Beyond Pink & Blue: How to Raise Your Kids Free of Gender Stereotypes

In a nutshell, this book is about parenting with an awareness of gender stereotypes. The title suggests that it’s about raising kids without gender stereotypes, but the author acknowledges that this scenario isn’t often practical (this is why I say it’s a book for gender-typical parents and children, for whom breaking gender norms is optional). Using a lot of statistics, the author gives you some really solid, well defended, reasons why yours kids are better off without being forced into a set of gender expectations. You won’t feel judged for letting your daughter wear pink or for enrolling your son in sports over music, but you will be reminded (or enlightened) of the very reasonable reasons for also enrolling your daughter in sports and letting your son have a doll.

The statistics are presented in an easy to comprehend way, but there’s also an entire chapter for the more technically inclined reader which describes effect sizes and experimental method. This chapter allows readers with and without a background in research and statistics to understand why the research can be trusted over the myths and misconceptions.

One criticism I have for the book is that the author uses the term gender where sex would be more appropriate. Gender is a social construct that develops as children gain a sense of identity, but Brown refers to gender as something you know about your newborn. I think this label was just used to assuage the masses – many people seem more comfortable using the term gender, rather than sex, for their little ones. There also isn’t much discussion about gender non-conforming or non-binary kids, but these kids do get an honourary mention in several chapters.

I’ll leave you with one big take-home message that I personally got from reading this book. As a society and as parents, we place too much importance on gender as a category. Kids (and adults) are already aware that males and females are different from one another, and there’s no need to highlight that as parents. Although I’m extremely conscious of gender stereotypes and of problems with dividing people into us-vs-them groups, the book reminded me that I point out my daughter’s gender on a regular basis when I say things like “you’re such a strong girl!” Yeah, I’m saying something feminist, challenging gender stereotypes that girls aren’t strong, but I’m highlighting her gender. Since reading, I’ve been calling her a kid rather than a girl. She will know her gender without me repeating it to her in every other address. When I read her books that include pictures of children, I’ve also stopped describing them as girls or boys, and instead say, “see the kid there playing with the ball?” It’s perhaps a subtle gesture, but by removing some of the importance on sex differences, we can open doors to our children to create, or at least see, a world less focused on the differences between men and women. We’ll make the world a better place by raising young people who interact like one group rather than divide themselves into unnecessary categories that compete and clash and foster such evils as toxic masculinity and violence toward women and non-binary folks.

The parent preference

Bedtimes are pretty lovely now when it’s my night to put Avery to bed. She’s agreeable, and she loves to flop on her bed and read the agreed-upon number of books together, and then cuddle in close to fall asleep. I listen to her singing songs quietly to herself, and I get lots of kisses and hugs.

But when my wife puts her to bed, it’s still cause for an emotional breakdown. My wife does bedtime for 2 nights on, 2 nights off. We take turns, and keep that pattern consistent. But on the nights my wife is on, Avery screams and cries that she doesn’t want her Mo – she wants to sleep with mommy. She won’t let her Mo hold her books and instead piles them up at her bedroom door saying they’re for mommy. She pleads with her Mo that mommy is right on the other side of the door (“mommy right there!”) and that she wants mommy instead. Eventually, after about 10 minutes of crying and pleading, she gives in and lets her Mo read her books and then cuddles up with her to fall asleep. But if she so much as hears a floorboard creak outside her door, she gets upset again, asking for mommy. I take off as soon as I’ve said goodnight and get as far away from her room as possible because I hate hearing her cry for me when I can’t go to her.

It’s so hard on my wife. I don’t know what to do to change the situation, if there’s even anything we can do. I hope she comes around to her Mo soon.

On a related note, she still asks for milk at every bedtime, even though we weaned almost 2 months ago. She asks, and then remembers, “milk all gone.” She then settles for her water, but will “forget” and ask again a couple of times during each bedtime. It’s wild how hard-wired nursing was in her brain, and how hard it was for her to give it up.