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Hang the Potty

There are certain milestones a parent savors. First words. First steps. First day of school. But others, honestly, are more hassle than hooray. Potty training is one of those.

This is not a popular thing to say out loud. Magazines, preschool teachers and child-development experts tell us, in strange and stilted language, that supporting our children’s natural inclination toward independent toileting is one of the greatest gifts we can give them blah blah blah. They insist our toddlers’ ability to conquer the commode is tied to self-esteem, cognitive development and probably (I stopped reading after that) their future earning potential and ability to please a woman.

At least that’s what Freud would say.

But you can flush all that right down the bowl, as far as I’m concerned. I’m washing my hands of potty training. My two-year-old is already an accomplished human being. He can pour his own drink and fix himself a snack. He can fetch a hammer for his dad. He can even put on his own socks, which is no easy task when you consider the number of wayward toes one must wrangle into that tiny elasticized hole.

But he has no desire whatsoever to, er, take command of the throne. The kid’s rapturously happy in Huggies and I’ve decided to let him stay that way. Forever.

Since experts warn that potty-pushing can lead to emotional and health problems, and since Pull-Ups and Depend undergarments can carry my son well into maturity, why not skip the loo entirely?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t love diapering and would gladly give up the effort, expense and environmental guilt the chore demands: the mess-cleaning, ointment spreading and hand-washing, the frequent trips out to the trash, the alarming sound of my own voice bellowing “GET your hands out of there!”

But at least that’s a chaos I’m used to. It’s a familiar mayhem. Whereas a tot in underpants presents all sorts of fresh and frightening but equally icky problems.

I’ve been through potty-training before, with my older child. I trained hard for the race to get my firstborn out of diapers, printing reward charts, shelling out for musical potty seats and Wiggles step stools, speaking of underwear in reverent tones, as though it were the pinnacle of human innovation. I had a video on endless loop in the living room that warbled a demonic song called “Super Duper Pooper.”

And all for what?

So I could slam on my brakes on the freeway, pull off into the emergency lane and release the boy from his car seat with one hand while frantically fitting a gallon-sized Ziplock bag onto a portable potty seat with the other each time my briefs-sporting spawn felt the urge to wail “I need to go potty!”

Potty training may “free” a family from diapers, but it also shackles them to public restrooms, where sophisticated, self-aware, independent toileters take horrific glee in running their hands along the walls, dropping their toys into the john and sliding back and forth under stall doors to say “hi” to all the nice ladies.

It’s an experience I’m not eager to repeat. And so, though I realize it will be awkward for him at sleep-over camp and, well, on the high-school swim team, my youngest child is welcome to wrap his rump in Pampers for as long as he likes.

And if the experts chide me for depriving him of a crucial, character-building life skill, I’ll tell them to blame it on my desperate, irrepressible, long-developing urge for order. Maybe I’m anal retentive.

At least that’s what Freud would say.

Published inColumnsParenting

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