I have always had a deep respect for all men and women who serve in any capacity in our country's armed forces including, of course, the families who sacrifice their loved ones to protect our freedom. Lately, I have been very intrigued with the training involved in the more elite military groups i.e. the Marines, Navy Seals etc. I'm fascinated by what some people are willing to put themselves through and also with the mental and physical and emotional limits that a body can withstand without dying. It is simultaneously gruesome, horrifying, and staggeringly impressive. I think, though, that there is a life experience that needs be part of their training. An experience that will push them past their capabilities and more fully enhance their ability to cope in inhumanely traumatic situations. That experience is this: potty training a toddler.
There is nothing on Earth, no other experience that has the ability to drop you to your knees and beg for sweet mercy like potty training a toddler. These little monsters will break you mentally, physically, and emotionally. I don't care what you think you can handle, who you think you are, or what you've accomplished thus far, as soon as you get rid of the diapers and dole out the underwear, that sadistic little being has you by the jugular.
Every child is different of course, but the majority of them follow a pattern similar to this one:
Immediately, they will mess with your head. You will be going along, blissfully following your regular schedule of parenting. Your toddler has exerted some independence by now, and thus far it has been reasonably well received. You want to eat your own food? Fine, less work for me. You want to climb into your car seat by yourself? Go to it kiddo, my joints could use a break. You want to put your own shoes on? God gave us velcro. You want to pick out your own clothes even though they are seasonally inappropriate and don't match on any level and thereby make me look like an incompetent moron of a parent? Bring it. I couldn't care less how crazy you look in public. And then it comes-- suddenly your toddler is showing interest in the toilet. Rookie parents will at this moment make the mistake of getting excited. They start to visualize a day when they won't ever have to change another diaper, but experienced parents know that diapers represent control, and control is worth a little butt wipe now and then. Experienced parents generally panic at this point and will hold off as long as they can. Eventually, though, you will have to give in. Preschool is coming faster and faster, and they won't take Jr. unless he is fully potty trained (experienced parents will, however, find a way around this). Right here, your toddler has you beat. As soon as you begin to tell yourself that this is his or her idea and should therefore be motivated by him or her, you've been had. Big time. Every parent falls for it though, because your toddler is very convincing, and very stubborn. For multiple days on end he will have you convinced that this is his idea. It won't be until you are well into the process that you will realize that they are messing with your head.
Occasionally, they will even throw you a bone at the beginning, teasing you into thinking it will be easier than you thought. Perhaps they will go once or twice on the toilet without any hassle at all, perhaps they will master either peeing or pooping without a problem, or perhaps they will go for the first three or more days without an accident. If this sounds familiar, buckle up. This is when you are at your weakest, this is when they strike. You are a sitting duck, you may have even bragged to your friends and family about your seemingly easy success. Then, suddenly, Jr. doesn't want to go on the toilet anymore, he wants to go on his own terms. He wants to be in control. The problem is, toddlers are by nature, out of control. Imagine handing a loaded, fully automatic M-16 to a toddler and then stepping back. That is essentially what is happening now. Your toddler's body is loaded for bear and you have suddenly relinquished all control of the situation.
At first, you will try to reason with your child: Your body will tell you when you need to go, and when it does, go on the toilet. If you poop in your underwear it will be messy and stinky, and it will give you a rash, and you don't want that. If you hold your poop in your body, your body will get sick, so just relax and let it out on the toilet. Trust me, it will be better for all of us if you just go on the toilet. But, your toddler and you both know you're the sucker that has to clean it up if he goes in his pants.
After this approach doesn't work, you tell yourself that it'll click if he has a little incentive. You will begin to bargain with stickers or trinkets or fun activities, and when that doesn't work, you will go against the parenting code of ethics and bribe with unholy amounts of candy and junk food. Guess what? This won't work either.
At this time, good sense and the ability to control one's self has long sense left on holiday, and you are left with primitive instinctual tactics. You will yell at your child, you will scream, you will cry, you will rant and rave. Why? you demand, why won't you just GO ON THE TOILET?? PLEASE! I know that you need to, I know that it's in there, for the love of all things good and holy just go on the toilet!! You are tired, you are drained, and the act of handling poop with your bare hands for days on end has done something irreversible to your mental well being. You have sat way closer to a person on the toilet than you've ever wanted to be for forty or more minutes at a time begging and pleading with him, trying to get him to stay on the toilet until it comes out because he said he had to poop. Then, you will finally give in and let him get off the toilet to go play only to be told, as you are pulling up his pants, that he has to go poop again. And after you've tried again for another forty minutes and as soon as you get his pants on, he will immediately poop in his underwear. You will be punished in this manner over and over until the horror of potty training sinks deep in to your psyche. You will remember a faint past day when you were intelligent and dignified and had some measure of control, but now, with your hands permanently infused with the smell of human waste, you have been reduced to a whimpering, sniveling, scullery maid. The only one learning something here is you, and that something is that you never want to do this ever again.
At this point, you will walk around in awe of other parents (or even yourself if this isn't your first time), they did it, they made it out of this horrible stage! How did they do it? Suddenly, every parent looks like a hero to you, even that shrewish harpy of a woman who prostituted her own children via a reality television show in the name of making a living-- Kate Gosselin. Even she will be heroic to you because despite her many faults in parenting, she was able to potty train twin toddlers at the same time and then four years later, sextuplets at the same time. She's practically Wonder Woman, and should have her own planet and diamond studded castle.
And, if somehow miraculously, you make it through this task without committing a felony, you will deserve a medal. No one will give you one, but you will deserve it none the less.