I have two problems with potty-training Noah.

No, three.

One. Noah doesn’t want to. That’s kind of a biggie. You can not force bodily fluids out of a kid that doesn’t want to play along.

Two. Last time we tried (in August,) Noah had a crippling fear of letting any output from his body fall into the toilet. Remember this picture? I know all his grandparents do. And they haven’t forgiven me yet.


(He didn’t poop anywhere for 21 days after that photo. Trauma coupled with determination is a heinous tragedy.)

Three. Noah doesn’t understand when he pees. He has no concept of the fact that liquid is seeping out of his body and even better, that he can control it.

Okay, four.

Four. Diapers are so much easier than living through potty-training.

Seriously. They are.

But, the kid is three-and-two-months now. He must learn to crap like a normal human being or I will begin to look like a crappy mom.

Therein lies the rub.

So on Tuesday, I decided it was time to try again.

I was hesitant, so I tip-toed into the subject with Noah.

“We’re not going to wear diapers today….”

“What?? WHY????”

But I had him at Lightning Underwear.

Thank God Pampers doesn’t have a Cars line, because I’m pretty sure that having a McQueened-out butt is the only perk Noah would consider as valid for inserting his urine into a toilet.

We put the underwear on, talked about sitting on the potty, he reminded me that he didn’t know how to tee-tee, and we set off into our day, armed with Road & Track Magazines provided by my Dad, a Bumbo potty-training seat and stepstool, and a singing commode.

Potty-Training Toilets

And, for the entire morning, he and I tromped off to the bathroom every fifteen minutes to try and conjure up some liquid gold.

The first time he peed on Lightning, I admit that I was excited for him – at least now he knows what it feels like to pee, right?


He didn’t like the feeling of having peed, but still showed no signs of knowing how to conjure the stuff.

And the novelty of trying didn’t take too long to wear off. Three pairs of underwear later, I could hear his eyes screaming at me, ”Gretchen, stop trying to make pee happen. It’s never going to happen!”


It was at that point that I requested of Twitter and Facebook to wear light yellow ribbons in solidarity with us for Noah’s Pee Awareness Week.

And Karen won reader of the year by actually doing it (and getting a picture before her toddler ripped it off, who presumably stands with Noah.)

If only Karen’s awareness of our plight had helped.

But it didn’t.

A few minutes later while Ali and I were doing school, Noah ran in and announced cheerily,

“I’m all done!!!”

“With what?”

“Potty Training!!!”


Finally, shortly before naptime which would bring a blessed reprieve back to lined underthings, Noah managed to squeeze out a couple of drops – enough to make his potty sing.

And sing and sing and sing. And sing.

I mean seriously I’ve never seen a john so relieved to receive a deposit. The stupid thing wouldn’t quit singing. I actually suspected that the commode was so desperate for him to get up that it squeezed its own molecules tightly enough to rouse the minimum liquid required to create a musical reaction.

Despite the clearly accidental amount of whatever-it-was, we still celebrated heartily, Noah received the promised Dusty Crophopper that had been sitting in my closet for six months, and we moved on, hoping for a more notable output next time.

He happily welcomed his diaper back for naptime and the following cross-town trip to take Ali to art class.

While we were out, he looked up at me and said, “You put me in a diaper, right?”


He sighed and loudly passed gas. Because one can never be too careful with these things.

The next day we began again, with high hopes of having more than .00000000001 ounces of success this time.

But alas. His excitement had departed when he had been happily enswathed in waterproof fibers.


He had caught on to the concept of holding his pee – for a solid three hours, he clenched himself with all his sphincter’s might, whether on or off the toilet, desperately refusing to either soil his underwear or Let it Go where he should, no matter how many times I serenaded him with the Frozen hit.


I realized a couple of hours into the day that he had a bright red circle on his butt compliments of the singing toilet, so we transferred our efforts to the luxurious Bumbo to rest his weary chaps.

It helped on the comfort front, but he continued his clinching.

We talked it through.

We prayed. But I’m pretty sure God responded with “I don’t do potty-training.”

I told Noah how much better he’d feel if he’d let go.

He told me his tee-tee was hurting.

No duh.

I told him to just GO, for frick’s sake.

He said he was scared.

I begged.

He screamed.

I sang.

He violently shook his head and pushed me away.

We watched YouTube videos of other kids singing about the toilet.

We even watched YouTube videos of other moms reading potty books to other kids, because that’s the kind of meta life we live.

But we had no measurable or immeasurable results.

We spent at least an hour and a half between those two toilets without a drop to assign as victory.

And then, at 11:30 am, he left the bathroom and immediately filled his pants-leg with urine.

And then, at 11:55 am, he did the exact same thing again.

And then, at 11:56 am, I tried not to cry.

But then, at 11:59 am, I caught him admiring his underweared rear view in the mirror, which renewed my hope to live another day.

IMG_0070 copy

Because if anyone’s going to get us through this, it’s Lightning McQueen.

47 thoughts on “McQueen Will Get Us Through It.

  1. One of my kids refused to potty train. I tried everything and tried over and over. And over. On his 4th birthday – at his grandma’s house – in my absence….he woke up, announced he was done with pull-ups and never looked back. I tried not to harumph over that – because he was trained after all. I still wonder if he was just trolling me even at that young age – he’s pretty good at it now so it’s possible!! Hang in there, Mom!!

  2. I’ve been there. It is not an easy thing. My second is going to be 2 in May so I have the joy of knowing I will experience this all over again!
    I fed my first son salty things for a several days and gave him a ton of water and juice. Then set the timer on the microwave for every fifteen minutes and made him try to pee. For about 6 weeks after that, every time i used the microwave for anything and it beeped, he would jump up and say “Gotta Tee-Tee!”

  3. I feel your pain!! I’m trying to potty train almost 3 year old boy/girl twins right now, and they keep swapping who wants to pee on the floor and who actually wants to use the potty. It has not been pretty. I live in daily fear of hearing toddler voices yelling “Code Brown, Code Brown!’ (our special little alarm for when they’ve pooped on the playroom floor). I think I even posted on Facebook one day that potty training is the one “twin” thing that might break me :-/. Best of luck!!

    Oh, and Lightning McQueen IS on diapers–the Pull-Ups brand. I know this because my son will go through every LMQ diaper in the pack before deigning to wear something as pedestrian as Sully or Buzz Lightyear.

    1. I have a friend with twins Noah’s exact age – two boys. And this is the most unfair thing in the world, but potty-training was a breeze for them – the competition actually worked in her favor.

      So unfair.

      But then I think of everything else that’s five times harder for her, and all is forgiven.

    2. Oh, this is not good. I have twin girls who are 17 months old, and while I have no intention of starting them any time soon, I might lose my mind potty-training twins. I mean, twin everything else is fine, but twin peeing on the floor? Sigh. Trying not to borrow trouble from tomorrow.

      Oh, and Code Brown? Hilarious!

  4. I am laughing/crying with you at this exact moment. I have a 3 1/2 year old, who has thoroughly enjoyed the convenience of diapers (as has his mother). However, I started to feel like a lazy mom, and figured I should give it another good go ’round. Well, we got the “pee” thing down pretty well, however, the “poop” thing has been freaking this child out. He doesn’t think his poop will fit in the little potty and refuses to sit on the big potty. He says he’s just not going to poop. I fear, as in Noah’s case, that this could actually happen. So here I sit, googling “What to do when your toddler won’t poop on the potty” “How to poopy train”…you get the idea :) Best wishes!! Stay strong fellow mommy about to lose your sanity!!

    1. I feel your pain. Your Google searches *might* turn up a very old post of mine when Ali went through the same thing. I just had to find the perfect bribe to convince her to poop – for her, it was Princess Gummies.

      For Noah, no bribe is big enough to do ANYTHING on the potty.

  5. Boys are the worst. My son was probably ridiculously close to 4 before he “got it.” Then, he was close to 6 before he decided one day to not wear pull ups at night. He’ll get it. It just sucks in the process. We’re all in this together!

  6. For my oldest (now 9) potty training was two years of hell. She started figuring it out after a couple months and then we moved. Back to square one. 6 months later I thought she was getting the hang of it and then a week of 6 accidents a day proved me wrong. Every month or so was the same thing…..a few days of success followed by failure again. We struggled, we cried, I got depressed. I was terrified that she would begin kindergarten in pull-ups. We watched videos and checked out multiple books from the library. The thing that finally worked was a book that showed the kid getting a parade for pooping in the toilet. She wanted a parade. The next day was success and we marched up and down the house waving flags, banging drums, chanting like idiots. And she loved it. After a week of parades she relaxed enough to go on her own. She still had at least one accident a week for the next year but my hell was ending. Three years later I had to start with daughter number two who luckily thought potty training was cool for the first month before retreating from all efforts and needed a parade of her own. I am pregnant with number three and am terrified that in a couple years hell will begin again. Hang in there. Failure to crap does not make you crappy.

  7. This is going to expose my non-mom niavete, but I had no idea that potty training could be that grueling. I was heavily involved in caring for my much-younger (12 years) sister at that age, but it must have been a non-issue for her, because I don’t remember it at all. Bless your hearts. I will say a Pee Prayer for you both.

  8. Girlfriend I feel your pain. My oldest turned four in December and he WILL NOT potty train. He has made a willful decision that he would rather stay in pull-ups and make Mommy and Daddy change him like his baby brother than use the potty. And The Force is strong with this one. He has a stubborn will of iron. Every time it comes up people tell us to just put him in underwear and let him feel how uncomfortable it is when he pees himself. Well we tried that and you know what he did? Peed himself, didn’t say anything, and sat in it for a good ten minutes before we noticed. He doesn’t care what we give him or take away from him either. He would forego anything just to avoid sitting on the damn toilet. And he can hold his poop for an astronomically long time to avoid sitting on the potty. I don’t know how he does it.

    1. I wonder if it would help him if HE was the one to change his own pullups:?
      Also, perhaps not letting him do things that “big kids” do because he is still not going in a potty? Kind of if he is going to act like a baby, he will be treated as one? I dunno.
      My son was difficult to train and I tried at 2 years with many tears and no success but then I read a book that said if they cannot hold their urine for 2 hours, their bladder wasn’t physically mature enough to potty train. So, I quit trying. I waited till he was almost 3, and could hold it for longer periods of time and he trained much easier then. However, at night, he would get me up in the middle of the night to change him cause he was wet. One night, this tired mommy told him I wasn’t going to change him anymore. I wasn’t the one who peed in his undies, HE was. So he gingerly with one finger and his thumb on each side, pulled them down (for he didn’t want to get HIS fingers wet) and changed his own. That cured him of that! Not saying he never had another accident, but that was the turning point for him.

      1. That’s a fantastic strategy you took! Apparently in Noah’s case, he just needed to be coached by someone else. I’ll be writing an update later this week, but my Mom 100% potty-trained him, with no accidents, in one day. And she didn’t do anything differently than I did. Geeeeeeez. Kids.

  9. I didn’t potty train one of mine! I knew myself enough to realize that I would rather do the assembly-line diaper changing (since I had 3 in diapers at once) than to clean up any messes from clothing, beds, or couches. All of my children eventually just wanted to go on their own, and literally I had nothing to do with it.. Yes, they were 3 1/2 years old, but there was not one day of stress, and I have probably cleaned a total of 5 pairs of wet underwear in all my parenting. Now that my oldest is nearly 20, and I realize it never mattered how old they were when they potty-trained, I am so thankful that was one area I didn’t stress over. If only I could say that about many more areas!! :)

  10. Wow, now I am really thankful that I have girls! I’ve heard boys are harder to potty train and it sounds like it is true! I am planning to potty train with A this summer, and hoping it goes as smoothly as the other two. It wasn’t fun by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn’t too difficult either. Knock on wood.

  11. Oh my goodness, you are not alone. I am going to start trying to potty training my 2.5 yr old within the next couple of weeks, and I am not looking forward to it. This will be my second time potty training a boy. My first son wasn’t completely potty trained until 3.5, and I had no idea how to go about doing it. I chose the route of bribing with candy. Peeing in the toilet did not click with my firstborn until I put him in actual underwear(with the rubber underwear over it to minimize the mess) and he felt the pee in his underwear. After three incidents he would pee in the potty, but would not poop. For three months I could not get him to poop in the potty. He would get three chocolate kisses if he pooped in the potty, we even had a sticker chart for him. If he pooped ten times in a row in the potty he would get a long time coveted toy, and even that didn’t work. Finally I gave him an ultimatum, if he pooped in his pull-up(cause I was tired off cleaning pooped underwear), he would get a nice cold spray down in the bath tub with the removable shower head. Fortunately for me he did not like the shower head. I kept true to my word, he seriously disliked the cold wash, so I told him his option was to poop in the potty or get a wash down everytime he popped in his pull-up. Thankfully he chose the potty, because I did not want to have to go through with the threat. We finally got to use the sticker chart and he won his prize.
    I’m not looking forward to potty training my second born boy. He has no interest in using the potty. It drives me crazy when I see Facebook posts from a mom of three girls under 5 saying that her second (3 yrs old) and third (1.5 yrs old) daughters just decided on their own to start going potty. Aaaargh!
    So, for training boy #2, I’m arming myself with a plan. I’ve watched a video called potty training 1 2 3 on Vimeo (recommended by other moms who recently applied the videos potty training principles)and it sorta helped to give me a game plan. So I’m going to use the bear in underwear, I’m going to have lots of salty snacks and juice and sweet rewards, a sticker chart and a final reward of a trip to the toy store. Course like you said, if the kid isn’t ready, he isn’t ready and none of that will help…. I hope for your sake, you have a break through soon!

  12. My two oldest boys and daughter were close to four before they were fully potty trained. #4 is 20 months old and I’m already dreading that stage. Although with my older kids, I would take them every 20 minutes or so, but also would make them sit on the potty chair if they were going to watch a show on TV. (I brought it into the living room and set it on a towel.) They would get so into the show that their body would relax and they would pee. Hang in there!

  13. Oh and I should add that even though my girls trained at around 18 months, my youngest at least was more then difficult in every other way so she owed me one. She did not sleep through the night until she was 2 1/2 years old and spent her first 8 months screaming non stop. She also as an infant would not poop in her diaper, yep, a pediatrician suggested I try the toilet and she went. Weeks on end of screaming due to constipation and that was all it took and I felt like a freak holding this infant over the toilet a few times a day. I even tried tricking her and would put a diaper on her real quick to try to get her to go in her diaper, nope. So I think every kid has some sort of issues. My 6 year would not wipe herself until she was 4, in fact she cried when she turned 4 because we told her it was illegal to wipe her after age 4, yep we are awesome parents. It did not really work either, that was a long battle and her pre-k teacher cured it somehow.

  14. I’ve been there. We didn’t have a problem with pee, because we let my son run naked in the backyard and pee to his little heart’s content. We did, however, have to remind him that while it’s ok to pee outside while you’re outside, you don’t purposely go outside just to pee.

    Poo took A LOT longer. We tried bribery, etc. Then one day at Target, my husband bought him his very own red padded Lightning McQueen toilet seat that snapped on to the regular toilet seat, and -BOOM- we never had another poo accident again. (He was just over 3 and a half by and we had a baby on the way so I was pretty desperate by that point.)

    Good luck…relax…it gets better!

  15. I feel your pain! I have definitely been there — we tried EVERYTHING we could think of — he was so determined not to poop on the potty that he changed his own diaper (during nap time, you can imagine the mess I found when I went to wake him up!) or he would hold it for days — we ended up having to make a visit to the Dr b/c we knew he was so uncomfortable! But . . . the best advice we got was from his preschool teacher, she said to just stop worrying about it and make it a non-issue — encourage him for trying, but hand him a pull-up when needed. Finally, he just decided to start going all on his own. Crazy! All that stress for nothing! I’m hoping potty training our daughter will be easier. :)

  16. For what it’s worth, my fav baby book, Toddler 411, quotes a study by the Medical College of Wisconsin where researchers found that the average age for potty training was 35 months for boys and 39 months for boys. And if the average age is 39 months, that means lots of boys were a lot of older than that. So don’t stress. Diapers are SO much easier. And console yourself with this, too: River potty trained before he was three and then backslid when he was 5 (!). The doctor said that’s typical for kids who trained early.

    Also, this post is HILARIOUS! “We even watched YouTube videos of other moms reading potty books to other kids, because that’s the kind of meta life we live.” Literally laughing out loud!

  17. Just be aware when trying to poo-train a strong willed child, of a condition called encopresis, or chronic constipation. I have backed completely off trying to get my 3 year old to poop in the potty for now (she is completely pee trained) as she started withholding her poop (talk about buns of steel…boy can she clench) to the point that I feats we were on the verge of encopresis (not often talked about, but more common than you think. ) Some families end up dealing with encopresis for YEARS! I am still working on halting the butt clench even though she is back in pullups. Lots of fibre, plenty of fluids, basically keeping things moving enough that she just can’t keep it in. It’s a nightmare! And I feel it is because I pushed to hard when she was not ready. Every Child is different. My eldest took three days for both pee and poo training at 2 and a half, and never looked back. Second child is extremely strong willed.

  18. I’m sooooo with you on potty training. It is my least favorite Mommy job. I wish there was a potty training fairy that could come and potty train kids. :-)

    I have twins that are a month younger than your son & we are potty training them right now. One of them sounds just like Noah & my other daughter LOVES potty training. She knows she gets a gummy bear when she poops in the potty, so she’s learned how to squeeze out the tiniest amount of poop quite a few times a day to increase the amount of gummy bears she gets. :-)

  19. BRILLIANT essay! As a mom of soon-to-be 33-year-old, I do remember those potty-training days of yore. What is so fantastic , and why I read your blog, is your out-of-this world mastery of the English language. Keen observations and an unmatched awareness of life’s humor and foibles. You go , girl! (No pun intended.)

  20. My son was relatively easy to potty train at 2 1/2, taking a little bit longer before he would poop in the toilet. But he hated having poop on his butt (still does, so he won’t wipe himself). At about 18 months he started bringing you a diaper and saying “Poop change” when he was dirty.

    That said, he STILL wears pull-ups at night, and he is almost seven. He is dry more often than not, but he is such a heavy sleeper that it does not wake him up either before, or after he has soaked the bed. Our pediatrician said this is not unusual, and it is much easier to deal with the pull-ups than the soaked bed.

    And Pull-ups do have Lightning McQueen on them!

  21. Oh my. It actually makes me feel so much better to read all these “toilet testimonies.”

    My first was a year-long nightmare of willful constipation and hour-long sessions sitting on the bathroom floor while he screamed and writhed in agony until he absolutely could not hold it anymore (after it had already been 7 days since his last round). One day, he just decided he wasn’t terrified anymore (he was right at 3) and has done great ever since.

    My second (whom we made no attempt whatsoever to potty train after being traumatized by the first), was pretty much potty-trained by 20 months…and then regressed completely and didn’t go for again until he was 34 months (such a sad year of knowing he was capable but wouldn’t).

    And my third (first girl to do it), potty-trained right at 3, after plenty of bribery, accidents, frustration, fear of pooping, etc., etc. Nothing she did was *drastic.* But it still wasn’t fun. And again, hers was just like a switch flipped from, “Pooping on the potty is to be avoided at all costs” to “Okay, I’ll do that.” FACE. PALM.

    I don’t get why it’s such a big deal. I really don’t. But I can ell you this: I am NOT looking forward to potty training the twins.

    They may very well be the ones that I just ignore until they walk up to me and say, “Dearest mother, I am much too old to be wearing diapers since I can write in cursive and do long division. I think I would like to be potty-trained now.” (Hopefully not a true story).

  22. I didn’t read all the comments so if this is repeat “advice” then I apologize. But potty training is the one thing in my mothering realm I am good at. I start at 18 months before they can tell me no, which I get we dont have a time machine and we work the process and then they are day-time trained by age 2 or before.

    My daughter was a breeze once I “let it go!” HA! Get it. :) I was uptight the first time around and used it as a reflection of my parenting. It wasn’t.

    My son I took a different approach. I let him run around in undies and bare butt for 3 ish days. I made no effort to take him to the potty. As nature would have it–he peed his undies. All I would do would clean him up and gently say, “well, maybe next time you will remember how yucky that felt and go to the potty.” After about 3 days of that he started at least standing near the bathroom as he peed himself. By day 5 I started casually taking him. We had some success and some not. My overall point is just be nonchalant about it. The power struggle is striped then and if diapers aren’t a option {other than bed/naps} then THEY will figure it out. Poop with MW was a whole other can of worms…That took a whole extra 3 months to work out. But it did.

    I say don’t quit esp. since he is 3. Just keep putting him in undies–just equals more work for you for these first few days/weeks, but every time you quit he wins and he just uses it against you! HA!

    YOU CAN DO IT!!!

  23. My daughter didn’t potty train until she was just over 4. She’s strong willed just as it sounds like you son is. I still think she was doing it to spite me. Because I let go of it and she finally did it. I think it was a control thing. I was “controlling” the potty training. When she finally did it, she was controlling it. I hope my son is easier, but I doubt it since he likes being wiped and will ask for “more wipes” at 2. Sigh. Good luck whatever you decide to do!

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