The Potty Wars

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli
The Potty Wars

I just spent nearly an hour battling my just-turned-three year old son on the potty.

This battle consisted of crying and writhing on his part, cajoling and encouraging on my part, counting to ten and then to twenty and then to two hundred, and also:  storytelling, sitting, standing, bouncing, begging, more crying, screaming, howling, pushing, wrestling, silent cursing,  and finally…  relenting.  (on my part).  There was no victorious pee at the end of that battle, and both of us were left sweaty and exhausted.  I think we each left a tiny piece of our soul on that evil toilet.

We’re only just amping up our potty training efforts, now that he has officially turned three.  Up until now we’ve allowed him to go at his own pace, which has mainly consisted of joyful SITTING on the potty and a complete refusal to PEE on the potty, with a handful of happy exceptions.  But now that he is three, it is GAME ON.

And if this morning is any indication, it’s going to be a long and dreadful game.  A long, long, long, long, loooonnng one.

Now, I am sure many of you reading have buckets full of advice to offer me on how to get through this, and I welcome it, I truly do.   Post, email, shout it from the rooftops—we’ll try it all.

But more than that,  I know that this is a normal and natural phase of life that all children go through, some at 18 months and some just before they enter the halls of kindergarten.   This is a phase.  So knowing it’s a phase, and knowing that he will eventually figure this out and will not be the only fifth grader in diapers, I am wondering why I let it stress me out so much.  I’m wondering why the battle feels so very hard.   And so I’m also wondering what other normal phases or routines in life am I letting myself get worked up about, too.   Where are there other "potty wars" lurking?

Here’s an easy (and silly) one:   Every year, summer rolls around.   And every Memorial Day, the pools open.   Every year!  At the same time every year.   And every year the thought of pools makes me think of swimming suits.  And the thought of swimming suits makes me sad.  And stressed.   And wishing for winter.    Even though this winter sucked the life out of all of us.   Now.  You’d think that by now I would KNOW that summer was coming and UNDERSTAND that the pools were opening and therefore RELAX about the inevitable bringing out of the swimsuits, because whatever already.     But yet, here I was this past weekend gnashing my teeth and cursing the pools and all their wickedness.

So every summer we face swimsuits.  Every time April 15th rolls around taxes are due.  Every time we start a new job it feels like we will never ever fit in or understand how to do it well.  Every time we are asked to eat fish we just know it will be horrible (okay, maybe that's just me).  And every time we have a toddler we face potty wars.

So, these potty wars.   What are they but phases?   They are simply things that happen.   And sometimes they are really hard.  And sometimes they aren’t pretty.  But if we know they’re coming, if we know they are an inevitable part of life, we might as well just relax and hold on for the ride.    The other side is there…   somewhere.

What “potty war” can you surrender to?  


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Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.