The Promise of Underpants

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli
The Promise of Underpants

This is the kind of post my son is going to read when he is thirteen and say “REALLY, Mom?” Sorry, Dylan.

So, my son is currently two and for months now has enjoyed “practicing going potty.”   For him this means sitting on the toilet and immediately wiping himself and then hopping off and flushing, all with dramatic flair. He loves the wiping and the flushing but not the actual going potty. But, as he nears the two and a half mark, we’ve been trying to encourage the “actual going” part more and more. This past weekend, he declared he had to go poo and we went to sit on the potty. He seemed extra vulnerable and scared and wanted to get off right away, but I just held onto him and encouraged him and we sat there for a few minutes with him clutching me saying “Mommy!  Mommy!” over and over with his head buried in my shoulder. Eventually it seemed to both of us that nothing was going to happen so he hopped off and then I noticed that he had actually pooped! In the potty! I am not sure which of us was more surprised as we peered into the toilet. Of course we had to bring the whole family in to celebrate and congratulate and cheer for his success.

Since then he’s wanted nothing to do with the potty. I mean, nothing. I’ve tried to bring him there a few times and he’s fought me doggedly, declaring “I don’t want to!!!!”

Sometimes success is scary.

It’s easy to want a thing, and even to practice a thing. But to actually get a thing… well, that’s a whole different ball game. I think my son’s success in the potty made him feel very vulnerable and out of control. And feeling vulnerable and out of control can be a very unpleasant thing. It can be tempting to say “Nevermind, actually, I was just fine back there” and retreat towards the safety of what is tried, true, and tested. My son’s diaper is a safe haven. Why would he ever want to leave it?

In those early moments of success, I think it’s so natural to feel a tugging backward. The key is to push forward despite those feelings; to keep saying “yes” to the wide open vulnerability, to the seeming lack of control, to the great unknown. Because there is always a richer reward beyond the initial success itself; an evolution of sorts. If my son can get over his fears of what he has seen is possible in the potty, then he will quickly be on the path to BIG BOY UNDERPANTS, filled with things like trucks and planes and Batman! He will be able to say a final farewell to toddlerhood and a hearty hello to kidville. And he wants this. He just has to remember it when faced with the prospect of facing the Big Scary Toilet again.

Are you dipping your toe tentatively in some kind of early success? Jump in fully… the promise of underpants awaits.  


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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.