Raising Baby T. Rex: Potty Training, Patience and Pride

What I’m here to write about is the very most essential thing that almost all of us have somehow learned to do; the thing that our Editor-in-Chief Riese hates and I love talking about. It’s poo and pee in the potty time.

Remi has been showing signs of potty readiness for, oh, I don’t know, like three months. We’ve been delaying and delaying for many reasons. We’ll wait until she can put her own pants on. Check. We’ll wait until she’s more verbal and better with directions. Check. We’ll wait until we have a long weekend to work on it. No check, but also, like, no potential weekend in sight in the near future. We’ll wait until she’s out of diapers. Check, kind of, but then we bought more diapers and now we have a lot of extra diapers.

What I’m saying is, we finally went all in on potty training and, well — it’s going well and is also the weirdest, funniest, most frustrating parenting thing I have yet done. Mainly, I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. The first day was a lot of trial and error. We started in earnest this past Sunday. Waffle was working most of the day, so Remi and I were home together just the two of us. Gee whiz, did I wish I had a second set of adult hands when I was on the floor around 11:30 AM cleaning three different types of bodily fluids off the floor and the toddler at the same time. It was a TREAT.

I didn’t necessarily have a set plan for how this would go so much as I did a ton of online reading to prepare and hoped my smart, self-motivated Virgo would figure it out quickly. I’d hoped we could get away without Pull-Ups because they’re essentially toddler diapers and they are, like diapers, expensive and wasteful. By mid-day, I’d instructed Waffle to grab some Pull-Ups on his way home. Ultimately, I was successful when I decided to throw my reservations and Remi’s pants to the wind. We just went bottomless for most of the day and, after two more accidents and a hurried pick-up of any stuffed animal or thing that could not survive being peed on, we were making progress. Remi consistently used the potty with my help for the rest of the day. HOORAY, mofos! I documented the day in my Insta story because, I dunno, why not? (No worries, no super gross stuff… mostly bathroom parties and deep potty training thoughts.)

A snap of my potty training story highlight reel because I don’t know how to embed highlights. ANYWAY, this is the kind of quality content you’ll find.

Sadly, we don’t live in a world where one can just waggle around bare-assed all day every day. As much as I’m sure my neighbors appreciated my kid literally standing in the bay window facing the street with her lower half on full display, we would have to leave the house eventually. The next day we introduced the Pull-Ups and there was a little regression into forgetting and going in the training pants, particularly #2’s. To be fair, Pull-Ups feel like and sound like and essentially are diapers. (Don’t tell Remi. We told her they were big kid underwear.) That said, we made major progress on the potty and only had one total meltdown over having to wear the training pants. My child just wants to be free and, quite frankly, I don’t blame her. I still hate wearing underwear at 36.

Usually poop training comes after pee training, but Remi had pretty much figured out both by Wednesday, Day Four of this whole event. There are still Pull-Up accidents, but only pee, and so far she really prefers her potty (and going bare butt before and after). Ultimately, it’s going well. Of course, now that we’re in a huge new developmental stage, her sleep is all screwed up and she’s getting more irritable at bedtime and waking more at night. We don’t know if it’s just an overtired thing or because she’s still in diapers at night and feels mad about that or if she’s becoming more aware of her body at night because of potty training or something else or all of the above! You figure one thing out; something else goes all wonky. That’s how it is with toddlers, I guess.

We’re figuring it out. Ironically, she’d just (very early) dropped her last nap, so we’re bringing back the nap to see if that helps with bedtime. It’s literally a social science experiment every day and we don’t have any control. That’s how it feels to me, anyway.

My very favorite thing about this stage, as much as I’ve dreaded it, is how truly joyful it is in between the moments of grossness. Remi is, obviously, just so proud of herself and overjoyed to gain a little more autonomy over her body and genuinely excited about leveling up as a big kid. I think bathroom stuff is probably one of the most shame-filled areas of our human world. We’re straight up weirdos about it in a lot of cultures and definitely in U.S. culture. We have literal political debates about bathrooms and whether trans and gender non-conforming people have the right to be in them despite the fact that we are primarily using them to do our private potty business. We make toilets places of shame, in every context.

Yet here we are, though, clapping and cheering for Remi for using her little potty. It’s a toddler party zone in our downstairs bathroom right now. I gave up early on and allowed an iPad in there to keep her on the potty for longer sits. We have two different potty options going, the hilariously miniature potty chair with real flushing sounds and the step stool with a seat that goes over the grown up potty as a transitional option. We’ve got books and toys and, to be real with you, sometimes snacks in there. It’s a very joyful and silly place in our home right now. It’s stressful. It’s screwing up her sleep. It’s also kind of a lot of fun? She’s just so, so happy when she “makes yellow” (her words) and especially when she first figured out how to go #2. I look at her doing her half-naked “I did it!” hop and wonder if I’ll be able to pinpoint the moment that body shame sets in, that she learns that her body is somehow both vulnerable and dangerous, that she stops appreciating all the good things her body does.

There’s a party over here now.

It’s also forced me to be very patient, with Remi and with myself. There is nothing more challenging than watching your kid go to the bathroom directly on your floor, on your floor, and having to react like it’s no big deal, very casual, totally not a thing just going to clean this up right here oopsie no problem no reason to have ongoing trauma that sets us back on potty training everyone is cool! On the other hand, I can’t imagine having to learn how to do this after going in a diaper for more than two years! It’d be like if someone told me to go to the bathroom right now, on my couch, with my pants on and expected me to be able to just do it. How super impressive that kids can learn this at all!

Most of all, I’m loving watching her grow up and grow more independent. At one point, I was thinking Remi would still be in diapers for A-Camp, but it’s clear we’re definitely going to be using the potty by then. I hope she’s figured out the big potty by June, mostly because I don’t want to pack the potty chair as a carry-on.


5 Queer Parenting Things I’m Currently Overprocessing

1. Femme Gender Feels

So y’all know we’re raising Remi without strong associations with gender norms. However, we did make the choice to use gender pronouns aligned with Remi’s assigned sex until she’s old enough to articulate a gender. We also don’t shy away from “pink aisle” toys completely. Gender expansive play doesn’t mean play that only privileges masculinity or that hold up complete androgyny as the gold standard, at least not in our definition of it.

All that said, I’m really fascinated and also scared by the ways gender norms have creeped in at the edges of Remi’s development. As a queer femme, I love feminine things as a way to intentionally express my gender, but I also realize some of those things are or come off as very gender normative. For example, Remi has a fascination with my jewelry, so I made her a bunch of pony bead bracelets and necklaces. She notes my lipstick colors and my nail polish shades. She has started gravitating towards pink clothes as she’s begun dressing herself and having more opinions on her own fashion.

I mean, she also gravitates towards sharks and dinosaurs and play power tools. Gender doesn’t really mean anything to her yet, but I can see the messages getting through anyway. I just really hope that whatever gender Remi is and whatever Remi’s gender expression is, that it’s purely hers and not influenced by dominant culture. I know it probably will be and this is probably at least one part my own internalized femmephobia popping up, but I sometimes wonder and worry about it all.


2. Things I Googled This Month

  • potty training sleep problems
  • potty training poop next to the potty
  • pull ups potty training
  • average age potty training
  • signs ready for potty training
  • how to help two year old poop on the potty
  • sleep regression potty training

3. Under the Sea, the Ocean

Remi’s love of all things ocean has not slowed down. In fact, it’s intensified since we let her watch Octonauts, a cartoon about animal (mostly mammals for who knows why?) ocean explorers who go on missions and discover aquatic life all over the world. I don’t even know if this show is still on air, but there are four seasons of episodes on Netflix and we’ve watched all of them at least three or four times. It’s all she wants to watch! Screw Sesame Street. Forget Daniel Tiger. As far as Remi is concerned, there is no other show but Octonauts.

We took Remi to a very small rescue aquarium just a couple hours away from our home. They had rescued sea lions and are the leading facility for blind seals! It was very fun and, despite the whole place being maybe a 10-minute walk in a big circle, we managed to spend three hours there. Mostly, Remi wanted to see the sea lions and the SHARKS. But they also had sting rays and puffer fish and sea horses and cleaner shrimp and lionfish and turtles and eels and all of Remi’s favorite slippery friends!


4. Protecting Family Time

Lately, Waffle only has one day off per week. I’m consistently working more than one job and am behind on at least one of them. I’ve also been traveling for public speaking a lot lately, revamping my website and online branding, making some big career choices. It’s been a lot for both of us. Whenever Waffle’s able to get a weekend day off that I’m also around for, we try to make that time meaningful. Even if we’re running errands, we do it together and build in some time for toddler fun.

I feel bad about how much we work. Sometimes I wonder if she’d be happier in day care with other kids her age.


5. Touch Em Touch Em Touch Em

Sensory boxes are all the rage with the pre-K set these days. We no longer use this sensory bin because Remi accidentally knocked it off the table while playing with it releasing a catastrophic amount of bouncy, wet, slippery Orbeez water beads all over the house. HAHAHAHAHA OMG, it was fun. We’re still finding the damn things. I prefer the kinetic sand.

KaeLyn is a 35-year-old (femme)nist activist, word nerd, and queer mama. You can typically find her binge-watching TV, over-caffeinating herself, standing somewhere with a mic or a sign in her hand, eating carbs, or just generally doing too many things at once. She lives in Rochester, NY with her spouse, a baby T. rex, a xenophobic cat, and a rascally rabbit. You can buy her debut book, Girls Resist! A Guide to Activism, Leadership, and Starting a Revolution if you want to, if you feel like it, if that's a thing that interests you or whatever.

KaeLyn has written 196 articles for us.

22 Comments

  1. Hahaha I haven’t been to the Niagara Aquarium in AGES but I remember it being huge (and a big deal because Rochester didn’t even *have* an aquarium). We got to sleep over there once with girl scouts and I still love telling people I got to sleep with the sharks!

    Also, water marbles! I bought some at an art and garden show I went to in college just to play with them.

    In summary, playing with Remi sounds like a BLAST.

    • I won’t lie @owl. It’s pretty fun to hang with Remi.

      I wouldn’t not describe the Niagara Aquarium as “huge,” but the sea lion show was legit! They still do sleepovers for the girl scouts there and I think, just, like, in general, too. Let’s do a Rochester Straddler overnight at the Niagara Aquarium, is what I’m saying!!!

  2. Ah KaeLyn I love you and I love this series! I giggled and nodded my way through this whole thing. I’d have to quote most of the article if I started quoting any favorites so I’ll just say yup to all of it. I’m glad for you all that the potty training is going so well and that you’re having fun with it. As for the messes on the floor…this too shall pass. (Muahaha!)

  3. KaeLyn i have been WAITING for your potty training post because i currently work in a preschool and my kids are right at remi’s age so we’re all potty, all the time. on the one hand it’s so amazing to watch them figure things out about their bodies, on the other i could do without having to bleach my shoes on the daily because someone peed on the floor and didn’t tell us

    we do shameless bribery in the form of potty stickers and poopy prizes. anytime anything goes from their body into the toilet, boom, potty sticker. and if they poop? poopy prize. (a little toy or a sucker). mostly it’s super effective but i currently have one kid who’s like ‘i would rather keep playing with my toys and just shit my pants than take a five minute pause’ so that’s fun!

    • Well, no shame, @caitthegreat! We’re full-on cheating by using TV time to keep Remi on the potty. I will say we’ve succeeded in making the bathroom a fun, cool place that she wants to use. I don’t understand how you deal with so many potty training kids at once in a preschool! How?! Do you just teach them to use the big potty? I can’t imagine it’s sanitary to have a shared little potty chair.

    • I so relate to ‘i would rather keep playing with my toys than take a pause’ – I mean, I do actually get up and go to the bathroom but I’ve been known to put it off as long as possible.

  4. I love these KaeLyn! Always happy to see a new one.

    I’m actually really curious about gender and developmental psychology. I feel like I read somewhere that kids her age are focused on understanding gender performance. Mine definitely did. While my spouse is a guy with a fairly normative presentation, I am a woman with short hair, unshorn legs, unpainted nails and an unadorned face as well as very spare use of skirts and no lace etc. But my daughter went HARD on the pink/princess/this is for boys this is for girls etc. stuff when she was maybe 2.5-3.5. So I don’t think it was me because I’m not very femme, I think she was trying to sort something out and understand a cultural thing. I am really curious though, because I think it might actually be a standard period on most kid’s developmental timelines, but I’m not sure.

    • I too am not v femme and my daughters were the same. I cringed at some of their fashion choices but advice from a more seasoned mum was to go with it as it’d be over sooner if I didn’t fight it – so we had a year of pink everything and then it was done. At 6 & 10, both of them have a pretty expansive view of gender now.

      I feel like other countries are perhaps less bad…I have observed far less pink explosions on Scandi kids of the same age – whether that is because of less sexist cultural shit to absorb or less tasteless princess/barbie tat on the market, I’m not sure…

    • Thanks. This is really reassuring, @mayim-juno and @hester! She’s currently in a stage where everything is a “baby” “mommy” or “daddy” and I feel weird about it! On the other hand, I know we’re going to expose her to lots of ways that families are created eventually. Gender stuff is just so weird. Like how does she “know” that the tall blue dinosaur is the “daddy” and the smaller one is the “mommy.” Damn you, Baby Shark!

    • Yeah, I noticed this with my niece – she went through a similar phase when she was 3 or 4. My SIL said that it was like living with the gender stereotype police.

      And now my niece is 12, hates pink, loves reading Lumberjanes and has a really expansive approach to gender.

  5. I love autostraddle and I love KaeLyn’s writing, and I know there are only good intentions here (& I hope my comment is read with assumption of good intent as well!) but it stresses me out to see pictures and details of kids’ private business online. I always think about how mortified I would feel as an adult, knowing that all of these strangers had seen such private moments in my life. I know this is is a super supportive environment and that it’s important to celebrate queer parenthood, but it does feel like kids can’t really consent to this level of exposure in general.

    • That’s really honest and fair, @innaffiare, and especially so on a post about potty training which is something we have a lot of shame about as a culture. It may not appear like it, but I actually think about this a lot and for this post in particular, had a parenting convo with Waffle about it before I wrote it.

      I wasn’t sure if I’d write about parenting at all after Remi’s birth, particularly because I didn’t know how much I wanted to put her life online once she was living her own life outside of me (vs. during my pregnancy when I was really writing about myself). You’ll notice there’s a 2-year gap between Countdown to Baby T. and this new iteration of the series because I didn’t know where I wanted to draw the line, at first. I try not to post anything shaming and focus mainly on my experience as a parent. I actually don’t post that much content about Remi on my personal social media accounts. Waffle does, which is why a lot of the images in Baby T. Rex link to his instagram account.

      I think this decision is hard to place in a good v. bad framework. We are living in an era during which 75% of parents post about their kids online. Will there be ramifications from that? Maybe. Probably. Then again, the majority of Remi’s peers will also have pics of them online from birth. Recording and sharing images and milestones and stories of our kids is nothing new. Parents and humans have a drive to document our existence and to share it. We always have. The advent of social media and, specifically, the lack of care that corporations have for privacy v. Capitalist pursuits is what really troubles me when it comes to sharing about Remi online.

      For context, I didn’t grow up with the internet and I remember when the common advice was to NEVER EVER EVER use your real name online even in your email address or screen name, to never meet people IRL that you meet online, etc. The idea of LinkedIn or Tinder would have been outrageous in the 90’s, like totally bizarre and even dangerous. Our ever-expanding digital footprint is a real concern of mine in terms of civil liberties and I do worry about that for Remi.

      There is totally merit to your point. I hope Remi is not embarrassed by my writing about her and about our family in the future. I try to keep the focus on my parenting reflections or on things that fall into the category of “I’d be comfortable sharing this on social media.” I do think about what platforms we tell the story on. On Autostraddle, the comments are supportive (and moderated) and if she reads these one day, she’ll see a whole community behind our family. Because I write about queer parenting on the internet, I often get asked to do other projects. Sometimes I say, “Yes,” if that project is queer-centered and owned and I trust the creators. Other times I don’t. I was being tracked down by a recruiter for short documentary film who wanted to include a queer mother recently. They literally contacted me five times asking for my participation. I wasn’t comfortable with the kind of corporate content they typically produced. I didn’t reply. I’m not comfortable sharing our story that way.

      Soon, Remi will be old enough to explicitly consent to things we post online and I plan to ask her about it. If, for whatever reason, she’s not OK with me writing about her, I’ll stop. I hope to have the kind of supportive family where we can talk about these things and I hope she isn’t embarrassed or, at least, that she and her peers are in the same boat around their over-sharing parents. It’s likely that it’ll just be the norm for this youngest generation of kids.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.