“So, You Wanna Unravel A Whole Roll of Toilet Paper?: The Joys of Potty Training,” by J. Lynn M. McFadden

Feb 20th, 2019 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

I imagine potty training a toddler is super fun for all of us, but I must say, it’s especially enjoyable for mamas like me, whose children are mommy’s girls to the fullest extent of the definition, girls who have unwaveringly decided that daddies are unfit to accompany them to the john for a front row seat of these festivities, the most sacred of moments, which in my experience, go something like this:

“Potty!  Potty!”

“You have to go potty?  Good girl, Shay!  Thank you for telling me!”  (At this point, I am frantically chasing her down the hallway, as she has already went gallivanting into the bathroom at the speed of light).

After I make a mad dash in to yank down her panties, Shaylin sits on her mini throne, looking up at me expectantly.

“Are you going to pee-pee?”

“Yes!”  And sometimes, she does, right away.  But other times, she sits, and I stare at her.  And after a minute or so, because our house is so small, I venture away to do something—anything—else, other than staring at a tiny human on a miniature toilet.

And then I hear:  “I did it!  It’s yellow!”

She loves to admire the yellow.

And I come rushing back to assist her, as she always wants to be the one to carry the treasure over to the grown-up potty, sometimes swirling it about dramatically as I wince from the doorway.

“Be careful!  Don’t spill it!  Use both hands!”

And she dumps the removable bowl from her toddler potty into the real toilet, with or without splashing excess urine on the seat or the floor.  And then, she wipes—but this is a fun part:  she struggles to get the toilet paper off the roll.  Usually I am quick enough to tear it for her, but there have been times when I have been occupied with disinfecting her potty while she firmly grabs one end of the tissue and pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls, pulls!  Until half a roll of toilet paper has been unraveled in the three seconds it’s taken me to turn back around to face her.  She goes about the business of wiping, which is not nearly as entertaining to her as the disposal part of this process, which, oh my goodness, is yet to come!  So she must hurriedly wipe.  Therefore, there have been times when I have patiently modeled what a good wipe looks like, or assisted her myself.  But then, joy of all joys!  She gets to put the paper in the potty.  Frequently, I must encourage her to simply “Drop it!  Just drop it!”

Because, left to her own devices, Shay will dramatically fling the paper in, much in the style of Lebron James dunking a basketball. 

Which is all good and fine, but if the paper doesn’t land as she envisioned it, sometimes she tries to go in after it.

“Nononononono!” I cry, flashing forward to grab her tiny wrist before she can retrieve her now soggy squares.  And then, she gets to “Flush it!”  Which, flush it she does!  I mean, this girl is gonna be in the Potty Flushing Olympics.

And then, we waddle to the sink for handwashing.  We waddle because I should have taught her to pull her panties up first, but silly me, since we started training in diapers that typically had to be thrown away, somehow the redressing part of this routine has remained a bit backwards.

Handwashing, though, is also quite exciting, as Shay loves to push her own soap out, and more than that, look for an opportunity to grab the hot water knob and give it a good crank, because, you know, why not?  After I’ve played defense against potential third-degree burns and soap spills the size of Kansas, she hops down from the stool at the sink to dry her hands, at which point, I usually take a breath, confident that no more disasters will befall us, what with the process reaching its conclusion.

Of course, we do still need to pull up her underwear.  This is only mildly challenging.  By which I mean, if not for my remedies, her “Big girl panties!” as she proudly calls them would remain in a twisted clump, stuck, somehow, on the bottom half of her butt cheeks.

Now the best part:  We race out into the living room to tell daddy.  She charges to the front of the house, careening out of the hallway to slide joyfully into a teetering, pre-celebratory-dance-stance in front of her father, grinning up at him in anticipation.

He’ll gasp, exaggeratedly, asking her the million dollar question:

“Did you pee-pee on the potty?!?!?!?”

“Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyy!” she’ll exclaim in response, leaping and spinning to and fro, stomping and jumping, laughing and squealing.

If I could get even the tiniest fraction of the amount of excited Shay gets when she rushes to tell daddy that she pee-peed on the potty, I have a feeling my days would be exponentially more thrilling.

But none of this changes the fact that though she literally zooms through the house to exuberantly share the news of her successful toilet adventures with her father, she has apparently decided that he is completely and utterly unqualified to help her himself.  She doesn’t tell him when she has to go.  If he asks her, she says no, often peeing herself thirty seconds to a minute later.  If I’m in the house and offer to allow daddy to help us in place of me?  World War Shriek.

I understand, of course.  She must realize that I have a doctorate degree in literacy.  Thus, I am clearly the superior choice to assist with pulling down panties, preventing the unrolling of the entire remainder of the toilet paper, and, of course, verifying that the pee pee is indeed yellow.

What can I say?  A mother’s work is never done.


J. Lynn M. McFadden loves her beautiful daughters, Kaliah and Shaylin, and amazing husband, Rashieme.  Despite her family’s support, she remains addicted to potato chips.  To offset her addiction, J. Lynn pretends to enjoy jogging, which she does between teaching English, parenting, and writing about everyday chaos.  Though she burst onto the literary scene at the tender age of nine when a local newspaper published her epic poem, “The Christmas Tree Mystery,” J. Lynn is proud that this piece marks her first creative publication in a few decades. Here’s hoping Shaylin won’t need too much therapy. Follow J. Lynn: https://www.facebook.com/JLynnMMcFadden

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