Pottying at Preschool: When Honesty is the Second-Best Policy

On Thursday Drew begins preschool. It is a lovely preschool and he has a lovely teacher who has lovely dimples. The (lovely) doorknobs on his classroom doors are brass with an actual keyhole, like keyholes in movies where mice are always peeking through to spot blocks of cheese. I might have chosen this preschool for its romantic hardware, and I’m only partially kidding. You can trust a place that has taught numbers, shapes, blocks and Bible stories ever since Hitler marched across Europe.

I agree it’s reasonable for this school to have a potty-trained policy for their three-year-old class. If this has been the policy for 70 years, then I’m sure it must be somehow American, if not biblical. “We will offer any help your child might need to use the bathroom, but we like for them to take the initiative and go on their own,” explained Drew’s teacher, who I will call Miss D, for Dimples.

Here is where I face my great dilemma. Will I tell Miss D that Drew does not yet poop in the potty? There. I said it. I admitted it, to you at least, proving that I am not only honest, but willing to beat a blog topic to death with a blunt instrument.

What does “potty-trained” really mean anyway? If a toilet flushes in the forest, will it even make a sound?

I met Miss D at the parent orientation night last week. Gordon and I were the only bozos who brought our children, and Gordon oversaw Drew playing with dinosaurs in the corner as he held Madeline, who thankfully found the corner of her blanket to suck. Feeling one step behind already, I tried to make confident, encouraging eye contact with Miss D during her introduction to show that I am on top of things, and that I value orderliness, rule-following and above all, EYE CONTACT. I tried to send subliminal messages about how wonderful my child is, and how much she’s going to like him — even wish to emulate aspects of his character — and how she should want to be my best friend too. I think she absorbed it. Or now feels I should lay off the caffeine.

But when time came for room moms to volunteer themselves, I cowered. I could feel Miss D’s gentle eyes scanning the room, looking for that woman who would organize and execute baking events and organize the organization of the organized organizers, or some such organizing. Us moms were seated like frogs with our knees jutting out in abrupt angles because of the tiny chairs. One woman raised her hand and I began to hate her. I wanted to raise my hand too as if to trump an auction bid, but I didn’t, and my eye contact never recovered.

“What did you tell Drew’s teacher?” asked my friend Laura when I told her about the potty-training policy. Sweet Laura, always assuming the best about my integrity.

“Well, I didn’t exactly mention it,” I said. “But I figure he’s got the pee thing down and he is capable of holding the other one in for long periods. If I just tell him he can’t poop at school…don’t you think that might work?”

“Sure,” said Laura.

Of course it will work. But…what if it doesn’t?

Should I risk being asked to withdraw my son?

Should I say, for instance, that I have tried the following tactics to no avail?
1. Cold-turkey diaper quitting
2. Sticker charts
3. Potty books
4. Toy incentives
5. Candy incentives
6. Ice cream incentives
7. Praise and worship
8. Videos
9. Play potties
10. Doll potties
11. Potty seats
12. Withholding of Caillou
13. Withholding of Wii
14. Withholding of ice cream
15. “Practicing” on the potty
16. Allowing him to observe mommy and daddy
17. Allowing him to observe all manner of defecation anywhere it might present itself as an object lesson in how poop isn’t inherently frightening.
18. Emotional manipulation (Crying at 6 a.m. as I’m wiping him because “It makes mommy sad when you poop on the floor.”)
19. Resignation, silence
20. Yelling (not proud of this)
21. Nonchalance (my doctor’s one recommendation)
22. Suppositories
23. Grandparents
24. Peer pressure
25. Playing psychologist
26. Prayer

Potty training Drew might just not be in the cards, but I don’t think that should hold him back academically. We can and will find ways around it, or we’ll just slip in under the radar in classes like Miss D’s. Drew will live an alternative lifestyle of sorts, dodging sports like swimming, avoiding careers like sales, and shying away from kilts. He’ll find an un-potty trained woman to date later in life and they will have an interesting time on road trips. One day, Texas will allow them to marry. Then they will settle down in a 20s bungalow with a housetrained cat, just so they’ll have something ironic to make small talk about at church picnics. I believe these dreams are possible.

But for now I will focus on being a helpful, happy ally of Miss D. And not feed Drew fiber on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays.

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If you liked this post, you might also like:
1. Romancing the Throne: Married and Potty Training
2. Suppository Avoidance and the Big Braum’s Tease

8 Comments to “Pottying at Preschool: When Honesty is the Second-Best Policy”
  1. Jim Rhodes says:

    Good luck and God bless you. Things will work out. (no pun intended)

  2. Christi says:

    ahaha! Very funny Julie! I laugh as a preschool DIRECTOR (!!) knowing these very angst I bestow on my own parents. 😉 Not sure how to rectify the situation because, as you said, it has and will be the standard .. almost biblical … and its hard to get around it BUT knowing that they don’t graduate high school it does work itself out – with usually not having to be kicked out of preschool. =) Anyways, thanks for the honesty and sharing from the parent’s perspective!

    • Julie Rhodes says:

      Ha! Thanks Christi! We parents DO appreciate all you directors do to create wonderful environments for our children…even if it means massive insecurity and hand-wringing in August ;).

  3. Karen says:


    Last week, our kids started AWANA and our daughter didn’t know she could ask to go to the bathroom. After holding it for a really long time (for a preschooler), she said it felt so good to just go, while the teacher was teaching the Bible story and she was sitting on the ground with the rest of the class.

    “Wasn’t there a big puddle?” I asked, trying not to be too embarrassed.

    “Oh no, Mama,” she replied authoritatively. “God made my potty disappear into the carpet.”

    Good job, God. And my AWANA secret remains.

    Good times,

  4. Amy says:

    I can so relate as my 3.5 year old took FOREVER to learn to poop on the potty. He just became accomplished at this mere weeks ago so now that he started preschool I don’t worry – I was terrified over the summer that he wouldn’t get it by the time school started and he would be kicked out! But since he had the pee thing down last December and still couldn’t get the pooping after 8 months, I was beginning to think he would never get fully potty-trained. I too tried all the tactics you have tried. What finally worked was making him sit on the potty for a full five minutes after peeing, three times a day in hopes of catching a poop. It started working and then we offered a prize if he could have no pooping in his pants for 7 days straight. He did (and pooped in his pants on the 8th day!) but then got back on track. He’s now been fully trained since mid-August. So, it will happen! Love your stories seeing as my son is just about the same age 🙂

    • Julie Rhodes says:

      Thanks Amy! Love how he held out until day 8 — that sounds JUST like something Drew would do. And after a full 8 months of successful number one’s? You’ve given me hope. Lots and lots of hope.

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