We are driving up to my mothers. Looking up at the rearview mirror, I glance at Sophie who is wearing a thoughtful look on her face.
“Does grandma have a pink potty just for me?”
I try to remain casual. Any investment on my part in tone or facial expression is enough to incite rebellion, “Why, yes. Yes, I believe she does.”
“I think I want to go pee pee on that pink potty.”
I try to sound bored. “That sounds like a good idea.” And it was. An excellent idea, really. The best idea I had heard all day. The problem was, we were still about a half hour away from grandma’s. “The thing is, Sophie, you have to hold in your pee until we get to grandma’s house.”
“I will hold it,” Sophia is quick to assure me.
The word of a two year old is not enough for me. She needs some coaching on this one. I explain, “You’ve got to squeeze your muscles that hold in the pee.”
Sophie clenches her fists and squinches up her face real tight. “That’s it.” I tell her. “Keep doing that. Hold it in.”
A half an hour later, we pull into my mother’s driveway. My mom greets us at the car. My poker face belies the great yellow hope I am holding onto. “Mom,” I say, Buddha-like in demeanor, “it’s not a national emergency, but Sophia told me that she’d like to pee in your pink potty.” My mother catches my drift. She helps Sophie out of the car and up to the bathroom while I get our gear and follow them in. I can hear the thin stream hit the bottom of the plastic bowl before I see them. My mother is beaming. Sophie looks surprised.
“I did it!”
“You did!” My mother and I explode in unison. “Let’s do a potty dance!” I suggest, and we pony around the bathroom as Sophie watches, bewildered. I get the sense that this is an insufficient reward. So, we clap and congratulate her and marvel at the product of her efforts. Mom wipes her, pours the urine into the toilet and Sophie flushes it with great élan.
Let’s pause to take stock of what happened here:
• She knew she had to go to the bathroom
• She communicated that she had to go to the bathroom before she went
• She held it in for 30 minutes
• She peed in the toilet and appeared to feel proud of her accomplishment
Seems to me, the kid gets it. What more is there to grasp, really?
But then, she refuses to go the rest of the weekend.
A week passes, and though I routinely suggest the potty, I am routinely rebuffed. I decide that, perhaps, it’s time to pull out the big guns and get some Big Girl Underwear. So, on a night that Kevin has to work late, Sophie and I head over to the mall for a shopping expedition. We find the holy grail of panties. They are pink (“Pink and blue are my favorite colors!”) and they have a picture of a kitty on the front. (“I love little kitties!”) Not Hello Kitty! But some generic pussy cat strategically curled up you-know-where. A little inappropriate, I admit, but high fashion in the eyes of my toddler. We got a matching lunchbox and sweater, because you need to match your panties to your clothing and accessories when you are two. Damn Gymboree and their Gymbucks.
The next day, we are both jazzed about the panties. They are all the rage over breakfast. We talk about how we’ll try them out this afternoon (we were seeing a play that morning—not the venue I wanted to take Sophie for a diaper-free test drive) and we’ll show them to Daddy that night.
We see the play and stop off at a florist on the way home. Sophie announces, “I’ve got to go to the potty. Do they have a potty here?” The florist emerges from the backroom. She has a young child. She understands the import and time-sensitivity of this request. “You can use the bathroom upstairs,” she tells me. Again, I remind Sophie to hold it until we make it up to the bathroom. She takes off her diaper, and it’s dry as a bone. I hold her over the toilet, and to my great surprise, she pees. Once we are back downstairs she shares her success with the florist, who gives her a flower to celebrate the event.
We both leave, happy. I tell Sophie that she did a great job telling me she had to go to the bathroom and holding it until we got there. I tell her I think she is ready for the pink kitty underwear. We are giddy with excitement. We get home, tear off the (still dry) diaper, and Sophie dons the panties. She lifts her dress so I can get a photographic record of this great leap for Sophie-kind. We text Daddy the photo. I remind her that if she needs to pee, all she has to do is let me know, and I’ll take her to the potty. She nods.
I decide to make a picnic lunch, figuring if she has an accident, at least it will be outside. We have a lovely time and after Sophie has eaten her salmon salad sandwich and about forty grapes she stands up, half way.
Wait a second. Is she squatting?
Her face turns red. Her eyes get watery. And then she sports a beatific smile. “I made a poop in my panties.”