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News & Features » August 2016 » “Driving Us Potty: When to Accept that the Training is Not Working” by Erica Barlow

“Driving Us Potty: When to Accept that the Training is Not Working” by Erica Barlow

Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.

This week, Erica Barlow recounts a unique life lesson.

EricaBarlowDriving Us Potty: When to Accept that the Training is Not Working
by Erica Barlow
Two and a half

Potty training. So.

I’d read the guides, the going-totally-commando versus the wearing-of-undies, and decided to do a bit of both, figuring that I’d be much happier to have my son’s bare little ass out at home with our uncarpeted floor, but contain at least major mess while out and about. It seemed like a fair compromise. I also thought that he’d relish the wearing of new “grown-up” Thomas undies, just like all the scripture had said he would.

The verdict? Well, he did enjoy the grandeur of the maturer undergarment, and being explained the use of the “big boy” potty. He even loved the embarrassing app I’d specially downloaded, playing the little game on it and dancing to its ridiculous song. Compliance seemed to be on the horizon.

And yet.

All the talk of being a big boy cannot magic Pavlovian pee/poo responses out of a child. The potty was regularly sat upon, and yet every pee happened within minutes of his being removed from it. Put him on for longer? Tried it, failed it. The undies were loved to the extent that he wanted to put four pairs on at once, or otherwise wear them in—I have to admit it—a unique way:



SCENE ONE: In the lounge.

(We are attempting to dress son for his first trip outdoors. A feeling of slight unease pervades the room, at least for Husband and Me. Son has just returned from another fruitless potty trip, naked except for his pants.)

Son: Mummy.

Me: Yes?

Son: Mum-my.

Me: Yes?

Son: I ready go.

(Husband and I look at him, back at each other, back at him.)

Me: They’re on your head.

Husband: With the legholes as eyeholes. Nice.

(All of this is true, plus his hair is sticking out of the holes at mad angles, like a cluster of rabid eyelashes trying to escape. The waistline, as it were, cuts across the bottom half of his face, past the top-lip level, showcasing the bottom row of tiny, gnashing teeth.)

Me: And you’re naked with your junk jangling about.

(Also true. Son repeats the “I ready go” line a couple more times, seeing that it gets the desired—amused—reaction, and starts marching up and down on the rug. Husband commits this memory to his iPhone camera, not sure when he could ever use this footage, but certain that it must anyway be recorded.)


The scheduled trip to the playground is equally (un)successful.  Every five minutes we take him to the bushes, only to have nothing produced until a minute later, when his pants and shorts are back on.


SCENE TWO: At the playground.

Son: Never mind.

Me: What? (Sees son looking down prodding crotch with his finger.) Oh . . . have you just . . .

Son: Did it. Did it!! Never mind, Mummy.


And he fared no better at daycare three days later. Sure enough, Daycare Lady, a toddler whisperer with four grown-up sons of her own, struggled equally. At 2:00 p.m. of his first day trying this with her, I finally, wincingly, mustered the courage to text the deadly question of how it’s going, to be met with:

100% accidents, despite taking him every 10–15. Going to need nappy this pm—trip to see Santa. Am sure you understand why.

This is only day five, I told myself. Day six is another day! And so is day seven! But, you guessed it, the situation remained the same whether at daycare or at home. Not one single potty-bound wee; the poos materialized only when he was asleep and—thankfully? Dare I say it?—wearing a nappy.

Doesn’t seem to be getting it, does he? I text Daycare Lady. Not wishing a mountain to become a molehill, I add:


Am met with


and so retreat—not without relief, I must add—to the nappy drawer once again. For now.


ERICA BARLOW is an English expat who, having had enough of SAD, settled for the warmer shores/better coffee of Sydney, Australia, four years ago. Now mum to two-year-old Anton and baby Nuria, she divides her time between writing, teaching English, and hanging out with her small family. She rarely gets time to relax, but if she did, she wouldn’t have half as much to write about. Click here to check out her book, a poem and illustrations all by Erica, which takes a fond and funny look at the trials of pregnancy and beyond. And also check out her blog, originally published on Blogger, where you can subscribe to receiving her content as a weekly email. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Aug 9, 2016

Category: Original Fiction, Terrible Twosdays | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,