Note to self: Remember to take my own advice! (And some public bathroom potty training advice for everyone)

coffee cup

Just a week ago, I was standing in front of a group of moms at a Potty Class rattling off my list of public bathroom tips.  So how did I, during a recent outing, end up with pee in my coffee cup?  In short, my 27-month-old daughter has been so good at using the potty, for months on-end now, that I started taking it for granted.  I forgot all of the little things I used to do to make everything smoother.  I got into the habit of just walking out the door and not thinking about it any further.

Public bathrooms have never been easy to navigate with a potty training child.  Young kids take EVERYTHING in, and there are new lights, noises, people, and even spaces, to deal with.  It can feel overwhelming.  If you have a child who *hates* loud noises, these bathrooms can be a nightmare, with all of the hand dryers, toilets flushing in stalls next to you and…. The dreaded AUTO-FLUSHER.

Now, to the adventure in question: lunch with daddy.  Notice all of the mistakes here.  Didn't pee before leaving, so midway through lunch it was potty time.  Sit on the big potty, and THEN, I notice the autoflusher; I have nothing to cover the sensor up.  As luck would have it, this was a flusher gone haywire.  The flushing begins.  FLUSH. FLUSH. FLUSH. FLUSH.  4 LOUD flushes before I can get her up.  At this point, my terrified toddler did not yet pee and now will not sit.  We tried everything, but already, NO public bathroom was ok.  With no travel potty along, we decided to head back home, in L.A. traffic.  Halfway home, I hear the calls of “need to REALLY peepee!” from the backseat.  Pull over, and look around for any container to use.  Aha – my coffee cup that I was drinking on the way over.  Definitely not ideal, but better than pee in the carseat or on the car floor.

We made it home without an “accident” but the residue of this experience and its drama is still with us a few days later.  Sometimes accidents aren’t about pee in the floor (or the car) but what the experience was like for us and our kids.  I will not be taking outings for granted again any time soon!

As a reminder for myself and for other potty-training families, here’s are some public bathroom suggestions:

  1. Bring a travel potty!  This can be used in public bathrooms to make them more familiar and less scary.  They are also great to allow you to “pee together” which can help kids who have trepidation about the public bathroom.  When you think your child needs to pee, if they don’t want to go, you can “announce” that you have to go, casually put the potty out, and invite them to sit when they’re ready.  You can see my travel potty recommendations here.
  2. Pee before you go! Failing that, ALWAYS show your child where the bathroom is when you get there.  Showing them reminds them that bathrooms exist outside the home, AND can often remind kids that they need to pee.  If you sense they need to go, a casual “Hey, let’s go check it out!” – making it “interesting and exciting” rather than “new and scary” can do wonders.
  3. Bring post-its to cover up autoflusher sensors! Public bathroom toilets tend to be LOUD.  Even if your child is not sitting on it, it can be scary.  Covering up the sensor alleviates this issue.  Post-its are easy to put in your purse or diaper bag (but if you get to a point where you no longer use a diaper bag – remember to transfer them over!).
  4. Have a backup plan. If the public bathroom, travel potty or not, is just too overwhelming, then have another option.  If you’re driving, have alternatives in the car.  A travel potty in the car is a GREAT option.  Another good one is a disposable cup, which is SUPER portable.  Get creative!

Remember that even kids who have been trained for a while can have “off days” or that you might just encounter a situation that is out of the norm.  Even when you’ve been at this for a while, it is a good idea to have lots of backup support for both you and your child if troubles arise.  You can avoid a lot of unnecessary drama - and hopefully never have to end up using a real cup as a potty, like me.

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