Care and Feeding

Potty Training Is Driving Us Crazy

Our daughter’s school thinks it’s a great day when she doesn’t cry after peeing. Yikes!

Photo illustration of staggered legs with a training potty between the feet.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Email careandfeeding@slate.com or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

At the gentle encouragement of our 3 ½-year-old daughter’s day care teachers, we have been nudging her toward potty training, despite the fact that she has zero interest in it. She knows when she has to go, she can control it, and she’s interested in potty matters. But she is perfectly happy in her Pull-Ups. With an enormous amount of encouragement she has peed on the toilet maybe 15 times at day care, and a whopping one time—ever—at home. She wears underwear, but we go with Pull-Ups for naptime, bedtime, long periods away from home, and pooping.

She seems increasingly anxious about it, especially at home, where lately she doesn’t even want to sit on the potty. (We have the same seat she uses at school, and she doesn’t seem afraid of the toilet itself.) For a while, she would burst into tears after releasing at school. We now get notes from school extolling what a great day she had because she didn’t cry while peeing. I guess it’s good to celebrate any progress, but yikes! She is not generally an anxious or unhappy kid (so far!) but this is clearly just not a happy experience for her. She’s the last kid in her class not to be fully trained. Should we keep plugging away, or push back against the school’s (understandable!) pressure and wait until she shows more enthusiasm? Do we need to go cold turkey and do one of those pants-free weekends at home? (I can’t even imagine her pooping on the toilet.) Help!

—Toddler Toilet Trauma

Dear TTT,

How upsetting for all of you! Everyone with a kid who potty-trains late invariably feels like their child will still be in Pull-Ups when they vote in their first election. If your daughter is otherwise developmentally normal (and also not constipated and does not have a UTI, please go ask your pediatrician for reassurance on these points!) then it’s very likely to be Just One of Those Things, and my advice would be to press pause on the whole process for one calendar month and then try again.

A month is an eternity to a toddler. When you go back in, the message is, “It was tricky and a little scary before, but now you’re a bigger girl!” Three and a half is late, but not SUPER late (if she were a boy, it would be even more common), and I think it’s key not to let her pick up on your own anxiety around it.

Ideally, I would like you to ask her day care teachers to support you in one more month of diapers/Pull-Ups, but if their policy is to be potty-exclusive, well, it sounds like home is a greater source of potty anxiety for her right now anyway.

When you do go back in, I think preparing for a three-day weekend of no pants and lots of fluids and M&Ms for successful potty-usage is probably a great plan. Talk to her about it in the days before, get her stoked to show off, etc. It’s going to be OK!

• If you missed Wednesday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here.

• Discuss this column in the Slate Parenting Facebook group!

Dear Care and Feeding,

My partner and I have two children, ages 8 and 11, and I am starting to question our bedtime routine. After moving to a different home several years ago, my partner and I started lying down with the kids until they fell asleep (both went to bed on their own prior to the move).

My partner and I work several jobs, and bedtime is sometimes the only bonding time we have with the kids. But as the years have passed and the kids continue to ask for us to get into bed with them, I am starting to worry. Are we setting them up to be unable to sleep alone as adults? Is this something they will look back on and this was odd? Both kids want to be holding our hand or having their back scratched in order to sleep.
Do we need to stop this routine?

—Unsure

Dear Unsure,

I do not think this is a particularly big deal in otherwise secure and loved children, but 8 and 11 is really a bit old for needing to be physically touched by a parent to fall asleep. I don’t think this is at all likely to result in any kind of adult dysfunction for them (and I strongly suspect that the onset of puberty is about to put a stop to this in just another year or two) but it’s probably still a good idea to begin to fade this out.

I must admit my heart was a little tugged by “bedtime is sometimes the only bonding time we have with the kids,” which is not ideal. I trust that you understand your own limitations and responsibilities, but if you do start fading back on bedtime hand-holding/scratching (which I recommend), I would like you to do your damndest to find a way to transfer that precious time with your kids to somewhere else in your day. I think they need more of you than they are getting.

In terms of the mechanics of fading this behavior, I would simply take the amount of time you usually stay while they fall asleep (10 minutes? 15?) and get in the habit of leaving at the 10-minute mark, then later at the seven-minute mark, etc., until eventually you are tucking them in, kissing them, and leaving.

Please keep me posted on this one.

Dear Care and Feeding,

This past holiday season we were invited to a “Friendsgiving” party with close family friends. We were invited to stay overnight with our four young children. There was a total of 10 children total in the home—all ages 7 and under. So, a lot of kids.

I am all about having a fun, relaxing time but I think things were taken too far and my friends just don’t understand. The question relates to edibles.

At one point in the night the host wife, “Broomhilda,” brought up the idea of doing edibles and said she had edibles in the home. I immediately objected. I am a lawyer and marijuana is illegal in the state I live in. My husband is active-duty military and subject to periodic drug tests. Also, I do not like drugs. I just don’t. The idea was surprising and completely unexpected. I told Broomhilda in very clear language that I did not want to do edibles, and that I was very uncomfortable even discussing the idea with my children in the home. Broomhilda spent the night pestering me for information about my job and why I could not be around the activity in addition to indicating she would just do the edibles and hide it from me (problem solved!). Later in the night, when Broomhilda realized I was upset and uncomfortable after hours of drunk pestering, the story was changed to “I don’t have edibles—I just know where to get them.”

My husband and I are convinced Broomhilda did the edibles based on very clear conversations we overheard between her and her husband, and her strange, erratic behavior (changing music every five seconds, talking over guests, laughing uncontrollably). But really it doesn’t matter.
Even if she didn’t do any edibles that night, I think her behavior was wrong and disrespectful.

When I told Broomhilda the next day that I did not appreciate the surprise proposal, and that I thought it was irresponsible and disrespectful to ignore my requests to stop discussing, I was told I was “mean and nasty” for objecting and being upset the night before. I don’t know what to do. The friendship has basically ended, but as we have a close circle of friends it’s bound to affect other friendships (it already has). She’s been adamant with other friends that she didn’t do drugs and that I basically can’t take a joke. This wasn’t a joke, and I don’t want to apologize.

I’m 35 and don’t feel like I should have to be around things that are illegal and make me uncomfortable, and I should be able to control the environment my children are in. If Broomhilda had anticipated this type of activity, she could have communicated the idea to the guests beforehand. I know I am a little bit of a prude and a lot of people, including parents, do recreational marijuana in their homes. I don’t care what Broomhilda does in her free time. I just don’t want to be cornered and pestered and peer-pressured around my friends and family like I am at a bad high school party.

Normally I would have left and just gone home but I had three glasses of wine (over several hours), and a history of DUI deaths in my family makes me very hesitant to drive even after a single drink. I just don’t do it. Broomhilda knows that. Basically, we were trapped in the home of our host. Broomhilda had been drinking since noon (the party started at 5).

—Uncool

Dear Uncool,

I think this was a real perfect storm of less-than-fantastic behavior. Once the kids are in bed, there’s not a big difference, honestly, between three glasses of wine and an edible; I think if you are offered the latter in someone else’s home and do not wish to partake, “No thanks” is a perfectly sufficient and correct response.

It sounds like “Broomhilda” (I am guessing you were not fond of this woman before spending this time with her, based on this choice of name?) got her back up ridiculously about the whole thing. I would have demurred more politely than you did—“immediately objected” seems like an unnecessary and aggressive response—but she absolutely should have said “Oh, OK then,” and moved on with her evening. An evening in which she could certainly have taken an edible and not felt the need to hide it from you. You seem to go back and forth a bit about whether it was OK for her to take soft drugs in her own home after the kids were tucked into bed for the night.
(It was.)

I think there were overreactions all around, and since you are content to have this relationship end, the situation can likely fade out from here. I would not feel the need to apologize at this point if I were you, although I certainly would if she contacted me to say that she was sorry for continuing to bring it up all evening, because that would suggest a genuine wish to move forward.

Opinions may vary, but I do not think it’s reasonable to expect that an invitation should include a warning that you may, at some point, be offered an edible. This is 2019. That’s my etiquette ruling. That being said, if Broomhilda had written a letter to me, I would have read her the riot act for hassling you about it, however rudely your refusal may have been phrased.

As for your mutual friends: They should now be pretty well-aware that you are less Shaggy and more Daphne in these scenarios, and I do not expect this will come up again.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My 10-year-old goes to sleep in his bed but wakes up on the floor 4–5 nights a week. He says he doesn’t remember moving to the (carpeted) floor but will always have his blanket on him. He uses a pillow but that stays on the bed.

If I move him to his bed in the middle of the night he still ends up on the floor by morning. He sleeps fine and it has become a regular part of our routine but I thought he would have grown out this by now. It doesn’t happen when we are on vacation, only in his room. He in no way minds this and has no desire to change.

My wife and I always joke about him as an adult sleeping on the floor but now I’m starting to think it’s a possibility. Should we intervene? Tuck the sheet in tight? Some kind of bed bumper? Or just let him be to sleep how he wants?

—How Will This Look on His Honeymoon?

Dear HWTLoHH?

This is not a problem. Let’s not make it one!

—Nicole

Ask a Teacher

“Do you have a recommendation for a way my 6-year-old can honor Martin Luther King Jr. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day? Last year, my child had school, and the school had a Parade of Nations. Excellent! This year, my child has the day off. I believe it should be a day of service or a day to reflect on Dr. King’s teachings. What are some things that we can do without getting too deep so early?