Sometime about a year and a half ago, I morphed from a normal person who politely excuses herself from social exchanges in order to use the restroom, to a person who unabashedly and flippantly proclaims to everyone within earshot that “I’M GONNA GO POTTY.” It’s normal in my mom groups. You tell your kid, “Hey sweetie, I’m gonna go potty, I’ll be right back. You play here with your friends. See you soon.” Obviously this negates the need to turn to your mom friend and tell her that you are going to use the restroom or bathroom. What is she, stupid? No. Gradually, the terms restroom and bathroom fade from your vocabulary except for when you have to clean one. There are good reasons for announcing your intent to go potty.
Modeling: Your kid needs to know that everyone goes potty and they do it in the toilet. Soon enough (or not soon enough) they will be in full-blown potty training mode. Simply saying I’m going to the bathroom or restroom might just be mysterious at first and they won’t know what you’re actually doing in there.
Comfort: If you just disappear from the room with no announcement, especially if you are somewhere unfamiliar, your kid (Calvin) might (will) begin screaming maniacally, thinking he has been heartlessly left behind while I leave the house. Or, he might work himself up to panic mode by repeating "Where did Mommy go?" over and over, faster and faster. Explaining your absence as going potty makes perfect sense. Mom will be back in about a minute. She's doing something she often does. Nothing unusual about it. It comforts.
Yesterday while the boys were napping and Brian and I were talking in the living room, I left, absent-mindedly announcing, “Be right back. I’m gonna go potty.” The awesome thing about it is that he didn’t even notice and I didn’t draw his attention to it. I instead mulled this potty phenomenon over in my head and decided to write about it.
The potty policy is actually an example of language shifts that parents make (or should make) based on their audience. Around the boys we try not to use certain words or talk badly about people. Of course that’s not always the way things go down. I was disappointed the other day when Cal started thundering, “STUPID TUNA!” at the tuna he couldn’t get onto his spoon. Oops. I’m sure there will be more exciting first words, but I’d like to put them off as long as I can.
I change the way I talk when I’m exclusively around adults, and since that is not often, I find myself wincing when I say things I used to always say, like “that sucks” or “frickin” or various other soft swear(ish) words. (Call it potty talk… boo-ya!) Who wants a two year-old yelling that he wants his frickin’ train at a playdate? Talk about wilting in embarrassment. The alternative to this is pausing and silently mouthing, when appropriate, a swear word while talking to a mommy friend and slicing hot dogs and serving mac and cheese to the wee ones. If you don’t, mark my words, they will hear whatever word it is and repeat it, as they do with most new words they hear. Should this happen, whatever you do, don’t freak out and tell your kid to never say that word, it is not a nice word, blah, blah, blah. If your kid is anything like mine, they will enjoy the reaction and try the word out over and over and you’ll feel you’ve paid your penance and then some. Not that I know from experience.
I am going to try to tone down the “going potty” and try out the “going to the bathroom” approach to see what happens now that my boys have no doubt in their minds what happens in a bathroom, and continue to keep the potty talk on hold. What’s the opposite of a potty-mouth? Flower-mouth? I’ll keep trying to be that.