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Potty Training in Public Restrooms Is a Special Kind of Hell

Photograph by Twenty20

I remember all too well the days of potty training my kiddos. I felt like a prisoner in my own home because it was so much easier to let my kids run around in their underwear or Pull-Ups, and have the toddler potty seat out where they could access it, then to be out in public weathering the inconvenience of trying to get toddlers to use a public restroom.

We all know potty training isn't for the faint of heart. Our kids fight us every damn time we ask them if they have to go to the bathroom, as they stand there with a full bladder, crossing their legs unable to move because they are trying to hold in their urine or poo.

They also go through about 10 pairs of underwear a day because you want them to know you believe in them and you show that by letting them wear undies instead of a diapers.

But going out in public, or the hell known as taking a car trip with a child who is potty training, is a special kind of torture. We stand there with them in a stall for 20 minutes waiting for them to go so they don't mess up their car seat.

While standing in line waiting for the bathroom at a local fast food joint the other day, two women kept talking very loudly about another lady who was in the bathroom stall with her child, obviously in the depths of potty training. While I realize they had to go and were probably uncomfortable, other stalls opened up pretty quickly. But their passive-aggressive comments wouldn't stop, even after they had used the bathroom.

Women brave enough to leave their house with a child who is potty training deserve support and patience for the sweat and tears they pour into that task.

I'm sure the woman trying to help her daughter use the bathroom could hear the comments the other ladies were making. "I don't know what's going on in there, but she's been in there with her for a really long time," one woman said to the other. "Well, the child obviously doesn't have to go. They are just making everyone else wait."

They were hemming and hawing so much they didn't even notice the stall next to them had opened up. When it did, I couldn't take it anymore. I was about to bust. I had to speak up. "Oh, looks like that one over there is free, so you don't have to wait any longer!" I said.

After the women finished using the bathroom, the commentary still wouldn't stop, so I chimed in again as I was washing my hands. "Potty training a child when you are in a public place is really, really challenging," I said. "They are both doing a great job." That was their cue to exit.

Back in my car, as I sipped on my Diet Coke and ate my french fries, I saw the mother and toddler walk out of the fast-food restaurant looking spent. Their car had New York license plates and New York was five hours away from where we were.

Women brave enough to leave their house with a child who is potty training deserve support and patience for the sweat and tears they pour into that task. Parents know it takes a long time to potty train. We know it might inconvenience others, but we do the best we can. No one should make negative comments about these efforts.

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