Parenting traps

The last diaper

Potty training is a watershed moment -- and the start of something new.

By C.J. Kaplan
February 14, 2010

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For the first 30 years of my life, I changed exactly zero dirty diapers. For the last 10, I changed roughly 4,000, and my wife probably changed four or five times as many. Then, recently, the youngest of our three children was finally potty trained. Ten years of padding the retirement funds of the good people at Pampers was finally over.

While you’re in diaper mode, it feels as if it will never end. But most kids potty train around the age of 3, says Dedham pediatrician Dr. Michael Shusterman, and patience is the name of the game. “Don’t make it a power struggle,” he says. “Instead, watch your child for cues and provide positive reinforcement for successful trips to the potty.”

Like many girls, our oldest was a piece of cake. She woke one morning a few months before her third birthday and declared that she was going to wear “big girl underwear.” Just like that, she was done. Our boys, however, paid us back with interest. Both of them had to be dragged into the bathroom and cajoled with promises of presents and special treats. Our middle boy would only sit on the potty if he could listen to ’70s-era country music. To this day, every time “Rhinestone Cowboy” comes on the car radio, I involuntarily check the back seat.

Now our changing table has been re-purposed. Wipes are now used only for hands. And the optimistically named Diaper Champ has been KO’d. (Truth be told, the Diaper Champ may have retained the title for holding capacity, but the battle for odor containment was a split decision, at best -- come to think of it, those two things may be related.)

After the last diapers went out with the trash, I had the sense that something had shifted. We’d reached a watershed moment in our family. If this past decade was about raising babies, the next one will be all about teenage angst, driver’s licenses, and trying to find a way to pay for college.

But we have a head start on that last one. Based on my calculations, we’re already saving thousands on diapers.

Is potty training the end of babyhood, or is there a more important milestone?