THE transition from disposable diapers to cloth underwear is a big leap for every child. While most children will achieve full control of the bladder and bowels in the waking hours by the time they are four years old, it is almost guaranteed that they will have a few hiccups along the way. Consultant paediatrician Dr Anona Griffith recommends that parents wait until their child displays signs of readiness before trying to potty train the child. These include being physically developed enough to control body functions, curiosity when someone else is using the toilet, willingness to sit still, and ability to communicate effectively with parents. But even in children who have been trained, accidents will happen. And although most of these happen in the home where you are fully equipped to handle them, others will surprise — and humble — you in public.
Below, a few parents share moments during which they wished the earth would swallow them up, just so they could escape the embarrassment of little bathroom accidents that didn't happen in the bathroom.
Sherine, 29, executive assistant:
My daughter was about two and a half, and she was doing very well in the toilet training area. One day I was leaving home to go on the road with her and I asked her if she needed use the bathroom, and she said no. I put her on the toilet and she scooted off without doing anything. By the time we walked out to the road and got to the taxi stand she started tapping on my leg saying, “Mommy, pee pee.” I asked her if she could hold it a few minutes but she started crying “pee pee” and making a scene. I had to just let her bend down and 'go' behind a tree.
Laura, 24, field researcher:
My son was potty training and learning to talk at the same time, so I tried to teach him the word 'defecate', because I think 'doo doo' is silly. His father heard me teaching him one day and jokingly said,“Stop tying up his tongue with big words. The right word is 'sh*t',” and my son repeated it immediately. That Sunday he kept shouting it at church for all to hear.
Charra, 28, stay-at- home mom:
My son had an accident in a JUTC bus one day — a very smelly, runny accident. He was about four and was fully potty trained, so he wasn't wearing diapers. He cried from embarrassment, and I wanted to cry too, because everyone complained about the smell for the rest of the journey. I told him that we all have accidents sometimes, but he still doesn't like going on those buses to this day.
Shauna, 32, PR agent:
I never had any really bad accidents in public that were hard to handle, but what was embarrassing was being out in public and being annoyed by a child, who I know did not really want to use the bathroom, crying “Mommy, wah pee pee!” She did it just for attention but people always looked at us funny when I told her firmly that she didn't really want to go. Sometimes I believed her and rushed to the nasty public bathrooms and it was always false alarms.
Jhana, 34, entrepreneur:
When I was potty training my son I used to let him walk around the house without diapers on weekends, just to get used to the sensation. My husband's parents came over uninvited one day and I was really busy, so I didn't bother to put anything on him. So there I was trying to make the dinner perfect so my mother-in-law wouldn't find any faults, and my son decided to urinate on her shoes. She threw a fit and it was kind of embarrassing, but deep down I found it hilarious.
Mark, 31, team manager:
My son let out a big one when he was about two; he had on a diaper, but it couldn't hold all of it. To make it worse, he didn't want to stay still for me to clean it up (we were inside my car). It got on my clothes and the car seat. He is the lucky one, because there is always a change of clothes in his bag, but I didn't have anything else to put on. I had to go to work with it, and scrub down the car that evening.
Shamone, 30, dental assistant:
I was potty training my daughter so I had her on a schedule, and every morning I would train her to go on her potty — even if nothing came. One morning I had an early shift and I had to take her to work with me, until my husband was able to come get her. At about 8:30 the first couple of patients arrived and I saw her crunched over behind the information desk. I said fine, I can see her and she is reading her books. Less than a minute later a very bad odour started permeating the room and oh gosh the scent was too familar; I knew it was my daughter's poop. Before I could react she got up said, “All of you don't look.” Well, not as clear as that, but I could decode her gibberish. Then she said, “Look mommy, today it's big.” I was in shock. I had to apologise to the patients, who by the way were very sweet about everything, before getting her and the place cleaned up.
Jermaine, 36, stay-at-home dad/graphic designer:
I had a client who needed me to fix his computer urgently and to do the graphics for a presentation he had the next day. I explained that I had no one to babysit and he said I could bring the kid along. Boy, did he regret it, even though he didn't say those words. When I got busy my son sneaked off to poo, without saying anything to me or him. He found the bathroom, climbed onto the toilet, then got into it. Then after he pooped he thought that it would be cool to collect his stool and smear it all over. To this day I'm traumatised.