Potty Sayer

“I need to sit on the potty,” Martin said.

This was Saturday afternoon. We were just spreading our picnic blanket on a stony beach at Montauk Point State Park, at least a quarter-mile of precarious terrain from the nearest restroom—and we know from past experience that Martin would rather have a potty accident than pee outside.

So if we were the parents of a neurotypical almost-four-year-old, we might have dreaded the words. But we aren’t, and we didn’t. Instead, I told Adrian, “I got this one,” grabbed Martin, and headed around the bluff toward the lighthouse restrooms, scuttling as swiftly as I could over a pile of rocks with a 45-pound preschooler in my arms. I spoke into Martin’s ear: “No pee pees yet! Hold them in. You can make it. Wait for the potty. No pee pees in your pants.” Martin, in return, poked his fingers into my nose and giggled.

We arrived at the restroom to find a line waiting. I raised my voice from a private whisper to a stage whisper—“Hang in there, buddy. Hold it in till we get to the potty”—hoping one of the queued women might take the hint and offer us her place. None did. We waited another several minutes.

Finally I lifted Martin onto a toilet seat, where he deposited his peepees into the bowl and then said, “I’m all done.”

Martin has been potty-trained, more or less, for several months now, with two exceptions. First, he still wears an overnight diaper to bed. That’s for security purposes; most mornings the diaper is dry when Martin wakes. Second, Martin has had trouble learning to tell us when he needs to go. Instead, he says something like, “I’m doing peepees,” or, “I need new pants,” three seconds too late. Up until now we’ve just been sitting him on the potty as often as possible, and he’s done his part by, usually, holding his business until a potty break.

So you may imagine our joy those occasions when Martin not only recognizes in advance that he needs to go but also thinks to inform us. That happened five times this weekend: once at the beach, twice at church, once at home, and—the biggest victory—once in the car, when we were stuck in Sunday-afternoon City traffic and unable to pull over, whereupon we asked him to please “hold it” until we got home and he did, an entire half-hour.

The round-trip from the Montauk beach to the potty and back again took me and Martin at least 20 minutes, delaying our lunch. No matter. When we returned to the picnic blanket, Martin in the same still-dry pants, no accident, Adrian lifted our big boy into the air and shouted,

“Ha ha! Way to go, Martin!”

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