Tinkle practice

Calm before the accident.

Calm before the accident.

Like most girls, L and R are *huge* fans of the Disney movie, Frozen, and they love the line in the song, “Fixer Upper,” about going “tinkle in the woods.” In practice, however, the kids actually are quite terrible at actually going tinkle in the woods. And they’re not getting better any time soon.

Powerwoman and I were reminded of this on two consecutive outings this week.

R’s bladder failure happened first, after an ill-advised cup of milk and an unexpectedly long beachcombing trip along Orcas Island’s Crescent Beach. One minute we were plodding along the shoreline looking for beach glass, the next minute, she announced she had to pee, pulled down her pants, squatted to go, and peed all over herself.

L’s tinkle-castrophe occurred the following day while we were watching whales (we did a lot of that). This scene played out in similar fashion: Sudden need to urinate, pants at the ankles, and a valiant squat attempt, followed by soaked flip-flops and undies.

In R’s case, the issue was inexperience; because she’s only freestyled once before, she doesn’t really know how to do it. L’s case, the culprit simply was stubbornness. The child thinks she is the Serena Williams of pee-holding; instead of forcing her to recognize her own limits, we have decided to let her learn them on her own.

Together both experiences reminded Powerwoman and me of an underappreciated family travel truth: Even a little pee versatility can go a long way.

How will this epiphany change our travel practices? In the immediate future, I’m guessing, not that much. Down the road, however, especially before our next big road trip, you better believe my wife and I will work with the kids to help them get better at tinkling in the woods.

I’m sure the path to enlightenment will be rocky. I’m sure we’ll wet a lot of shorts along the way.

Ultimately, of course, the goal is to empower our daughters to go with ease, whenever and wherever they feel they need to go. To paraphrase the famous World Cup slogan: I believe that they will pee.

Conquering fear of potties on the road

For a while, this was the only potty L would use.

For a while, this was the only potty L would use.

We certainly have had our fair share of bathroom dramas away from home. Like the time L realized she was terrified of the “magic eye” automatic toilet flushers. Or the trip that R decided hand dryers are the corporeal manifestation of Lucifer. Or, most recently, the day that L followed a prodigious session on the toilet with a, “Look at my turd!” that echoed in the bathroom for what seemed like an eternity.

The list could go on for pages. And, when you’re traveling with little ones, it usually does. So, when a friend and loyal reader texted me last week asking for advice about how to deal with her daughter’s aversion to public toilets on the road, I sympathized completely.

Sadly, I didn’t have much to offer.

I mean, sure, there are all sorts of web sites (here and here, for instance) with formal advice from doctors—people who say things like “work on decreasing fears” and “model appropriate coping.”

My friend didn’t want any of that gobbledy-gook. She just wanted practical tips. She wanted to know what she could do to get her kid to make a @#!&@ pee without (wasting 30 minutes and) enduring a total meltdown.

I started by directing her to stuff I’ve written about the subject before (here and here). Then I told her the situation sucks but it gets better over time. I held back on my third piece of advice, largely because I didn’t want to discourage her. Instead (and now that this reader is back home), I’ll share it here: Pray for an accident.

Allow me to reiterate: I think an accident is the best way for a kid to overcome fear of using toilets in public. Because suffering the consequences of refusal is a powerful tool.

This opinion was forged out of first-hand experience with L, who grappled with this mortifying lesson during our first solo trip together (to Los Angeles).

I knew she had to go from the moment we arrived at LAX, but she simply refused to go. Then, on the plane, the flight attendant sensed what was up and offered to help; my kid refused again. Finally, at about 30,000 feet, somewhere between the animal crackers and the juice box, she couldn’t hold it any longer. I discovered the accident when I spotted a tiny puddle on her seat cushion. And I sprang into action.

Because I was worried about how she’d do with the whole potty-in-public thing, I was prepared, and had stashed a change of clothes in a Ziploc in the overhead bin, ready to go. As soon as I noticed pee on the seat, I grabbed the clothes, picked up L, and whisked her into the forward lavatory.

Yes, she was upset. No, she didn’t sit on that potty without a fight. But eventually, she did it. Somehow we even managed salvage the pee-soaked skirt for a trip to the dry-cleaner at home.

The rest, as they say, is history; since that day, despite minimal hemming and hawing every now and again, L hasn’t suffered the public toilets too much. She doesn’t necessarily like public potties, but she dislikes the embarrassment (and discomfort) of a public accident more. In the name of poetry, L even has started harassing her sister—who is still in diapers—about how it’s time for *her* to get with the potty program.

The lessons: Be prepared. Be patient. And weather an accident. No, this methodology is not ideal. But from personal experience, the only way to go from that situation is up.

How have your children overcome their issues of using the potty in public when traveling?

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