Skip to main content

Poop Comes to Shove: A Potty-Training Victory

Illustration of dad in scuba gear taking baby to toilet

Now, despite what some folks might tell you, there is no secret to potty training. People far more qualified than I have tips and charts and mnemonic devices to get you through the worst of it. Go ahead and pick a method if you must. But suffice to say, regardless of your chosen path, it’s going to get gnarly.

Potty training is ugly and messy and soul-rattling, but at some point, you just have to pull up your big-boy parenting pants and make it work. Eventually, your child will use a toilet.

Or that’s what I thought.

When my wife and I started potty training Little E, things were great at first and then they went to well, poop—fast. With No. 1 (the pee), we got lucky. One week of basic training and we were going out in public with armed with nothing more than an extra pair of unicorn underwear. We were proud. Maybe too proud. Potty training? No problemo.

But when it came to the dreaded No. 2 (the poo), we hit a wall. Nothing worked. And we saw some stuff, man. Things a man can’t unsee. Stains no bleach could cleanse. Piles so large no diaper could contain them. We tried enticing her with candy, books, and extra time on her Kindle. She just laughed at us and, out of spite, began concocting the kind of nightmare diapers that required reams of wipes, high-pressure hoses, and therapy. We were weak and willing to do anything.

So it was in a hazy fever dream of desperation that South Park became our unlikely toilet totem. It was December, and Little E and I were having one of our daddy-daughter nights, which usually included Legos and puzzles (for her), and grunge records (for me). But on this night, I was lazy. Christmas was close and, since I always watch the South Park Christmas special, I figured I’d throw it on while we did her princess-castle puzzle for the millionth time. It would totally go over her head.

And that’s when she met Mr. Hankey.

If you’re not up on your South Park, Mr. Hankey is a…well…there’s no delicate way to put it except, Mr. Hankey is a singing, dancing, talking piece of poo that wears a Santa hat and delivers presents to good little girls and boys who eat fiber on Christmas Eve. Totally not weird. Little E saw Mr. Hankey turn the act of going potty into a Sondheim routine and she fell in love with Mr. Hankey on the spot.

For a month, Mr. Hankey was all she talked about when we sat her down for the still unproductive trips to the bathroom. Sensing a spark, I showed her another South Park episode starring Mr. Hankey. This one introduced us to our hero’s wife and three kids, who lived inside the toilet bowl.

E loved it. To her, baby poops were as cute and cuddly as baby koalas.

I was doddering in the living room one night after sitting her on the toilet with no expectations when I heard a tiny grunt, a delicate plop sound, a flush, and then a blast of tiny footsteps headed my direction.

“Da-Da! Da-Da! I made a Mr. Hankey! And then I sent him to be with his family!”

My pride was two-fold. Firstly, like every parent, I bid a surly farewell to the era of dirty diapers. But more importantly, there was the thrilling-slash-horrifying knowledge that South Park—and more specifically, a certain walking, talking piece of poo—had led my daughter hand-in-hand across the finish line of toddler-dom.

My wife says we should start saving now for her therapy bills.

Find a KinderCare Center

Find a Center Nearby

Looking for a great learning center? We're here to help.
Get Started