The seventh wonder of the parenting world – toilet training

We spent the October bank holiday weekend watching Arthur cower with fear when he approached the potty

Tackling the seventh wonder of the parenting world, toilet training

My toddler has spent the last five days dressed like Onslow, Hyacinth Bucket's brother from the comedy Keeping Up Appearances, playing indoors in just a white string vest and underpants (socks optional).

At long last we’re tackling the seventh wonder of the parenting world, toilet training.

Just like Hyacinth fears for her china cups when Onslow arrives, our pure wool yellow rug has been rolled away (with two children what deluded madness took hold the day we decided that was a smart buy). Our couch that stains easily has been covered in towels (again what were we thinking). To add to the “redecoration”, the surface of our modern sideboard has become a receptacle for spare pants and toilet paper, being beside the awkward spot our toddler insists on for his potty.

This is attempt number two and we were nervous after the last time.

Genevieve Carbury with sons Arthur and Louis

We spent the October bank holiday weekend watching Arthur cower with fear when he approached the potty. Even plying him with copious amounts of juice (the toddler equivalent of beer when it comes to inducing urgency to pee), just resulted in more accidents.

Earlier in October I’d spotted a potty in a shop and belly laughed at the ridiculous parent who would shell out good money for it. After 24-hours of so-called toilet training (or “hand me the kitchen roll”), I found myself queuing up for that Thomas the Tank Engine “reward” potty which whistled and sang when it got wet. Sadly, even Thomas couldn’t toot his way through my boy’s will-power and we gave up.

Four months later, he may seem like the same fun-filled boy on the outside, but on the inside he has donned a cape and bravely taken on his potty challenge. “Are you proud of me Mammy,” he asks on day four. I tell him yes, he has had virtually no accidents. He wrinkles his brow and corrects me: “I had one accident by the table and the two accident bekside (sic) the potty”. I’m taken aback as he’s keeping count, setting himself goals.

It marks a shift in the child-parent balance.

There is less responsibility on me and more on my toddler. So yes, I now leave the house with some trepidation (picturing myself trying to find a clean public toilet in this country which seems allergic to them). And yes, he’s learned to zone out my “do you need to go” question every half hour. And yes, I do have to watch for that urgent “pee face” that only a parent knows. But in the end it’s up to him.

In the middle of this potty frenzy, a friend announced the arrival of her baby boy, sending me a photo of him, so tiny, curled up and fragile. I looked down from my phone at my newborn, 11-week-old Louis. The feeding pillow where he once nestled so happily has two feet protruding far off the end. Those feet have also got the better of his three-six month baby-gros as we move to our fourth set of clothes.

Louis is no longer just a big sleeping digestive system but increasingly wants me to make him laugh. He gets distracted from his feeding if he hears too much craic behind him with his big brother. He has started reaching for his toys, thereby making his first choices.

I google and realise that at 11 weeks he is no longer classified as a newborn. Further googling reveals that when my toddler turns three this month, he will no longer be classed as a toddler. I feel strangely queasy. “What is he now, just a child?” asked my equally perplexed husband. A while later I have my answer as my son does a pee, this time in the toilet.

“I’m a big boy,” he says proudly.

I used to scorn parents who rue their children growing up rather than celebrating. Now I get it. This marks another step in my child’s slowly diminishing reliance on me as a parent. For now Arthur still needs me for many things, like hugs when he falls (and yes that no-nappy unprotected bum has caused a fair few tears).

But my first born is growing up and his brother is speeding along behind him, almost as fast as Thomas.