Can May be potty trained?

Posted on Feb 5, 2012 | 14 comments

My mom is 4 for 4. Four times sitting May on the toilet. Four times May has tinkled wee-wee in the potty.

Apologies for using the language of potty training. We are in America where there is no escape from cute terminology when it comes to pee, poo and dimpled baby butts. Or, maybe it isn’t America. Maybe it is a universal truth that a child can not be toilet trained without adorable songs that rhyme “poo” with “you”.

My mother’s training regime is simple: upon waking or finishing a meal, sit May on the toilet.

No matter how dedicated and determined my mother may be, I have my doubts May can be toilet trained. There is dreaming and there is realism. I lean uncomfortably towards realism; my mom is a dreamer – be it a dreamer who has proved me wrong on more than one occasion.

Hell – I’m happy to be wrong on this occasion as well.

So, what’s working against May?

  1. Cognitively she has to understand that she pees and poos.
  2. She must identify the toilet. She must see it and recognize it for its role.
  3. She has communicate when she needs to go.

There are all kinds of physical skills as well: sitting independently, balancing on the edge of a seat, wiping her butt, etc. I would imagine there is special, assistive seating available. Wiping? I think that will remain my department. I can’t imagine her ever gaining the skills to wipe. It involves reaching awkwardly and wiping an area based on touch and body awareness alone. There is no way. It’s a truth as simple as my mother’s potty training.

I just don’t believe. I don’t believe I’ll ever stop wiping. I don’t believe I’ll ever stop any of it.

What I do believe is that I need more time coming to terms with May’s limitations.

Do you think May will master the toilet? And, if you do, why?


We are now 5 for 5. Mom wanted to try May on the toilet tonight to show me and low and behold, she did it! It was adorable. My daughter was on the toilet, tinkling some pee-pee, and I loved it. I still have my doubts – they are considerable – but, they are also weakened now.


  1. Let me just say that May has accomplished so much more than many doctors ever thought she would. Who knows what she will be capable of? Only time and May will tell.

    One thing that comes to mind is when I was doing genetic engineering research (trying to make a computer from e. Coli) and the professor explained he prefers young students. When I asked him why, he explained it was because they haven’t internalized all of the things society says can’t happen or just aren’t possible. They still see possibility where others see imminent failure. I think there is a big lesson in that.

    I think you are an incredible mom. And funny, so real. I relate to much that you write. Thanks for sharing May with me.

  2. You’re an honest writer and person and so am I, so i’m going to be honest.

    No, I don’t think May will be toilet independent.

    I do think she and you have amazing strength and determination so I think over the next few years May can get more control over it and gain habits of weeing at certain times etc.

    She’s already proven she’s aware of her surroundings and people and things you weren’t convinced she was going to develop.

    She is (and you) wonderful xx

  3. Only time will tell.

  4. Just one point: May does not need to ‘see’ the toilet, as blind people can be ‘potty trained’. Of course it isn’t clear if she can identify a toilet with other abilities. But give May a chance! Grama Bar is right on with her endless optimism.

  5. The different parts of my younger cousin’s brain don’t communicate to each other like they should which means that she doesn’t talk or have the cognitive abilities that match her age. She also doesn’t have a good sense of depth perception and very poor eyesight.

    She’s fifteen now and within the last three years my aunt and uncle have potty trained her. It took a long time (probably around two years) and they did it the same way that your mom is attempting with May. They would sit her down at certain times every day and sing songs or play games or read books until she used the restroom. She doesn’t understand that she has bodily functions. I don’t think she recognizes the toilet and what it’s used for. She also doesn’t communicate when she needs to go. She has an electronic talker and I’ve never heard her used it to say that she needs to use the restroom.

    While I don’t know in detail what happens when my aunt or uncle are in the restroom with my cousin, I would imagine that when she’s done they do all the wiping. That’s not something she could be taught to do.

    So all in all, yes I do think May could be potty trained. It will probably take awhile but based on what I saw with my cousin, I would definitely say that it’s a possibility.

    Love your blog! May and Ieuan are such gorgeous children!!

    • That is incredible! I am so excited to hear a story of a 15 year old like May learning new things.

  6. Wiping? you are probably right….but she might gain the ability to go when you sit her on, and she might learn to signal when she has to go….I’ve worked with kids with similar disablities. Some do master it. Some don’t. But I’m thinking about what you noticed at school with May—that she clearly knew and responded differently to different people. There is a determined little girl in there, and she isn’t through surprising you. :)

  7. I like everyone’s enthusiasm : ) I especially like what Wendy said and Jeficit.

    I have a question for you … can you accept that for whatever reason your mom needs to this for/with May? Either believe May can be potty trained or at least pretend that she can be, or do you want to scream at your mom whenever she does this … scream and stomp your feet and yell that nothing your mom is doing is going to make a difference and May will never be anything more than she is right now?

    Let your mom do this, both for her and for May. You don’t know where it’ll go and it’s not harming anyone, right? Give your mom a hug and tell her thank you : ) And then give May a hug. You’ll feel better : )


    • hahaha – I like that you think I would scream and stomp my feet about this. Rest assured, no one yelled. Not even close. I’d be a very happy woman if she succeeded.

  8. hhmm, 5 out of 5 is a pretty hard statistic to argue with! I’d say believe anything is possible, but to not worry too much about that which turns out to not be possible. I love the photo too. May is growing up so fast x

  9. Credit where it is due.I think you can potty train May.She has done so much that you didn’t expect her to do.I don’t think she will ever wipe but her body obviously responds to sitting and weeing.I think she is amazing and will continue to surprise you.Let’s hope so.

  10. One of the things I’m learning with my 2 year old is that even for a ‘normal’ child, potty training is not an either/or skill. As you noted, there are many small skills involved. Will May be able to be completely independent in all areas? Probably not, or at least not for a long while yet. But given her slow-but-growing progress in other areas, I think it’s quite reasonable to explore which parts she CAN learn. Every little bit will help, and there are physical aids like special toilet seats (or a bidet perhaps? the Japanese kind that rinses & airdries you too?) that will help an older May with the parts of using a toilet that are a bit too challenging.

    • Good point. Maybe I need to focus on her doing what she can and build on that. A bidet is a great idea! I hadn’t thought of that.

      • All the toilets that my husband encountered in his 5+ business trips to Egypt had no toilet paper on-hand. The reason? All Egyptian toilets are equipped with a little water spout that squirts up and washes you when you press a button.

        It’s been almost 2 years since he was last in Egypt, and he still waxes poetic about how fantastic those devices were, and STILL vows that someday we will own a toilet like that.

        I’d imagine it might be simpler to find a toilet/accessory like that, than to obtain an entirely separate unit like a bidet.

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