The potty war

My mother liked to tell the story of the day she kicked me out of the house. I was two years old.

I remember none of what I’m about to tell you.

I was one of those kids who resisted toilet training. I squawked to be changed if I had a wet diaper. But sitting around in my own toilettrainingpoo? Fabulous! I didn’t mind the warm, squishy, cushiony comfort.  Maybe I even liked it. I can’t say.

My mother knew I knew how to use the toilet. She knew I knew the whole wearing-diapers business was no longer acceptable. She also knew I just didn’t care. Nope, not one bit. No amount of reasoning, cajoling, encouraging or coercion could make me do what she wanted me to do. In desperation she took a calculated risk.

She packed a tiny suitcase for me (I wonder what was in it). “If you can’t live by my rules, then you can’t live here,” she said to me as she handed me the suitcase. “Now leave.”

So I took that suitcase and I left.

I walked all the way to the end of the street. And then I stood there. The street ended at a very busy road. My mother watched from the porch, her heart hiccupping and beating double time. She said it seemed like forever as I, just a tot,  stood there, clutching the suitcase, puzzling over how to navigate the traffic.

Finally I turned around and came home. I looked up at my mother and said “Okay. We’ll do it your way.”

I never wore a diaper again.

The lessons in this story are clichéd but apt:

Pick your battles. This was one battle my mother really did have to win, and I’m glad she did.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Fortune favours the brave. If I had just crossed that road, who knows where I’d be now? But seriously, my mother took a big risk and got her results.

Update: since writing this post, my sister who is seven years older than me, confirmed that the contents of the suitcase were a pair of socks, a pair of terry cloth underwear and a book. I guess my mother expected me to come back.


Face the monster in your mind, and ask him for a gift.

This is a saying that guides and inspires me. Let’s look at it a bit more closely.

First, fear is in your mind. What you fear is your monster and no one else’s. I’m not saying the things you fear aren’t real, but your reactions to the things you fear are uniquely your own.

Face your fear. Understand what makes you afraid and why. Poke at it. See what you can do about it. I used to be so afraid of heights I would get woozy standing on a chair to change a light bulb. Nonetheless, I managed to work up the courage to jump off a cliff into a lagoon in Mexico (there was no alcohol involved!). I’m never going to be a height-loving person, but I no longer let the fear manage me. I’ll get up that ladder or cross that suspension bridge and I carry on. Light bulbs get changed in my house now!

Ask the monster for a gift. When you face your fear, when you just do that thing that you dread – whether it’s facing a fear of heights or spiders or clowns, having an uncomfortable confrontation, giving a speech, saying I love you, changing jobs – that act itself is a gift, regardless of the results. You free yourself from fear’s shackles and become instantly more powerful.

Always ask the monster for your gift.

If I had a coat of arms and motto, this would be it. But I don’t, so instead, I made myself a dinner plate.

If I had a coat of arms and motto, this would be it. But I don’t, so instead I made myself a dinner plate.