I created a potty monster.
The first time my younger daughter tinkled in the potty chair, I cheered. For months I’d been desperate to slash the diapers from our grocery bill, and at last she had agreed.
“I’m a big girl!” She raised her hands above her head and clapped.
“Yes, you are!” I jiggled a happy dance on the bathroom tile. “And now you get a jelly bean!”
She earned six more jelly beans before that day was through. And again the next day, and the next.
Forget the diapers—now suddenly I dared to imagine scratching Pull-Ups from the shopping list, too. What a deal!
But then. About a week into our potty adventure, I lounged on a cozy chair in the family room. Kids were in bed, lamps were dimmed, and I reached for a book on the ottoman when a button nose poked around the sofa.
“Mommy, I have to go potty.”
“Okay, thanks for telling me. It’s past bedtime, though, so let’s make tinkles and go straight to sleep.”
“Yep, Mom, I sure will.” She smiled, squatted, and shuffled back to bed.
The next night, it happened again—twice. The following night, three times. Soon she was tapping my pillow at 2 a.m. insisting she had to go potty. Nature called on playground dates, shopping trips, chiropractor appointments, and car rides across town. One morning my daughter yanked down her pants every five minutes, expecting me to assist and cheer.
But I didn’t feel like cheering anymore. That potty chair was interrupting my life.
And I had asked for this?
Potty training is hard work, I grumbled. I should just slap a diaper on her bum and give up. Life was easier before the potty chair!
Do you ever feel that way about marriage?
At first, newlywed life is exciting. Surely I’ll be happy now, we think, with this man by my side.
But then one day that man leaves his socks on the floor. He forgets a birthday. He works late while his frazzled wife swaddles colicky babies at home.
And we discover—marriage is hard work. It begs forgiveness and self-sacrifice. It demands our attention, our agenda, and the deepest places of our heart.
Until sometimes we just don’t feel like cheering anymore.
He didn’t like my casserole? Fine. No more new recipes. He can eat hot dogs all week.
We’re tripping over laundry baskets, and he hasn’t offered to fold a single towel. Am I the maid around here? Well, this maid is keeping her uniform buttoned tight tonight, if you know what I mean.
I told him how I feel, and he laughed. Forget it. I won’t share my heart anymore.
Do you see? Giving up seems easier at first. But the risk of withdrawing is to wake up one day and realize our marriage hasn’t grown. It’s still in diapers.
Which brings me back to my potty monster. She’s five years old now and heading to kindergarten next month. Thanks to potty training perseverance, she’s been self-sufficient for a long time and ready to tackle the girls’ bathroom at school. Imagine if I’d given up two years ago. We’d be stashing Pampers in her backpack.
Without some necessary growing pains, we’ll never reach the next stage of maturity. And so it goes with marriage. When we persevere through the tough spots, our relationship grows up.
“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4).
Now with the bathroom business far behind us, can you guess what’s next?
Learning to tie shoes.
Oh, yeah. Bring it on.
Growing pains with our children can be equally if not more painful in marriage, Becky. This is a great way to look at it. We must persevere in both spheres or we leave our kids and marriages stymied in … poop! Sorry for being so graphic, but I thought I’d push your metaphor a bit further, because sometimes it’s simply that stinky and messy! Love your amazing wit and wisdom, Becky. You are the best storyteller and moral-of-the-story spinner I know!