The Unexplained Potty Accident: How Potty Training Never Stops

parents considering how to better potty train their child after an accident

It had already been a long day, and it was barely past noon. My wife and I had driven nearly two hours for our son to see a specialist about his ongoing torticollis, a fairly common yet troublesome problem where the muscles in one side of his neck caused his head to tilt.

As he was set to end physical therapy (thanks, insurance!) we were encouraged to see this doctor to determine future treatment options. So we made the appointment, drove to the medical center, found parking, didn’t really find lunch, and headed into the waiting area just a few minutes later.

My then 4-year-old daughter headed over to the play area. There were lots of toys and books to catch her attention, but she instantly fell in love with a large train set. We checked in for our appointment and took a deep breath while waiting to be called.

And then we saw a puddle. At first, my wife thought someone spilled a drink. I thought someone had a potty accident. I never realized that someone would be my daughter who had been potty trained for nearly two years at this point, but I was wrong.

Potty Accidents: Not Knowing What to Think

In the rush of the day and the excitement of the train set, my daughter had a potty accident, and a bad one at that. My wife and I thought her potty training days were behind her. While we normally asked her if she had to use the restroom, she was also good about letting us know when she needed to go. In fact, even at the house, she would proudly announce that she had to go before heading off to the restroom.

The fact that she had a potty accident – at this point – shocked us, at least at the time. In hindsight, though, the accident was not that surprising. My wife and I were consumed with other things, my daughter had not had access to a bathroom for several hours, and she was somewhere new and exciting. It was a perfect recipe for a potty accident.

She was also four years old. After two years of no real potty accidents, it was easy as a parent to become complacent. She was potty trained. She never had accidents. Our job was done. Off to other things.

That, of course, is not true. Our daughter was still young enough that we should have been reminding her more to use the bathroom. One potty accident is not a disaster. We cleaned it up and tried to dry her off. These things happen. More than anything, though, it was a reminder to us as parents that potty training must continue for a little longer.

There will likely come a time for all parents when they have a scenario like ours. While we may feel that our children have a grasp on potty training, it can be easy to forget they are not even out of pre-school yet. That was the last time she had an accident. My wife and I made more of a concerted effort to ask her to go to the bathroom, especially out of the house. That potty accident was our fault, not hers.

Additional Potty Training Resources:

7 Times You Need to Pay Attention to Your Kid’s Potty Training Accidents 

When a Potty Trained Kid has Accidents 

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David Stegon

David Stegon is a writer, editor, and father of two based in Virginia. He has written for traditional and digital publications for the past 13 years. David holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Temple University and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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