“Aren’t you a pediatrician?” This rhetorical question was hurled at me while discussing my own frustrations and limitations in potty training. Although I spend a good portion of each day doling out parenting advice, I often struggle to meet the demands of my own recommendations. Over the years, I have gained firsthand knowledge of how difficult these parenting tips are to execute. Potty training has certainly been one of those things.
It does not matter how confident I am in the office with the textbook approach to potty training when I am on the front lines with my toddler. My residency training taught me some basics, but the rest I learned through my own experiences. After some failed attempts, we ultimately resorted to bribery and promised him a trip to Diggerland, a construction-themed amusement park, if he consistently used the potty for a week. I informed him that you are not allowed to drive diggers at Diggerland unless you wear undies, which is not an official policy but luckily 3-year-olds can’t read the website. Sure enough, a few days later we had successfully transitioned away from diapers and into superhero adorned underwear. Shortly thereafter I found myself driving a skid steer around a dirt lot. This isn’t exactly how the potty training books told me it would go, but it’s real life.
Potty training is just one example of the many parenting challenges that I bumble through like everyone else. Friends often look to me as the “expert,” but there are so many parenting tasks that pediatrics training fails to prepare one for and instead experiential learning is required. As much as others seem to expect that I would hold up the gold standard, I sometimes see some relief on their faces when I slip up too. For example, when discussing how to get our toddlers to eat a healthy lunch, a friend seemed relieved to hear that my son eats macaroni and cheese most days of the week. My struggles give a sense of normalcy to theirs. However, it always stings a little when I show my vulnerability as a parent and am judged by my profession. Yes, I completed my M.D. degree, but I am still working on my degree in parenting.