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Dirtbag Momma; Yellow Snow in Denver

Dear Dirtbag Momma,

We successfully potty-trained our toddler this summer amidst all the camping and hiking trips we took as a family. Unfortunately this means he is potty trained to use trees and bushes and not toilets. We are really having a hard time getting him to transition to a toilet which has become a major problem at daycare. We have even tried putting a tree branch in the bathroom to make him more at home but this has not helped. Any advice would help.


Yellow Snow in Denver


Dear Yellow Snow,

First of all, you deserve a round of applause for your creative problem-solving approach. Bringing nature indoors to help your kiddo answer its call? So thoughtful. If you choose spruce or fir branches to adorn the commode, they may even help offset the scent of ‘oops.’

Second, in the spirit of a shared struggle, I’ll tell you that I have written a song called ‘Everything in My House is Covered in Pee.’ So far, it has two full verses and a chorus, and my kids know all the words. 

I have frequently witnessed the parental anguish as outdoorsy kids, ranch kids, and forest children innocently drop trow in very ‘front country’ settings. The kids feel proud they didn’t wet their pants. They can’t understand why their parents are frustrated or pretending not to know them from the other side of the playground. 

We’re asking a little person who just mastered a major developmental milestone to simultaneously master a physical version of code-switching. They need to be able to discern that what’s ok in one situation is not ok in another. I know quite a few adults who still struggle with this concept.

As your little person begins to domesticate their bladder, maybe look at the process as another step in potty training. First, make sure that all caregivers are on board with the same message: “It’s time to use the potty.” Then build a sense of ownership by letting your child pick out a special potty for her/his own self. Name it, use it in the bathroom, bring it in the backyard, and set it up in the car for outings without nearby facilities. Then gently insist that they use it, and return to sit on it even after an accident or a tree-watering session. Finally, bring lots of extra pants, bribe shamelessly, and paste on that beautiful, undying smile of admiration and love which never falters from a parent’s face and only occasionally looks like rigor mortis. 

Yours in Bleach Wipes,

Dirtbag Momma

To send a letter to the Dirtbag Momma, email ‘’. All letters are published anonymously with your chosen signature. Some advice might even be serious- just imagine if Dear Abbey, Backpacker Magazine, and Scary Mommy had a beautiful, sarcastic, lovechild…

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