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How (Not) To Talk To Your Kid About Wetting Her Pants

by Christie of 'Outlaw Mama'
Photo by: Shutterstock

It was bound to happen sooner or later, right? My kid was going to need that change of clothes stuffed in her school cubby because of a failure to reach the potty in time.

When I saw Sadie standing with her teacher at the end of the day, I instantly noticed that she was wearing brown leggings instead of the red ones I dropped her off in. I noticed this because I am an excellent mother. And the brown pants clashed so badly with her outfit that my eyes started to water.

Since she was carrying a plastic bag in her hand, I just knew she was carrying those leggings; a soiled symbol of her shame.

Imma fix this.

“Sadie, did you change your clothes at school?” I start out neutrally, and give her room to control the narrative.


“What happened?” Stick with the open-ended questions. Three year-olds love those, and really take the opportunity to open the dialogue.

“I had an accident.”

BOOM! I’m in.

“Sweetie, were you upset? You know, it’s perfectly okay to have an accident now and then. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Were you engrossed in your project?” Now I have laid the foundation for a shame-free discussion of why her pants are wadded up in an old Target bag.

“I just had an accident…during snack time.” The information –among other things – just flows out of her!

“Oh! Of course! Snack time. Snack time is at the end of the day, so you must have been busy enjoying all the socializing and pre-literacy activities, right?”

“I was eating Graham crackers.”

Pee your pants? Join the club (of 1). Maybe it’s time for a story, so she knows I can identify with exactly what she’s feeling.

“Sadie, I love Graham crackers. Graham crackers are super delicious, and they make me incontinent, too! Once, when I was working late at my firm – you know Mommy used to be a lawyer, right? Anyway, I was doing a document review and I was starving because I missed the dinner order from P.F. Chang’s because I was down in the partner’s office. It was 2:00 AM, and I had a package of Graham Crackers on my top shelf, but when I went to reach for it, the chair wobbled and I fell. Just then, the first-year associate was walking by and he saw me and started laughing hysterically. And despite myself, and even though I hated his Ivy League guts, I started laughing, too! Well, I laughed so hard that I peed in my pants. Just a little. Not like a lot of pee, but, you know, a dribble. And this was before I had kids and knew anything about Kegels, which I still don’t do, and so I still dribble, but now all the dang time…so, see? See, Sweetie, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

God, I should write a parenting book! I can feel the shame being sucked out of both of us, and evaporating into the air.


“Yes, Sadie?”

“Can I have more applesauce?”

“Sweetie, I only brought one, so you have to wait until we get home. And, um, by the way, how are you feeling now about your accident?”

“Fine. I just spilled water on my pants when I reached for a napkin. My teacher helped me change.”

Right. I knew that.

Maybe I’ll just put that book idea on hold.

Christie Tate blogs from her homebase in Chicago at Outlaw in her four minutes of spare time between mothering and being a lawyer.

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