Helicopter Toilet Training

I recently learned that Cottonelle makes a kids’ toilet paper that is supposed to help potty training youngsters learn how much T.P. is “just enough.” The sheets are printed with a puppy paw print on a run of four squares followed by the Cottonelle puppy on the fifth square, signaling that it’s time to tear the paper and use the five-sheet allotment, which we are told is the “average amount per wipe.”

We’ve all heard of helicopter parenting, so I suppose the market research team determined helicopter toileting is just as pervasive. (Come to think of it, helicopter-style hovering is indeed a necessary part of early toilet training.) I would love to have heard the marketers’ original pitch to the executive team. “Consumer studies show that Moms are exasperated by children pulling off more toilet paper than is required for the job. This revolutionary product frees busy moms from the tedious chore of counting each square for their pottying children.”

I suppose I do chafe (pardon the pun) at the idea of a toilet paper specifically designed to teach how much is enough. Aren’t some things a matter of judgment? And shouldn’t that judgment be cultivated so that the question of “how much” can be answered sufficiently under various circumstances, whether it’s the familiar TP at home or the gigantic commercial roll at the mall?

Personally, if there was one essential life skill I was determined my kids were going to master regardless of five-sheet averages or focus group recommendations, it was wiping their behinds. Wouldn’t anything less be a terrible dereliction of mom duty?  

Sure, I had setbacks along the way to toilet trained bliss. I finally told the daycare not to bother trying to salvage soiled underwear; I figured a few casualties were part of the process, and I frankly did not want to deal with whatever had festered in the “oops” bag once I got home. I blush to think of the threats I muttered under my breath as I discovered that “Do you need to go?” had become “already went.” There are places all over this town that are marked by my diaper/potty training disasters, almost like a Friends sitcom episode (“The One Where He Told You He Had to “Go” and You Said, ’But You Just Went!’ and Everyone Glared at You as the Puddle Began on the Floor”).

None of us will do a perfect job, but it’s imperative that we train our kids to be thinking adults. Could it be that toilet training can be a precursor to developing what most of us would call common sense? Consider that Cottonelle has a Q&A page on its website. Presumably this helps frustrated customers unravel any technical difficulties with their roll: ”When I tear the toilet paper, the perforations on my two plies do not line up. How do I fix this?” An earnest response begins, “The good news is that this is an easy fix…” 

Do people really seek out the manufacturer for answers to questions like this? Could they not just examine the roll and see that a ply got off course somewhere? 

Obviously, paper manufacturers have to take this stuff seriously. The ”Be Kind to Your Behind” page (the phrase is trademarked, by the way) allows you to make a pledge concerning how you will be kind to your own behind, from walking it across the parking lot instead of parking near the front door to pledging not to burn it in a tanning bed. You can even ”Share this pledge with a friend.” Can you imagine?!

Although over 100,000 people have made pledges to their behinds thus far, I have hope that it’s not us BirminghamMoms who are struggling so with our behinds, either the kids’ or our own. It turns out five of the 10 Top Rated Pledges are currently from North Carolina.

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Post script: The subject of kids’ toilet paper has sparked a lively discussion with my spouse. He can’t believe I don’t rate it a “find” and reminds me that I never picked up the plunger or auger to remedy a clogged toilet. In his opinion,  excess toilet paper is an imminent threat to the peace and quiet of couch-resting dads everywhere who have to respond to any clog with the utmost urgency.

Furthermore, he contends that the world is full of people who ”don’t have sense enough to wipe” and he has had the displeasure of dealing with many of them at ballgames, on freeways, and countless customer service/support situations.

In conceeding this last point, perhaps I have been too harsh in my criticism. If you’d prefer to potty train without special paper, Charmin has  toilet training printable pages that include a booklet and stickers. They also offer a printable roller ruler so kids will learn what’s “not too little, not too much” (apparently there is disagreement on this exact amount, since Charmin recommends a five-square regimen to Cottonelle’s four).  Which just goes to show, some things you have to judge for yourself.