the amazing size of a three year old’s bladder

In these waning days of 2010, I have been taken to task by certain readers for not having posted at all during the Christmas season. This is not because of any shortage of reflection-worthy moments, but rather a dearth of moments in which to reflect. Nonetheless, my apologies.

Oh sure, Santa came and all that, but what’s really been keeping me busy during these twelve days of Christmas is my daughter’s bladder. Even though Maggie is barely three, she goes to preschool five days a week (world-savvy third child that she is), and so it has taken this extended stretch of no school no babysitter hard-core togetherness for me to realize that my daughter never goes to the bathroom.

Maggie can go sixteen hours without “making peeps” (as we call it around here) no problem. The only time there’s trouble is when her mother gently broaches the topic that she should perhaps go and sit on the potty and “just see what happens.” Then there is wailing and breath-holding and tantruming like it’s 1999. Or like Rumpelstiltskin, who met his end in the version of the fairy tale that I read growing up by stomping his feet so hard the ground opened up beneath him and swallowed him up. Then he tore his own arms off.

Her extreme anxiety is of course probably caused by her bladder being so full she can’t think straight. And her outlook on life usually improves immensely once she has voided herself. The challenge is getting her there. These are a few methods that have worked, if briefly:

-a phone call from Santa (me calling our house phone from my cell phone) saying she will not get her princess bike unless she sits on the potty for Mommy

-a princess bike from Santa with a note attached to it saying this means she now has to sit on the potty for Mommy

-a sudden, mock realization by me or her older brother Connor that her eyes are turning yellow because the peeps have backed up to her eyeballs (this sends her running to the bathroom)

But now the Santa thing is used up until next December, and I have a feeling she’s catching on to the yellow eyes thing. Or she will as soon as it occurs to her to look in a mirror. Then I’ll be back to the starting line.

Seamus was like this too, and I always take some comfort when I remember that I’ve gone through something before. Even if I can’t recall how it ended, the point is that it DID end. I know the right answer is to make sitting on the potty part of a routine for my daughter, something that seems non-negotiable because we do it at the exact same times every day. Good luck doing that in this crazy house.

Anyone else have a kid with an amazing bladder?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous December 31, 2010 at 4:22 pm

OH MY GOD YES. My 3 and a quarter year old is exactly the same. But here's the kicker: it's only at home. At school she goes every 30 minutes. And she comes from a long line of women who pee every hour like clockwork, so none of us can understand it. What gives?


Lynnelle January 1, 2011 at 4:59 am

I think the three year olds are conspiring against their mothers everywhere! Mine does this too and it brings a full on tantrum when going potty is even mentioned! I must say at least mine is no longer holding breath until she passes out..just a throw down on the floor.


Amy January 1, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Same here. My 3 year old boy will even occasionally say he has to go pee and then, mysteriously, a few seconds later, say he doesn't. Turns out what he's doing is peeing out just enough to wet his underwear but then holds the rest in. How can this be favorable for long term survival???
PS Amy…I am a new reader to your blog. I love it! I have two boys and a girl 5 and under and my maiden name was Amy Wilson. Who knew!


Amy January 1, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Oh Lynnelle i have a breath holder also. We will have to discuss that in more detail.

Anon, that is interesting about school. I am pretty sure she never goes at school either, but maybe i should ask!

Amy Wilson (not me), that IS a coincidence! We have our names and our children's wet underoos in common. I must say i also wonder why all this holding back is preferable to the great relief of emptying one's bladder.


Jen in Portland January 3, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Hi Amy,

My son did the same thing at age 3. I mentioned it to our pediatrician, and she told me that he was actually holding his bowels, and that when kids do this, they hold in everything – refusing to go to the toilet altogether. She recommended Miralax, which helped. I don't know if this is what is happening with your daughter, but I thought mention it because it was a revelation to me. Good luck!


Anonymous January 5, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Amy, watch this:

Then count your blessings.


AC January 8, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Our oldest would hold everything for hours at home but not when she was with her grandmother or at daycare. My mother's philosophy was kids do not want to go to the bathroom or to sleep because they are too busy and afraid they might miss something. She did regular potty breaks rather like they do at day care. Before snack, lunch or nap everything stops and everyone goes potty then washes their hands.

I was dead set against the routine. My mother and provider humored me when I said I wanted her to know her body and respond to its cues rather than forcing her to conform to some schedule… After endless bouts of constipation and urinary tract infections I caved.

What I did not realize was that the routine removed the debate and feeling of missing something. The opportunity to go at other times still exists. Now I do not ask or push. Going to the bathroom at set times of the day is just what we do. We do not go on to the next activity until she uses the potty and her hands are washed.

Although it could be it is because he is a different kid, baby number two never had the holding problem. He has been subjected to the potty routine since birth. While his sister was on the potty I was free to change diapers and wash his hands.

I was surprised at how much easier things went by making going to the potty a matter of routine, just like hand washing.


Amy Wilson January 10, 2011 at 8:02 pm

AC, I think you've found the solution: just make it something that one does every couple of hours. I've been setting the alarm on my phone and having her sit every 2 1/2 hours, even if she doesn't go. Me she'll argue with; an alarm is non-negotiable, and she goes right to the potty without a fight. Wish I started doing this sooner.


Leave a Comment