The transition from diaper to potty is a momentous one for many children. Kathy L. Terry offers her take on the subject in the picture book Potty Training Daddy.
Terry notes on the back cover that she intends this real-life story to be an amusing, helpful guide to potty training. But rather than offering concrete instructional material, the book tells the story of its two-year-old narrator’s experiences learning to use the potty.
The narrative has an unsettling idea at its core. On the first page, Terry writes: “At the age of two, I potty trained my daddy. It all began when my mommy went missing for a long, long time.” There’s a clue as to what might have happened in the expressions of the two parents sitting on a couch looking away from each other—perhaps this is a troubled marriage? But the question is never addressed, and children will likely focus on the ominous words “mommy went missing” instead — to the story’s detriment; to innocent minds, the thought of a parent suddenly disappearing is frightening.
The next pages detail the narrator’s idyllic life with Mommy as she learns to use the potty and anticipates wearing colorful big girl underwear. Later, Mommy disappears from the story. “[O]ne morning everything changed.” the girl tells us. “I saw daddy! [sic]…Over the next days, daddy [sic] was still there!” The story implies that Daddy isn’t usually around. Does he work a lot? Did the parents divorce? There’s no explanation, and an unspoken tension — and confusion — permeates the book.
The last page shows a smiling Mommy holding the little girl, now wearing her colorful underwear.
Potty Training Daddy is an odd offering. The illustrations are pleasant and expressive, and the narrator is enthusiastic about her mission, but the relationships in the story are baffling. With a tale that puzzles and an underlying issue that will trouble toddlers, the book is unlikely to successfully reach its target audience.