“Once Upon a Potty,” or I hate this book so much…

When planning for potty training, we purchased  (because everything in Singapore is like double or triple the price…if you can find the brand you want)

-2 potties–mostly because I’d read that smaller kids, (and E definitely qualifies) had a hard time with the normal sized toilet training potties and Bjorn made a smaller one

-A travel potty seat that folds into fours for easy diaper bag storage

-A potty seat with a step so that E could sit on the adult potty when she was ready

-A couple of DVDs (including Elmo uses the Potty)

-A bunch of books, including the set of “Once Upon a Potty” that also includes a doll and her potty.

The inclusion of Once Upon a Potty was deliberate.  It seemed to be THE book that every kid was given.  I don’t remember potty training so I don’t know if I read it.  It was originally published in 1975 in Hebrew, but Wikipedia was unhelpful in the matter of when it was translated to English so I don’t know for sure if I even would’ve been given it (as it may not have been published in the US in 1980).  At any rate, I bought it without glancing through it.

I hate this book.

I rarely say that about any book, but I’m saying it here.  Once Upon a Potty sucks.  I really could care less that it’s won awards from the Parent’s Council.

I don’t have the ability to underline in iPhoto so I want to point out here the start of my irritation with this book.  It’s when Frankel says

I believe that a frank and open approach to all bodily functions is a good, healthy attitude towards child rearing.

Okay, great.  Let’s see how this plays out in your book…

I’m sorry, but…

A Pee-Pee for making Wee-Wee


And you’re going to use an illustration that deliberately gives the impression that the labia lips are where the “wee-wee” comes from not unlike the penis?


And on the doll, which I can’t find or I’d show you a picture, the entire vulva..clitoris, labia majora and minora, urethra and vagina are represented by thread sewn, I swear to you, in the following pattern *.  Yes, the entire female vulva reduced to a goddamn asterisk.

It kind of freaks me out that Prudence doesn’t have ass cheeks.  She just has a hole that “makes” Poo-poo.  I realize we’re not going to teach our two and three year olds about the full digestive system, but the idea that your anus makes feces irritates me.  I would use the word “passes” or some other word choice here.

What the hell is that thing?

THAT is the potty?

What’s up with the Victorian era chamber pot?  I’ve seen chamber pots like that…in museums.  I realize the book was originally written in 1975, but the doll comes with a potty that’s a dead ringer for the bjorn potty.  What toddler is going to see that and make the connection?  It’s been re-written for girls (the original was just for boys, as the author had a small boy at the time) and has been re-issued over and over.  They’re even going to issue an edition with push button sounds.  I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to update the illustrations.

Or the girl’s name.  Which is Prudence.

I realize that we live in such a repressed time that a town in Florida felt the need to change the theater marquee where The Vagina Monologues was playing to read “The Hoohah Monologues,” after a driver called to complain that her niece had seen the sign and asked what a vagina was and that it was offensive.  And yes, the driver was a woman.  So yeah, we lived in such a repressed point in time that I could weep for women everywhere, but this book is emblematic of where it all begins.

I was, and I am humiliated to admit this, something like 19 or 20 before I actually understood that urine does not come out of your vagina.  One of the reasons I was scared of tampons when I was 15 was that I thought they’d soak up the urine too, or it would just be sitting there in my vagina, blocked by the tampon and would all come out on my hands when I pulled it out.  I was baffled that I could still pee with a tampon in, and decided at 17 that urine must have magical powers to pass through the tampon.


Women are taught next to nothing about their bodies, and the cultural taboos made it hard for previous generations to share information, much less to have acquired it themselves.  There’s an anecdote in Florence King’s Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady where she is given a rectal exam instead of a pelvic one because she’s still a virgin, and when she does accidentally tear her hymen (a bike accident or some such…I’m too lazy to find the book and the specific page) her doctor gives her a certificate of virginity to give to her husband on her wedding night so he’d know she was a good girl which her grandmother takes and reverentially folds up and puts away for that auspicious day (which never comes as King is a lesbian–the book is a great read, incidentally, if you like memoirs).  This was the 50’s, for the record.

Want to get depressed?  Go ask a bunch of college educated women exactly how their birth control works.

If you want to cry, ask a bunch of guys.  Here, I’ll show you.

Look, I realize we’re only at potty training, but I truly look at this as the start of the lack of information.

If you tell a girl that she makes wee-wee from her pee-pee or some other made up bullshit name, you’re starting them on the road of shame about our bodies that is so disempowering when we get older.  Why do a lot of teenage girls get pregnant?  Because they have no idea how ovulation and the menstrual cycle or birth control for that matter really work or how to use them properly.  Hell, why do so many women have unplanned pregnancies?  Having worked at Planned Parenthood, I can tell you that a common reason was that they didn’t take the pill correctly, not understanding that it was CRITICAL that you take it at the SAME TIME every day.  Having sat in a room while sex ed was taught to a group of fifth graders, I can tell you that while they mentioned fallopian tubes, they never explained that the urethra and the vagina were two different things.  Or that “vagina” is not the correct term for the vulva…that the vagina is where menstrual blood and tissues (and babies, if the woman chooses to have them) are passed.

Look, I have no issue with pee instead of urine or poo instead of feces.  But not empowering a girl to understand that she has a vulva, and that urine comes from a place in her vulva?  It’s just wrong.

What I really take issue with is the idea that the author genuinely thinks she’s some kind of trailblazer, using these stupid phrases instead of vulva and penis.  If that’s true, and she is…I weep for everyone.





I’m getting rid of it, along with the stupid doll and her not even close to the potty in the book potty.  I refuse to donate it because I don’t want to aid anyone else using stupid terms for genitalia, either.

This entry was posted in Birth Control, Developmental Stuff, Elanor, Elmo, Headdesk, Parenting Theories, Pictures, Potty Training, Read Alouds, Video. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to “Once Upon a Potty,” or I hate this book so much…

  1. Aimee says:

    The book you’re looking for? You may have to write it. I just got a whole slew of “Potty” themed books from the library, and they’re all CRAP. The best of the lot is “Potty Animals” which is not actually about learning to use the potty, but about bathroom hygiene and manners, specifically in classroom settings.

    The BIG Potty Book, Pete’s Potty (I’m assuming there’s a girl version of this one called Patty’s Potty or somesuch), and Duck Goes Potty: all useless.

  2. Saffy says:

    Sooooo much to look forward to :p Argh.

    You know, I have to be completely honest here and say that being the marketer I often wonder how much we’re sucked into buying – I know why we do it, but some how our ancestors got by. This is no reflection on you – merely a whole lot of ‘stuff’ that is pushed our way for our kids. Aimee’s right – you should write a book on the topic.

    As for anatomy inaccuracies and kids? Agreed. Better to teach the basics correctly from the start.

    • Crystal says:

      What I find fascinating is learning about how our ancestors got by. I’ve read accounts that talk about tying babies (on a leash) to a tree so mom could garden and such. There was no idea that infants needed to be entertained…that’s a really recent notion. Children were treated like mini adults, complete with responsibilities. Discipline was very forceful from our perspective. But I’ve also read that as recently as our grandparents, children who weren’t potty trained by 1-1.5 were the abnormality. Elizabethan kids (aristos, to be accurate) spoke and wrote in 4/5 languages. I wonder what they’d say about US?

      I definitely look around my living room and wonder what all this crap is (other than crap). But on the other hand, I love buying stuff for her (as he closet will attest, stuffed to the gills as it is).

      On the other hand, my mom looks around and see stuff is like “I would have KILLED for that!!!”

      I think it’s both too much and not enough as when E has kids (if she has kids) I’ll be sitting in amazement going WOW

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