Potty training: it is one of those parenting things that hovers like Godzilla over your children’s early toddlerhood, a looming monster that scares parents for months ahead of its arrival. Anticipating those misplaced rivers of urine and piles of excrement, the constipation, the capricious ebb and flow of toddler enthusiasm, followed by the number of times we will have to rush a small child into a dirty bathroom at the back of the Home Depot or grocery store—it is just frightening. For some of us, the fears are unfounded. We wait until the child is ready, and then she just does it. Unless she relapses later. But more often our kids are kind of ready or only ready if dad is around or if it involves being naked all the time. Add twins into the equation and it is like Godzilla and King Kong both. My Moms of Multiples discussion board fills with potty training questions about once a month, as each of us gets ready to try, or has tried and it didn’t work, or it worked with one but not the other. Should we start? Wait longer? Gradual method or three day method? Quit? Keep going? Keep a potty seat in the car?
In my house we have done all of the above. My original plan with the boys was to wait until they were at least two and a half. I trained Abi when she was just two, at her request, and though she got the idea within half a day and was super happy about it at first, it took another six months before her bladder could really cope with long outings, stressful situations, and engrossing play. Abi’s brothers, though, had other ideas. Somewhere around the end of July they both started taking off their shorts and diapers as soon as there was a little pee in them. If I left them naked, they’d pee around the house. If I put them in another diaper, they’d pee another tablespoon of urine and take it off. I couldn’t afford the diapers and I was sick of the puddles. We had one of Abi’s old potty seats floating around and they both liked experimenting with it. I tried instituting the rule that if a diaper is off, pee goes in the potty, but it didn’t stick.
I was sick of the wasted diapers too. I wanted to use that money for part of their preschool tuition. When Abi started school, I declared, we would start potty training. Two potties, candy and stickers for rewards, hide all the diapers. Callum was distressed when I took off his last diaper and tried to put it back on, though it was full of about five pounds of nighttime pee. He understood that this was a big change and had to process it emotionally. Ronan was excited by the new game. I gave them gallons of watered down juice and had them walk around naked, watching potty training videos and reading potty training books. Whenever one started to go, I’d rush him to the closest potty chair, cheerfully announcing, “Pee goes in the potty!” Then I’d cheer and give him an m & m. By day two they were both hitting the potty with regularity, though occasional accidents were still happening. This method of potty training encourages you to get the kids out of the house on the third day to show them that they can really do it. We went on walks and bike rides (it was overcast and coolish) and even did a snack time at a Dunkin Donuts down the street. We went to the park one day too, and open house at their preschool, all in underwear. They did fine every time.
By the time a week was up, though, they were starting to resist. Callum proved to have a bladder of steel. He’d hold it for two or three hours and then unleash a torrent, standing there sobbing in the growing pool. “Help me, mom, help!” Ronan would sneak off and pee anywhere except the potty. His favorite spot was an old mattress in the corner of the playroom, which fortunately had a waterproof cover. Sometimes they would be into it and other times I couldn’t persuade them for love or backhoe stickers.
Time to recalibrate. I was tired of the puddles. We have a new rule: diapers while out around town. Choice of diaper or not at home. But the naked boy must a)make an attempt to get to the potty when he has to go or b)at least try when I ask him to (once every 1.5 hrs) or the diaper goes back on. Callum almost always picks diaper, except for a couple hours a day when he likes to practice his potty skills. Ronan almost never chooses a diaper, and he is well-controlled except that he gets bored and tries to find alternate receptacles/locations to unleash. For the past two days his location of choice has been his brother’s bed, the rascal. They say not to get mad at potty accidents, but when he threatened a fourth attempt my eyes about rolled back in my head. This was no accident, anyway. “PEE GOES IN THE POTTY, RONAN! DON’T YOU DARE PEE ON THAT BED!” I carried him down the hall under my arm while I maniacally wheezed peegoesinthepottypeegoesinthepotty and plopped him on the potty, where he dutifully peed. If he has a diaper on and has to poop, he will remove it and sit on the potty to do the deed. Good job Ronan!
I’m kind of happy that Ronan is taking the lead on this milestone, though, after having his brother outpace him on nearly every other one. I try to treat them each as an individual but they are together virtually all the time, and when we are out and about they often hear a stream of comments about how much taller Callum is and how much bigger his smile is and how much more he talks etc etc. All true, but I wonder how Ronan will feel about it as he gets older. I may have to work on a way to curb the public comparisons.
And I’m happy that they encourage each other so much in potty training. They report each other’s successes to me; they say “Nice job! You peed in the potty!” to one another; they share reward stickers and do happy dances for one another. They have also taken to praising me profusely for my own successful bathroom trips. They peer seriously into the toilet bowl. “You did it, Mom! There’s pee in there! Good job! Good job!” Yes, if there is one thing I do well in life, it’s pee in the potty.