Do you think it’s possible that anyone has ever just given up and actually died from potty training twins? Could there be a headstone out there somewhere, engraved with the standard things like “beloved wife and mother,” but also with “taken too soon by the impossible demands of potty training twins”?
For a while there, I really thought that potty training my darling twins was going to kill me. It’s not that the girls were particularly difficult about it, or that they did anything out of the ordinary, it’s just that there were two of them to deal with. Plus a baby, whose main desire throughout that whole insane period of our lives was to touch, taste, and climb inside everything having to do with the bathroom: the potties, the toilet, the pull-ups, and the underwear.
I probably went about it all wrong, but what did I know? I’d never done it before, and while there’s plenty of potty training advice out there, no one tells you how much harder it’s going to be with twins. So I’m going to say it. I’m going to be totally honest about my experience for the sake of all the other moms of twins out there who need to know the truth:
I felt like I was playing a game without really knowing the rules. I was giving it my best, but I was outnumbered, overwhelmed, and I just kept striking out.
For starters, we bought two identical potties and set them up in the living room so the girls would get used to seeing them and they’d be readily available whenever they showed interest in trying them. That’s all well and good if you don’t have a baby playing with the potties, licking the potties, and making the potties into hats every chance she gets. Strike one.
So we moved them into the bathroom. Our downstairs bathroom was built as an afterthought in our old house, and has no source of heat. Once the Winter to End All Winters hit, the potties were ice-cold. The girls freaked out when arctic breezes wafted across their delicate little buns and refused even to try sitting on the frigid seats. Strike two.
I cheerfully bought a bunch of sparkly stickers and hung up a construction paper “potty chart” for each girl and planned to let her affix a sticker to her chart every time she did something in the potty. It’s a lovely idea in theory – positive reinforcement, a visual reminder of success, etc. etc. – but what actually happened is that one girl progressed more quickly with the potty than the other, so we had one over-achieving sticker-blasted chart next to one totally lame, sparsely-stickered chart and I felt awful every time I looked at them. What kind of message was I sending my poor daughters by displaying these radically unequal charts for all to see? The girls didn’t seem to attach much importance to the charts, but I didn’t want to make potty training into some kind of urination competition, for heaven’s sake. Strike three.
I took down the sticker charts and started giving them gummy bears as rewards for successfully using the potty, which is exactly what all the nutrition experts out there tell you not to do.
I realize that four strikes doesn’t really make sense. I don’t know how many strikes you get in this game. I don’t know the rules, remember?
Even though I was probably doing it all wrong, I wasn’t really worried about whether or not they’d learn to use the potty. I knew they would. Kids just do. And everyone kept telling me that they’d figure it out when they were ready, and I knew that. I really did. But that doesn’t mean that in the meantime, during the transition phase from diapers to competent toilet-use, I wasn’t sucked into a vortex of pee and poop, and bummies and undies, and a strong-but-not-strong-enough cocktail of Lysol, Clorox, Purell, and Tide.
It was my whole life.
Everything having to do with using the potty took up so much of my time. Two-year-olds need help with every aspect of using the potty, from pulling down their underwear far enough, to situating themselves properly on the toilet seat so that pee doesn’t sploosh onto everything like an enthusiastic little fountain (yes, even with girls) to wiping, to re-dressing, to washing their hands. Then I would have to get them their gummy bear reward from the kitchen. Then I’d have to do it all over again with the other kid, only to discover that while I was doing that, the baby pooped in her diaper and the child who had just gone to the bathroom four seconds ago has had an accident and needs clean underwear and clean pants, which I’d have to run upstairs to get, and then the baby would have to be kept out of the pee puddle on the floor while I got stuff to clean that up and then finally got around to changing her poopy diaper.
If I tried putting them in underwear first thing in the morning, I ended up cleaning at least five pee accidents. Before noon. And I still had to do all the other stuff involved in taking care of three children and running a household.
It was exhausting. And much more emotionally draining than you might think.
I wanted to stay positive, for the kids, so they’d feel good and relaxed about doing something so new and grown-up, but some days, I just cried. It was so much harder than I ever thought it would be, even if the craziness was only for a relatively brief amount of time.
They did eventually figure it all out. They just decided one day, right after they turned three, that they loved their new undies and were going to be potty trained. It was such a relief. A sweet, sweet relief. I got back some sanity. I finally caught my breath. My days were no longer completely focused on the whims of other people’s bladders.
And I wish I could give you some tips, some advice, some handy hints, if you’re going through potty training twins yourself. I guess I could say that you could keep a bunch of spare undies and pants in the downstairs bathroom, but that’s pretty much all I’ve got. I don’t know what else to tell you except that I know it’s hard. I know that you know that your kids will figure out how to use the toilet eventually, but that it’s really hard anyway.
Buy them a ton of underwear, enough so that when there’s inevitably a favorite pair, you have two of them.
Buy a ton of Clorox wipes.
Buy a ton of vodka. You’re going to need it.
But just know that you’re not alone. Potty training is hard. Potty training twins with a baby hanging around is even harder. It doesn’t last forever, and there will be plenty of more difficult challenges ahead, but I know that right now sucks. It’s okay to say it.