Potty Training Twins: May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor

posted in Parenting Challenges, Potty Training, Twins on by with 33 Replies

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:

potty training

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.


Strike four.

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.

Also, this:


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.


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  • http://www.normaleverydaylife.com/ normaleverydaylife

    I potty trained my twin girls about seven years ago. I’d already potty trained three others, so I thought it might not be too bad. It was not something I want to repeat! I had to laugh at the differences in the charts and how you felt about it. That is totally how I’d feel, too! 🙂 Glad it’s over for you and hopefully your next one will be a breeze!

    • ShakespearesMom

      Thank you! I know that potty training is just a tiny hurdle in the grand scheme of parenting, but man, it wore me out. I am REALLY hoping that it is a breeze with my youngest. Maybe my twins will be my “helpers.” 🙂

  • http://ohmyheartsiegirl.com/ Karren Haller

    Coming from IBA jus tweeted your post!! Have a great weekend!

    • ShakespearesMom

      Thank you so much!

  • http://www.experiencedbadmom.com/ Experienced Bad Mom

    Hee hee! yes, you have every right in the world to declare potty training suckdom! Visiting from Manic Monday linky.

    • ShakespearesMom

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • http://www.ComfyTownChronicles.com Joy @ Comfytown

    OH so much! I have to do that this winter, my 2 yr old and one I watch along with a newborn, taking a 4 yr old to preschool and picking up, and my annoying teenager. I’m trying not to think about it because it’s just too depressing.
    Beach and vodka. I might drink them together.

    • ShakespearesMom

      Oh man. That is going to be tough. I have so much admiration for your ability to watch other people’s kids in addition to your own. Well, stock up on your vodka, and pray that your teenager gets lots of TEN HOUR SHIFTS at his super-hard job 🙂

      • http://www.ComfyTownChronicles.com Joy @ Comfytown

        hahahaha he had a TWELVE HOUR SHIFT while i was out of town. Glad I was gone, can’t imagine the DRAMA! 🙂 I get through it, somehow, but I’m not sure how successful we are over here. So far they’ve all gone home alive. Even today’s barfer upon my couch, that wasn’t even my kid 🙁

  • http://babygatesdown.wordpress.com/ Louise

    Oh boy – I do not envy you. Potty training one at a time was enough. And if I’m being honest? My daycare provider did most of the heavy lifting. We were in more of a supporting role. We’re gearing up to train my youngest this summer once school is out. My sense is it should be fairly easy as she mimics her older sister – but we’ll see…
    This is my first visit to your blog – it’s lovely. I will surf around a bit.

    • ShakespearesMom

      Thank you so much for visiting! I’m hoping it’s pretty smooth with my youngest too – best of luck to you!

  • Meredith

    Wow. I’m so sorry. I’m just dreading potty training my youngest, and I can’t imagine having to do TWO AT THE SAME TIME. Yes, I would for sure die. I’m glad you survived it. You must have done something right! 🙂 Thanks for linking up!!

    • ShakespearesMom

      I did survive it. I think, anyway. I may have lost a few brain cells and gained a few more gray hairs in the process though 🙂

  • Sarah

    Oh my gosh this is me right now! I have twin 2 1/2 year old boys and a ten month old. I tried to do potty training with the twins a couple weeks ago and it went so horribly that I decided I am just going to keep them in diapers until they are in kindergarten lol. After cleaning up dozens of accidents, doing load after load of laundry, and constantly trying to keep the baby out of all things “toilet related,” I decided diapers really aren’t that bad after all. Using the potty is OVER RATED. Right? Right?

    • ShakespearesMom

      Totally overrated. Especially if I have to take all of them anywhere by myself. It would be so much easier to just say, go ahead and do it in your diaper! Best of luck to you with your twins – I guess just hang in there and know you’re not alone!

  • Megan L.

    Oh boy, I shouldn’t be but I am laughing so hard…I can only imagine. I’m glad that it is over for you. The one baby should seem much less stressful 🙂 Hopefully…

    • ShakespearesMom

      That’s what I’m hoping too! Thanks for reading!

      • Megan L.

        I should have added that I was laughing because of your vivid descriptions of the process. NOT because of the struggle. I remember trying to potty train my first (who is now 5) taking her already ‘half way done’ messy diaper off to get her to sit and finish on the potty setting the diaper on the floor, our dog coming in and trying to eat that (Ugh! gross) to me letting go of her to grab the diaper away from the dog, and her then slipping into the potty. It’s just so funny when we aren’t right there in the moment. At that moment I was in tears and far from laughing! Hopefully the farther away the potty training gets the more you’ll be able to laugh about it 🙂

        • ShakespearesMom

          Don’t dogs just make it so much worse? My two dogs regularly pee on the floor. I have no idea why. It’s like they’ve decided that I don’t have enough pee to clean up with two potty-trainers and a one-year-old. Sheesh.
          Thanks for your support!

  • Megan L.

    I’ve nominated you for the versatile Bloggers Award 🙂 Information can be found at http://meaningfulmommy.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/my-first-nomination-the-versatile-bloggers-award/
    I really enjoy all your blog has to offer in tips, laughs and honesty!

    • ShakespearesMom

      Thank you so much, Megan!

      • Megan L.

        You are welcome! 🙂

  • Caroline

    1) I have a fantabulous picture of Celeste, in the bathtub, with poop alllllllll the way up to her shoulder blades from a blowout poonami. And she’s all, what?
    2) Girl #1 took forever to potty train, and used pull-ups until she was five. Girl #2 was dry through the night by 3. We wouldn’t let #1 go without pull ups until she was dry three nights in a row, which never ever happened, and we kept #2 in pull ups – the same one – for months, because we couldn’t have the younger one in panties when the older one was in a pull up. So when #1 finally made it, we cheered wildly, high-rived, made a huge deal of it – and then quietly pulled #2 over and took off her pull up with no attention drawn to her at all.
    3) Toilet training sucks eggs.

    • ShakespearesMom

      It is so hard to have to deal with not only “poonami” type stuff all the time (great word by the way) but also to worry about whether you’re being fair to the kids, and whether you’re unintentionally making someone feel bad about themselves. These are the kinds of things you have to figure out when your kids are all so close in age, and I had no idea.
      Thanks for commiserating!

  • Kimberly

    This is so my life right now. Trying to potty train my twins since NOVEMBER and it’s been a nightmare and I’ve made so mistakes. They turn three in a few months and I’m just praying they sort it out. And I’ve got a baby and a dog too so I feel your pain!

    • ShakespearesMom

      Oh man. Best of luck to you. Hopefully soon you’ll have some success.

  • http://www.FranticMama.blogspot.com/ Frantic Mama

    O.M.G. I completely get it. I never imagined my life revolving around someone else’s pee and poop. Only, you had it SO much harder doing it with two kids while dealing with a baby (I just had my ONE son to train while dealing with a baby). Best line —-> “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.” May the force be with you.

    • ShakespearesMom

      Haha – thanks. We were doing pretty well but then just today Captain Chaos pooped in her underwear. Awesome.

  • Erin Demshar

    Abby is quite interested and Anna not so much. I can relate to so many things you posted here…I was laughing hysterically…only because I can relate! Abby takes the potty apart and puts the bowl on her head and calls it a hat…I said, “No, Abby…that is not a hat. It is a bowl that catches the poop.” She says “catches the poop” and then I laugh so hard at how ridiculous that sounds…haha. I took Abby’s diaper off for an hour or so because she wanted to be on the potty every five seconds, but then for the two seconds that I ran into the kitchen to get them some water (ironically), Abby starts peeing all over the doggy gate that separates the kitchen/living room…so I can keep the dogs out of the potties. I said, “Abby, go pee on the potty…quick!” And she starts screaming and crying NO!! Fail. Oh yeah, and our only downstairs bathroom isn’t even large enough for a little potty, so we probably have to get the toilet attachment or something. I think we’re gearing up for a fun year of losing binkies, potty training, and big girl bed training…hang on tight, right? 🙂 So glad to share these times with someone who relates so closely!!

    • ShakespearesMom

      I kind of wish I could ship the dogs off somewhere for a while. They’ll be great when the girls are all like 4 and 5, but holy cow they make everything so much harder right now.
      And big kid beds – that was, and continues to be, such a challenge with twins. It’s a freaking slumber party every night. I don’t really know what to do – we’re just taking it day by day! Or night by night I guess 🙂 If you come up with any magical solutions let me know! 🙂

  • MLP

    We are starting this in two weeks with my two boys who just turned three, and frankly, I’m terrified. It’s so irrational. But, I will fortunately not be alone for the beginning (husband AND in-laws to help) and I’m stupidly hopeful we can get it done in two weeks. Daytime only, that is. We’ll work on night time much much later…..

    • ShakespearesMom

      I think that if you hit that sweet spot of the the perfect time to start potty training, you probably can do it in two weeks. It just clicked all of a sudden with my girls. Best of luck to you!

  • Twinsplustwo

    lol!! Made me laugh – I went through this a few years back. Still not fully recovered!