Before you even read the rest of this, you should know that today is not my best mommy day. I was up half the night with Braxton Hicks. Our asthmatic toddler is having a small flare up, not too bad but enough to put him out of sorts. I woke up exhausted; he woke up whining. Then I served the boys breakfast, crock pot oatmeal with apples, cinnamon, and brown sugar simmered in it all night, topped with walnuts and heavy cream this morning. There was an absolute boycott at breakfast, "What is this? This not how you make oatmeal!" Our oldest said, "I like oatmeal how Marmie makes it, not like this." (Marmie is my momma.) By 9 am, I was exhausted and ready for either a re-do of the day or bedtime. I would like to note that the oatmeal was really good and tasted almost exactly like the instant packets of Quaker Oats Apple and Cinnamon, plus it was ready as soon as we got up!
So this blog post is brought to you by my pleasant we've-made-it-to-mid-afternoon attitude. With that said, I thought this would be the perfect afternoon to give you a follow-up on potty training toddler twins.
How has potty training been going? I'm going to say, "Good..."
Why such a tentative answer? You would think that getting 2 toddlers out of diapers would be a hands down relief. I certainly thought it would be (read "Potty training 2.5 year old twin boys?"). In a lot of ways, it is. I don't have to change their poopy diapers; every parent knows that by the time your children are reaching 3-years old, their stinky diapers are horrendous. Not changing those is nice. It is also nice not to worry about buying diapers. While we weren't flying through diapers with twin toddlers like we were with twin infants, we still needed a diaper stash. Even better, I haven't bought baby wipes in months.
But there is a downside. I read this post by "30 Fingers, 30 Toes: Potty Training & Avoiding Public Restrooms." I couldn't agree more. It is a nightmare. When I go out with the boys by myself, most of the time I have to drag all our stuff into the bathroom with us (reason number 1 that I still push a stroller, as mentioned in "Toddler twin must haves (2yo to 3yo)"). Once I get us all in there, I have 3 boys exploring a public bathroom with their hands. Our 5-year old really is very good in the bathroom, but he starts trying to help wrangle his brothers and it just becomes this whole hands on experience. In the public bathroom. The toddlers are pretty good. As in, grabbing hand rails, trying to help lift the toilet lids, wanting to help lock and unlock the bathroom stalls... Washing their hands is a struggle. After I wash one set of hands, he's off trying to man-handle the trash can to throw his paper towel away while I'm stuck at the sink trying to wash the other set of hands, while their older brother is opening the bathroom door to "help" hold the door for me (which, in action, is really just letting his brothers escape before I'm done). It is non-stop stress for me from the moment we enter the bathroom to when we finally leave it. One of the few pluses, which really is a plus whether they are potty trained or not, is that I can have them all stand next to the stroller outside of the bathroom stall where I can see their feet so I don't have to have them all in the bathroom stall with me; our 5-year old is very good at bossing his brothers around and enjoys when I tell him to make sure no one moves an inch.
Then you have the constant, "I have to go potty!" When we go out as a family, we'll be sitting at the restaurant table and our oldest will say he has to use the restroom. Since we are sitting close to the restroom and can see him go in and out, we say, "Go ahead." We watch him leave the table and head into the bathroom. Then one of the toddlers says he has to go. We ask the other toddler if he also needs to use the restroom. He says no. So my husband takes the first toddler to the bathroom. Our oldest comes out of the bathroom and says he saw Daddy in the bathroom with his brother to which the second toddler declares that he, in fact, does have to go potty. I wait until my husband comes out of the bathroom with the first toddler before getting the second toddler out of his high chair to go meet his daddy. My husband takes the second toddler to the bathroom and then we will all settle back at the table before one of the toddlers exclaims, "I have to go poop!" Right now it is very hard to tell if this is a game or real. Our oldest, when potty training, often would use the restroom and then need to go back for the larger functions. Our toddlers have followed that trend. However, when all 3 of them are rotating through the restroom our entire meal, our understanding of, "He's still learning what his body is telling him," is lost. It just becomes tiring. We can tell our oldest, "Well, you are going to wait." We started potty training our toddlers in February and it is now April... that's not a ton of potty training experience under their belt and the consequences of making a toddler wait that really does need to use the bathroom does not yet outweigh the benefit of making said toddler wait. Sometimes we make all of them go to the bathroom when we get up with one, especially if out by ourselves with all 3 of the boys. This often helps eliminate the "Oh, I really do want to go" after the other boys come back from the bathroom. However, we still get the "I have to go poop!" after we settle back into our table or out at the park.
Speaking of the larger functions, it is difficult when both toddlers really do need to go poop. If you have ever been in a public bathroom, you are probably familiar with the fact that they are equipped with one toilet in each stall. My husband felt bad one day when both toddlers were occupying the only 2 stalls in the men's bathroom and a gentleman came in wanting to use a stall. I often will take both into the handicap stall and make the other wait, but that can be hard when you can tell looking at the toddler's face who is waiting that he really does need to use the restroom. Again, not really one of those times where the consequence of making him wait outweighs the benefit. Logistically, it is quite difficult when one toddler is finished in one stall and the other toddler is finished in the other stall, especially when you hear the waiting toddler start touching things in the other, out of sight, stall. I don't know how many times I have hollered over a stall, "DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING."
Then there are the other joys of potty training boys. A common problem we are having now is not pulling their shirts up enough when standing to tinkle. This means changing shirts because the bottom of the shirt gets wet. Or they don't pull their pants down enough so the top band gets wet. My husband has jokingly said, "It's just a little pee." But as every momma knows, there is no such thing as a "little pee." We still haven't tackled nights yet. We do pull-ups at night (the Target brand pull-ups have submarines on them!). We do have them nap in underwear. Their mattress are zipped into waterproof mattress covers. We have 2 sets of spare sheets always clean in the linen closet. We switched from diapers at night to pull-ups because they were not able to take their diapers off in the night or in the morning to use the restroom; they are able to pull the pull-ups up and down by themselves without requiring us to change them (yay for more sleep in the morning and not having to get up in the night!). One of our toddlers has started getting up in the night to use the restroom. He's even had a couple days this week of waking up dry. If I wasn't 31-weeks pregnant, I would seriously consider potty training him for overnight. Even with this progress, we are still having issues during naptime, especially when they are over tired or sick. If we have a super busy morning and they are beat tired, they will pass out and sleep for 3 hours straight-- like rocks. Rocks that have the risk of wetting the bed. When we first started potty training them, we held our breath every naptime-- will they make it through nap without having an accident? It was a risk we were willing to take. We knew we didn't want to do pull-ups for naptime and we wanted them to learn, so we just kind of threw them into it. Now it isn't so stressful when they go down to nap, save for the above mentioned times. They really don't nap too often or too long anymore anyways and, if they do start to wet the bed, it usually wakes them up. They will wet a small amount and wake up angry like cats in a bathtub, "My bed is wet!" We really don't have many naptime accidents anymore. The accidents we have are usually attire related (they can't get their jeans down fast enough which leads to panicked accidents next to the toilet) or logistic accidents (sitting down to use the restroom and not getting everything squared away before tinkling). I think our toddlers are more prone to these little accidents because they don't have an adult shadowing them every time they use the bathroom; our oldest was also a little taller and so I think some of this was much easier for him to handle logistically.
The last joy of potty training is the potty training rebellion. We experienced this with our oldest, having accidents after he mastered potty training. We felt like he did this to see what his boundaries were. "Okay, I wanted to potty train and now I've done it; what are my rules now?" Potty training twins was potty training rebellion times two. Maybe times a million because taking care of 3 kids and being in my third trimester really made the potty training rebellion super frustrating. Our oldest didn't host a rebellion with me and then another one with my hubby; one of our toddlers didn't do it that way either. The other toddler, after rebelling with me, starting a potty training rebellion every night when Daddy got home. Oh, it was just a frustrating time. I felt that between potty training at naptime and the little accidents that happened during the day, I was doing laundry all the time! I also kept thinking, "Surely it wasn't like this with our oldest?" In a lot of ways it was and wasn't. While one of our toddlers decided he wanted to potty train at 2.5-years old and did-- contrary to our oldest who we told to potty train after he turned 3-years old-- the rest of his potty training path has been very similar to our oldest. It just all fell into place and he did a great job with it. Our other toddler has been a wild card. Sometimes we felt like he really did want to potty train and sailed through it; other times we felt like it was all a big charade. Sometimes we wondered if we needed to go back to diapers with him, but then we felt we had come too far in potty training him and that he would learn bad behavior had no consequence, that we would concede and put him back in diapers... It was confusing. So it was hard on the frustrating days with the one toddler who treated potty training like a joke on occasion not to feel super frustrated when the other toddler, the one who wanted to do this, had a legitimate accident. I would feel like, "I have done nothing but change sheets and change clothes all day long and here we go! Another accident!" When really I had changed his twin brother's sheets and clothes and this was his first accident that day and, on top of that, was a real accident, compared to his brother who had "on purposes," as my hubby and I have come to call them. It was very important to pay attention to who was having accidents and what type of accidents they were and not just heap all of the accidents together. It wasn't fair to either of the toddlers, the one in the right or the one in the wrong. Why should the one in the right be punished for his brother's crime? And why should the one in the wrong not have to bear his own punishment?
The last frustrating point of having potty trained twins is the laundry. I know that we aren't alone in having kids who love clothes. Even our oldest is always wanting to change his clothes for his activity. This morning he wore an outfit to rock'n'roll in (pulling out all our Rock Band accessories) and then put on an outfit to exercise in; now he's outback wearing play clothes. Now we have 2 toddlers with an underwear bin. They want to wear Superman, then Spiderman, then Mickey Mouse, then Monsters Inc... It is crazy! We do everything we can to stop them from changing. They literally have a lock on their closet where we keep all their clothes, including their underwear, but we still find them sneaking into the dryer and pulling out clean underwear and a clean change of clothes. We find them changing into clothes from the dirty clothes hamper... The amount of clothes they go through in a day is insane. I don't even know how I'm going to feel when baby #4 gets here this summer and we are adding newborn laundry into the mix. Will I ever be able to escape our laundry room then??? Our kids change their clothes unnecessarily, but then we have the aforementioned accidents and it all just piles up. Plus my husband who today will 3 different outfits to wash: his uniform, his civilian clothes, and then his t-ball coaching outfit. This is why I stick to pajamas. I can wear them all day and then sleep in them. Easy and completely cuts down on laundry. (Totally kidding! Kind of...)
All in all, potty training our twin toddlers has not been the huge sigh of relief that it was when we potty trained our oldest. I think once we are through with pull-ups and done with these accidents-- small, large, accidental, on purpose-- I'll love potty training more. I think when they are old enough to go into the boys' room together and I'm not dealing with them touching everything in the public restroom, I'll love potty training more. I think once their bathroom doesn't smell faintly of urine no matter how often I clean it, I'll love potty training more.
Each of our kids has potty trained differently. Two of our boys have been very easy to potty train, the third a little more challenging. I think we were quite spoiled the first time we potty trained, accomplishing days and nights so close together, throwing diapers out all together. I liked how we did it then, but I'm reminding myself that it is different now. Even though we potty trained him when we had 3 children, we were only potty training one child. Now we are potty training 2 children and our family is much busier with twin toddlers than when we had twin babies (read "Follow-up on potty training" for the blog post on potty training our oldest).
To quote Monty Python, "Always look at the bright side of life..."
Posts on our potty training journey:
Potty training our oldest son
"Try to see it my way"
"Try to see it my way"
Potty training our identical twin boys