Time really does fly by. Fourteen years ago (almost!), I met Peter for the first time and a few weeks later said the words that changed my life forever. Three years ago, I was pregnant with Bobby and Maya, having just seen them on ultrasound and preparing for the cerclage and bedrest to follow. Two years and seven months ago, they were born, an entire trimester too early and with quite the road ahead of them. And now... Oh now... Now, they are no longer babies... They are quickly outgrowing the monikor of "toddlers" and are on their way to being preschoolers. And, in growing up, they've kicked their diapers to the curb.
That's right, folks. Diapers... No longer on standing order with Amazon. There was quite the moment of sniffles as I canceled the Subscribe and Save option, and it's been a bit strange around here as I've not needed to empty diaper trash every night. The changing table is now in the basement, freeing up a nice little rectangle chunk in the kids' room. We will use the disposables we have for night time (we still have almost 100 diapers, so that should take us a month and a half, and that doesnt count the Pull-Ups we have) and then there will not even be a diaper left in the house!
But let me back up a bit. I suppose some background is in order.
Around 17 months (yeah, that freaking long ago). the kids started showing some of the readiness signs so, like any parents who were jazzed about being those people who had potty trained their kids under 2 years old,we went out and got two neat little potties (remember these? turns out those monkeys are the only ones who ever used those things...) And then... Nothing. They had no desire whatsoever to use them and, honestly, we had no real desire to train them. They werent vocalizing and we were settling in nicely to the leaving babyhoood and moving into toddlerhood phase. After a month or two, the potties went into storage and that was that. We figured they'd come back at some point. I read a few books, kept looking for signs, and we bought the fit-over-the-toilet style seats, just in case. Bobby never seemed to want to go to the toilet to just sit and would scream; we outgrew that (thank God) but he wouldnt 'go'. Maya would politely decline going ("Would you like to sit on the potty?" "No, thanks.") although she would sit periodically and even peed once.
We didnt want to rush them, but at the same time, we had two factors that started playing out. The first is that we are now on a clock, so to speak. They are going to preschool in September and they must be potty trained in order to do so. Months to do it, yes but a time crunch nonetheless. However, the bigger thing is that they were telling us they were wet/dirty. If you can tell us, then you are old enough to take care of that business in the potty. So, Peter and I marked the calendar. He would take Easter Week off and Easter Monday (4/9) would be the big day. We talked about it like it was the BIGGEST news ever. I made a big deal of buying toddler underwear, washing it, and putting it away. We kept telling them that they were our 'big boy' and 'big girl', and, whenever we saw diapers on tv (on a baby), would encourage them when they called the child a 'baby' and toss in things like "Yes, that's a baby and s/he's wearing a diaper."
Monday came. And, by the end of it, I'd done 4 loads of laundry (no joke), cleaned up a couple of poopy panties/briefs (fun times), and was ready to hang my mom (and every mom of a potty trained child who told me 'just put them in underwear') by their toes. I believe the phrase I used may have been (and pardon my language), "What the f--k were we thinking? There are two of them! This sucks!" Peter probably added something apropos, like "yeah, it stinks", but I dont remember.
But I'll say this. Every day has gotten better. And, although we aren't 100%, I believe that we did the right thing for our family in doing it this way, and I'm looking forward to accident free days for both kids. I know the journey is only starting, but to say that I am proud of them (especially since the latter half of potty training week saw them hit with colds (and an earache for Maya) is an understatement. They are rocking it. Maya goes to the potty without prompting (in fact, she gets a bit pissed off- no pun intended- when she's harrassed about it) and, although we have to prompt or take Bobby, he's not only peed sitting down, but standing up too! Pooping is still a challenge, but we are taking each accident as a training. We show the kids the mess, get it in the potty, clean them, and then we (not them) flush it down. (This is big- they LOVE to flush.). They also stay with us while we are cleaning up the underwear.
Here are the things that have worked (and are working) for us:
- Underwear: When I talked to the grandmothers (who didnt have the benefit of disposable underwear) and several playgroup and friend moms, I was told to by-pass disposable underwear (like Pull-Ups) and go straight to cotton panties/briefs. Is it messy? Yes. Does it work? Yes. Day 1 was a shock. I didnt realize just how much my kids were peeing! We went through- no joke- all of their shorts, some of their pants, and over a dozen (each) of their underwear. But, by day 2, that number was cut in half. And each day is getting better. It isnt that we have quashed the entire idea of disposables. We've decided that until waking training is pretty much at 100%, we will put the kids in pull-ups at naptime and diapers (until they run out)/pull-ups for bedtime. We decided against using a protector on the underwear (like a plastic/vinyl outer panty to protect clothes). We felt that part of the idea is that the kids KNOW they are wet because they are fully wet. While a waterproof guard would help me and cut down on laundry in the early stages of training, we didnt feel it would benefit the kids.
- Integrated Potty Seat: We started off with the non-integrated seat (see below). Our toilets are elongated, so Peter researched options and settled on the Bemis integrated seat. It's nice for adults because the default is adult friendly (the kid seat magnatizes to the lid), but it is easy for kids to square the seat away for themselves. It is extremely stable (no movement of the seat) which aids in the ease of little ones using the potty by themselves! (We bought the seats and were not compensated for giving a review.)
- Potty Time DVD: Monday morning came and I already had a load of wash going (and another piling up!). Both of us were like 'is this how it's going to be???' when Peter joked,"It's a shame Signing Time doesnt have a potty show." Our kids LOVE Signing Time. They sign a lot and I credit ST (along with our AWESOME speech therapist) for unlocking Bobby's verbal skills. Well... AMEN! ST does have a potty show. Don't laugh, but we overnghted it from Amazon. (We have Prime, so it isnt a big deal, cost wise). It was one of those things that, in retrospect, we should have done before we started training. I'm conviced that, because our kids respond so well to Signing Time, that DVD is a huge reason why I only had two loads of laundry on Tuesday and half the amount of wet clothes! They asked for it three times on Tuesday and have asked for it every day. The songs, the instructions... They are repeating them and utlizing the skills shown. Can I say that Potty Time trained them? I wont go that far. But it helped. A LOT. (We bought the DVD and were not compensated for giving a review.)
- The Potty Stool: We picked this up in advance of training- like a few weeks in advance. We were looking for stools and this one had excellent reviews. But the price? What in the world????!!! It's a stool for goodness sake! I thought it was nuts too, but, we did it. The main reason was that we really wanted to teach Bobby to pee standing up and since we werent having a urinal installed, this seemed like a great alternative. Another thing is that Miss I Do It didnt want help getting onto the toilet but a standard stool didnt give her (or Bobby) the security that it wouldnt tip if they stepped up and turned around. Also, they wanted something (just not us!) to hold onto to help situate themselves on the toilet. The Potty Stool solves all the problems. Like I said, it's not cheap and you are probably thinking that we are insane, but it's one of the things that I think is helping give the kids the independence they have in this first week of training and is helping it all go so smoothly in doing twins (and boy/girl twins at that!) Maya will just walk into bathroom, drop trou, and use the stool to get up and situated and do her business. Bobby has already peed standing up. (Yes, pee got on the seat, but hey- he did it!)
- Routine: This is a big one for several different reasons. We wanted to keep our daily routine as much as possible. We realized we'd need to stay home in the early days and then add in activity as we saw the direction the kids were going. So, we canceled our Monday playgroup (but kept our Thursday one) and opted to still take the kids to my in-laws on Wednesday (see 'support' for info about other people). By the end of the week, we did take the kids out (in underwear, with a change of clothes just in case) and there were no issues (YAY!!!). Saturday night, we went to Mass. How lucky were we? Really. They peed before we left the house and then, before we left church, we asked if they needed to. They said they did, so we took a portable potty seat (to sit on the big toilet) and went. Maya did it (and kicked me out of the stall so she could have some privacy!) and then Peter took Bobby into the men's room and he did it (both sitting and standing!). The other aspect of routine is potty routine. Go to the toilet, prep (i.e. lift the seat, remove clothes, etc), get on it, read a book (they have several to choose from), do your business, wipe, flush, get dressed, wash and dry hands, all done! We high five a job well done! In the early days, we asked all the time and went twice an hour regardless. No one liked that. Maya was pretty indignant actually. "I'M ALL CLEAN!" she would yell (and then sign it, just to make sure her daft parents got it). But now that they get it, they go into the potty and we watch them (especially for the signs of #2) to see if they need help getting to the potty. If they have an accident, we choose their clothes (this is more of a big deal for Maya, who takes great pride in choosing her clothes and getting dressed). Also, an accident means that we flush the toilet. This is actually quite the 'punishment'. The love to flush after using the potty; when we say we are doing it, you can almost see the realization of "NO!!!!" cross their faces. No tears, but they arent happy. I think this may be helping to limit accidents, LOL!
- Relaxation: Bobby has about 4 accidents a day and is more prone to it. Part of it is that he doesnt want to stop what he's doing and go. Part of it is he struggles to relax and just let go. Peter has had the greatest success with him. He just talks him through it and Bobby really seems to get it. Once he can release and pee a bit, he seems to really be able to let it all go. It took Maya a bit to get the hang of it in the beginning, but once she realized what it took to pee, she's had no accidents in a couple of days. Pooping... Well, Bobby I dont think is even trying in that regard and Maya had her first day where she tried, nothing happened, and she gave up, only to poop a minute or so later in her panties. And she was upset. I think she's close to getting the idea of relaxing AND pushing but at this point, we count poop accidents as unique from pee accidents since different muscles and sensations are being utilized.
- Privacy: This one is a Maya one. We had a day of successes when we left her alone. I had to go to her room for some reason and, low and behold, she peed! When I congratulated her, I said "Did you just want to be alone?" kind of as a joke and she said YES! Bobby, not so much. He wants you with him, but Maya would prefer you not be. She now goes into the bathroom and will take her bottoms/panties off, do her business, wipe, and could be flushing before you realize she's in there! She takes a lot of pride in being a big girl who can pee alone. So, we are letting her. She knows how to wipe herself and redress. She does need help (and asks for it) in the main bathroom for hand washing (she's not long enough, even with the stool, to turn the water on). With pooping, she knows she will need help to wipe (which we talk about when cleaning up accidents).
- Walking to Potty: Since Maya basically goes when she wants (including before nap or bedtime and when waking, resulting in a dry disposable... We may be attempting panties with nap soon!), this is more for Bobby. We've noticed less of a fight to sit on/stand in front of the potty when he chooses to go (and isnt being drug in there because we saw a 'sign' that he might need to go). It's hard... You want to minimize accidents but at the same time, you want to teach independence and self-reliance. With Maya, that was HUGE to get her to go. With Bobby, we are still learning what works. He's his own kid... We've learned that with his speech (updates to come!!) and it's true with his bathroom habits. But this seems to be a helpful technique for him.
- Open Door: This is pretty self explanatory, I guess. For a while now, we've kept the door open when we go to the bathroom so that the kids can come in, watch, etc. The main bathroom was always open (with a gate over it) so they could watch without getting into the tub, etc. Now, we leave both upstairs bathrooms open (and, suprisingly, the kids dont try to get in the tub, climb under the sink, etc in the main bathroom) so that they can go in whenever they want and they still can see us when we are in there. I think this is helping a lot with Bobby visualizing peeing standing up since he can see Peter do it.
- Accidents Happen: And when they do, it's not a big deal. We sign "accident" and we talk about it. Why did it happen? Did you stop what you were doing and go to the potty? Were you trying and just didnt make it? We treat the latter differently too. For example, the other day, Maya was in the main bathroom, on the toilet. Bobby prefers that bathroom (it has the potty stool in it) but he needed to go. Without a word, he went to the other bathroom and was trying to go to the potty. It was right after nap, however, so he still had a pull-up on and he couldnt get it down. He had an accident. Peter was with him at this point and still praised him for trying to go, let him wash hands, etc. and get dressed. He tried- that was more important than the end. For Maya, we had playgroup today and she went to the potty as another child was there. She waited (which means she was holding it- wow!) but by the time she started pulling off her underwear and sitting, she started peeing. So, there was some pee on the floor, toilet, etc as she was sitting and peeing in the toilet. It got her skirt a little wet and the edge of her panties got wet. She was upset, but I explained that it wasnt an accident because she wasnt trying to go, but it was her being polite and letting the other child finish, etc, and that she did a great job by holding it in and making it. She still flushed, washed, etc, and picked out her change of clothes and we arent counting it as a real accident. (See "bribery" below for why this matters). We're at the point now where we are starting to do our outings (like church and I'll go grocery shopping this afternoon) and I'm taking a portable potty seat (that sits over the big toilet) and a change of clothes. Life is life. Pottying is a part of that. So are accidents.
- Bed Making: Okay, so I made fun of Peter for this, but I have to give credit where credit is due. He wanted to drop the idea of disposables a week ago and do everything- including bedtime- in underwear. I thought he was nuts. Part of the reason has to do with having kids who nap (and not wanting to screw that up by having to change a bed!). Part of it is the hassle of changing a bed, airing out the matress, etc. Even with a matress cover, I'd still have to change the sheets. Enter an idea from my MIL. When Robert was sick, he would sometimes have accidents. It wasnt just hard on her to get things changed, but mentally it was tough for him because he felt like he was making a mess. (Since he was older, he understood more than our little guys, but still... The idea is probably still the same.) Her solution is a lifesaver. Double make the bed. Take a vinyl mattress cover and cover the bed. Layer on a fitted sheet and a flat sheet, tucked in fully. Cover it with a second vinyl, waterproof cover and make the bed with the fitted sheet (you'll sleep on), flat sheet, and blanket. In the event of an emergency, just rip off the top layer and toss it in the laundry room, while you have a perfect bed underneath. By the time your child is in dry bottoms, their bed is ready for them. No harm, no foul, and no huge loss of time. This came in handy the other day when Bobby had an accident while playing. By the time Peter had him in dry clothes, I had the bed redone (and I even remade the top layer since it wasnt a night time, emergency change). I dont fear the nightime/naptime panties/briefs nearly as much now. A little premature? Yes, but a tip I highly recommend.
- TV/Activity Habits: This is one I think we'll be working on for a while. As they say in Potty Time: Stop what you are doing and Go to the potty. Kids think the world will go on without them (and, it does, let's be honest). Trying to convince them to take a time out from play or from a favorite show is tough. When it's just the kids playing, it's easy; playgroups are harder. With TV, we just pause it (thanks DVR!) and turn off the screen. Same with movies. It seems to be the only thing that really helps. Maya is to the point now that she realizes we can rewind it if she misses something and she'll just go, and she's okay missing out on some play. Bobby... work in progress.
- Support: Lots of things take a village (like preserving Mommy's sanity). Potty training is no different. Peter took a week of his vacation to stay home and work with us. Without him... I dont want to think about it. Having four hands instead of two (especially when we were trying to clean up poop accidents) was a lifesaver with two butts to deal with. Maybe if we had singletons or were only doing one at a time his staycation wouldnt have been needed, but doing both at once... Lifesaver. My MIL and FIL still kept their Wednesday; they agreed to do panties/briefs and no dipes. It's hard for us, but we're a generation younger, and yet they were up for the challenge and worked with it. My mom and Peter's aunt called to just check and see how things were going and to offer support. When someone was over and a kid pottied, it was a big deal to be celebrated. Even at church, when Maya peed the bathroom was full and folks congratulated her. It was a big thing for her and you could see that she was so excited to do it like a big girl. Support comes in many shapes and sizes, from the person who helps clean a butt to the person who takes you for a run because you need a break from the stress too to the person who calls just to say 'I know it's tough but you'll get through it'. It comes in the form of other moms, like the ones at today's playgroup who knew we were finishing up week 1 and shared in the joy of yay! no dipes! while explaining what they went through with their kids and to not give up when there are accidents and you are wondering what else you can do.
Here are things that didnt work for us:
- Potty Chair: We bought them and the kids didnt want them. We use the toilet and that's what they wanted too. It sounds nuts, I can give you that. And a lot of kids find great success with the mini potties. But not ours. The chairs are on craigslist and I doubt they will ever see the light of day for Bobby or Maya. Which is fine. The big toilet is where they'd end up going anyway, so why not go there now! It also has, apparently, made foreign toilet syndrome pretty nonexistent.
- Bribery: We talked about giving candy or food treats; they've worked for so many folks! But we decided against it. A big reason was that we didnt want a habit to have to break but a large reason was also my food issues. Those are learned but with an addictive personality, they can become extremely harmful. We try to avoid food as a reward in that sense. We also try to not be the parents who give out toys for jobs well done and since our kids dont really see comercial cartoons, they dont have a line for things like that. So, we opted against the mini-bribes that a lot of folks swear by. It just isnt our thing. But, there is an activity that the kids really love, and we decided to use that to celebrate each child's first accident free day. There is a Maggie Moo's a little over a half mile from our house. In honor of each child's first pee accident day, we will walk down as a family and share an ice cream (or frozen yogurt in my case). Hey! We may even have dinner at the attached Subway or local pizzaria! Who knows! It's a celebration!!! They love to take walks and this is a treat for them; it combines dessert (and maybe dinner) with a healthy activity (walking) and isnt a bribe to pee/poop but rather a family celebration for a job well done.
- Non-Integrated Potty Seat: This doesnt seem to be a big deal at my MIL's house where the toilet seats are standard sized. Ours are elongated, so the non-integrated child seat slipped around. Neither kid liked them and would use them but seemed uncomfortable. There was a huge increase in relaxing and going once Peter installed the integrated seats. However, I'm still glad we have the non-integrated ones. Those are now our "portable" seats and go with us on outings in case we need to visit the potty! So these are more of a didnt work at home, but are a benefit.
- Books: It pains me to say this as a former librarian. Really. But books alone didnt do it. We read about pottying and they have books in the potty now that they use while they are on the toilet, but just the reading about it before hand didnt work for us. The Signing Time "Potty Time" DVD helped the most. The books are great as a tool once they are on the potty (so, like the one above, these are good to have) but they did nothing for us beforehand.
- Pull Ups/Disposables: Some people swear by these but I'll tell you our take: they are diapers that you pull on. Are they nice for nights and naps? Yes. Kids are in them right now actually. But for training, I find them a hinderance. Ours both struggle to get them off in a timely fashion to actually make it to the potty and I find they add to the rate of accident-at-the-potty. So, they are only a nighttime/naptime thing (and soon, I think that will be fading, especially for Maya). Are they good to have around for sleeping (if you need them) or for sickness when the potty may be harder to get to? Sure. But for training? I have to second the moms who told me to skip them. (That being said, I'm sure they help save on doing laundry!)
- Picking Up/Taking to Potty: This goes with the Walking to the Potty. Neither of ours have responded well to us taking them to the bathroom when we 'see' cues. They seem to have to want to go and go themselves in order to relax enough to 'go'. If we take them, they are just so ticked off that they cant relax enough to let it go (and then will pee a minute after we take them off and they go on their merry way). So, if your kid is hardheaded (like ours... dont know where they get that from....), you may benefit from telling them "I trust you" and meaning it... even if you have to clean up some accidnets in the meantime as they learn to trust that you really do trust them.
So, it's been a week. From a pee standpoint, Maya is trained. Today will probably turn out to be her first full accident free day. She pees before nap and bedtime. She wakes dry. Pooping... We've had an accident today of that, even though she tried so hard to go. But I dont think we are far from getting that squared away too. So, congratulations MAYA!!!! Bobby has (pee) accidents about half the time (and like Maya, still has no concept of pooping in the potty, although he has pooped before when Peter grabbed him just before it happened as he was in the tub), so I cant say he is trained. But he's getting there. We'd debated on trying out pull ups with him, but part of his issue is that he just gets so focused on what he's doing (playing, etc) that he doesnt stop what he's doing to go- even if his britches are wet! So, the pull ups would just prolong that (and, since we'd be less aware, it wouldnt help us say "HEY! YOU'RE WET! LET'S GO POTTY!").
So, this is where we are. It's been a busy week... a stressful week at times... but also a really successful one. It's hard to admit that they have grown to the point that they are no longer my little babies but "kids". (And it's a bit sad to admit that my life this week has revolved around urine and feces! But hey- you do what you have to do!)