Having twins can be the most amazing experience of your life. It can also cause you to wake up in the morning wishing you were someone else. Twinning offers an honest depiction of life with twins from a mom who tries to keep things somewhere in the middle.
Potty training twins is not for the faint of heart. It’s messy business, and it feels like it will never end. But since most preschools require kids to be potty-trained before they enroll, we had no choice but to get through it.
When you’re potty training twins, you can expect twice the mess, twice the chaos and twice the equipment. And when it’s all over, you can stop buying twice the diapers, so there’s that.
One of the hardest parts about potty training twins is that often one child isn’t ready, as was the case with my two. My daughter Allie started showing “readiness signs” at 22 months: demonstrating an interest in the toilet, telling me when she did poo, wanting her diaper changed after peeing, and waking up dry. My son Nick showed no signs. He had many interests, but where he went to the bathroom was not one of them. While my daughter was working on her “life skills” as if she was planning on moving out by age three, my son was busy learning the alphabet and numbers up to 20. What went on in his diaper was for me to worry about as far as he was concerned.
One of the rules of twin parenting is “both at the same time”—and to keep my sanity, I’ve always tried to obey it if possible. While I waited for my son to show the slightest interest in potty training, I began building up our arsenal of potty paraphernalia—two potty chairs, a potty-training DVD called “Go Potty Go,” the book Everyone Poops, some Hanna Andersson thick cotton training underpants, and elastic-waist shorts for easy on-off access.
I’d be ready when they were.
It wasn’t long after my twins turned two that Allie took her diaper off during naptime and decorated the crib with its contents. That was it—ready or not, my twins were getting potty-trained. I figured I’d offer Nick the chance to go diaper-free, and if he didn’t want to, I would just suck it up and train them separately.
For two days before we started, I kept talking about how much fun it was going to be. “You’re going to wear big kid underwear! Tomorrow you’ll be doing pee-pee on the potty!” Luckily 2-years-olds have no idea when you’re faking, because they were so excited you’d think I was promising them a trip to Disneyland.
We started on a Saturday, so I’d have two full days of help from my husband. I was glad it was June—we could do a lot of our potty training outside and only need minimal clothing. When our twins woke up, we told them there was a surprise in the bathroom for them. We all ran into the bathroom and I announced, “your potty chairs!” like I’d just given them a puppy. Being 2-year-olds, they were completely excited and could hardly wait to get their “baby bipers” off. They both sat down on the potties and got up and sat down like they were playing Musical Chairs.
When they were settled down enough to sit still, my daughter tinkled in her potty after only about a minute. She looked as shocked as I was. I had told them their reward would be two M&Ms for pee and four for poo, but I hadn’t bought the M&Ms yet because I didn’t expect anyone to actually go on the potty the first day. That was my biggest potty-training-prep Fail.
So we promised Allie two M&Ms as soon as we bought them. Then Nick surprised us by not only tinkling, but hosing down the entire bathroom floor. I tried not to appear annoyed (because I’d read you should always look happy about whatever comes out wherever it ends up), and gave him the same exuberant praise I gave Allie.
But suddenly the chaos of twin potty training reared its head, and we couldn’t keep things under control. Nick started splashing his feet in the pee, and my husband (who hadn’t read all the articles I had about not appearing concerned over pee on the floor) began complaining and wiping it up with toilet paper. Allie stuck both hands in her potty, pulled out the urine receptacle and spilled pee all over the floor.
“No hands in the potty!” “Sit still while I clean this up!” “I said ‘Stop touching the pee’!” My husband and I lost the super-supportive parental tone of voice you’re supposed to maintain during these moments and started barking commands. Our twins stopped looking so triumphant and started to look upset. Then, like most episodes of twin chaos, things eventually got back to normal—the pee was cleaned from the floor, Alexandra’s hands were washed, Nick’s feet were washed, we flushed everyone’s pee down the toilet and made more promises of M&Ms.
By their second sitting a half-hour later, all notions of sanitary potty training had been flushed down the toilet. There was pee everywhere, and there was nothing I could do about it. We had a truly victorious moment after lunch when Allie pooped in her potty on the first day! I wasn’t that proud since I’d given birth.
As expected, Nick waited until his diaper was on during naptime to poo. I knew he was not ready for this, but from what I’d read about training twins, it’s best to give them both a shot and if one has to stay in diapers, they’ll only do so for a short while because they’ll see their twin getting M&Ms every day.
For the next week, I lived in potty training hell. I changed diapers in the morning, and then washed soiled undies and shorts all day long. I mopped floors and sanitized potties. I cleaned poo-covered hands and pee-covered feet. I would get one child clean only to turn around and see the other one sitting in a puddle. I handed out M&Ms like they were going out of style. I watched and sang “Go Potty Go” more times than any self-respecting adult should ever have to. I was a long, difficult week.
By Week Two, no one had made it a whole day without an accident, and I was ready to throw in the towel. I had optimistically thought this would be over in a weekend. My cousin said her twin boys were trained within three days. My friend said her daughter decided at two that she didn’t want to wear diapers and never had another accident. How foolish I was for listening. I felt captive to the house, overwhelmed by the thought of venturing out with diaper-less twins.
Our turning point came on Day 11—the first day with no accidents for both. I was pretty sure Allie had it down, but Nick was still a hit or miss. He was really just in it for the M&Ms, but I was proud of him all the same.
What surprised me was when it was all over, I had more of a hassle taking the kids out when they were potty-trained than when they were in diapers. Going out only required a couple of diapers thrown in my bag. Now with two kids in undies, I had to bring two entire outfits out with me. I also couldn’t figure out a remotely sanitary process for taking twins with you in a public restroom, and I don’t believe I ever will.