Not long after my twin girls turned two, I started to feel the pressure. My family began to inquire, the pediatrician asked, and other mom friends wanted to know when I was planning to take the big leap from diapers to potties. While my girls were showing signs of being ready, I was not. I clung to the safety of accident-free outings where the most I had to worry about bathroom-wise was an unexpected poop blow-out diaper.
However, I knew that I needed to start the process, so I armed myself with as much knowledge as I could. I bought the book O Crap! Potty Training (which I HIGHLY recommend) and collected tips and advice from all the moms I knew. Now, here I stand several months later, and I have to say that potty training is not at all what I expected. It was very rough at times, but ultimately it taught me some valuable lessons that I am thankful for.
I am definitely not an expert, but I want to pass along what I learned in hopes that maybe it will make this hard process a little easier.
Lesson 1: Don’t stop
There is no denying that the first day was terrible. I called my mom crying after one of my girls fell in a puddle of her own pee while I was taking the other one to the bathroom. I was convinced that I had made a terrible mistake, and I wished I had never started. But I kept going and kept cleaning up accidents until suddenly there came a day when we had nothing but success. I was finally able to put away the carpet cleaner and Clorox wipes. I no longer had to panic when I heard one of my girls say, “Uh oh” from the other room. It was the best feeling.
Lesson 2: It takes time (and probably more than you think)
I had very unrealistic expectations of how long potty training would take. I had wrongly assumed that my children were going to be some sort of potty-training prodigies. That whole concept of “potty trained in three days” gave me unfounded hope. I figured it would take a week at most. When we were still having accidents on week 3, I began to worry it would never happen. However, it occurred to me that I have yet to encounter a child who really did end up completely potty trained in three days or that suddenly potty trained themselves. (If your child falls into either of those categories, you are so incredibly blessed and PLEASE send me all your secrets and tips.)
Lesson 3: Face your fears
I was terrified to take the girls anywhere after we began potty training, I found myself transported back to the first times I took them places as newborns. All the “what ifs” gave me all kinds of anxiety. What if they peed in the middle of Target? What would I do if they both needed to go at the same time? Upon the recommendation of O Crap! Potty Training, we were not using pull-ups, so any accident was going to result in a big mess. Then it finally happened; one of my girls had an accident in a public place. Guess what? The world didn’t end. While it was an inconvenience and a mess, I handled it and gained some newly found confidence in my mom skills.
Lesson 4: Find your child’s potty muse
From the beginning, I realized that for potty training to work, the girls would need to think using the potty was incredibly cool and grown-up. And, for my girls, there is no one they find cooler than Daniel Tiger and Disney princesses. So, I bought all the princess panties I could find and said things repeatedly like, “Princesses always poop in the potty.” It actually worked! Daniel Tiger was a great role model too. I don’t think that I have ever loved a children’s show more. There is a whole episode dedicated to potty training that includes a super catchy song about going to the potty. It was a total lifesaver.
Lesson 5: Giving up control is HARD
Any time we give our children independence, we take the risk that it could totally backfire. When you start having to leave it up to your child to decide if they want to use the potty or have an accident, there is a rather large possibility that they will make the wrong choice. I learned very early in the process that you cannot make a child use the potty. You can make them sit there or make them “try” to go, but ultimately, it’s up to them. However, the beautiful thing about it is, when they make the right choice, it’s the best feeling. You’re proud of them, they are proud of themselves, and everyone gets to do a celebratory potty dance.