The story of how my twins potty trained themselves started when I was folding the heap of laundry that had been crumpled up in the basket all morning. I divided the clothes into three different stacks, one for each of my daughters. I started to fold the pink and purple princess underwear that belonged to my 4-year-old singleton daughter Abby and it peaked my two-year old’s interest.
“Are these my pink undies, Mommy?” My daughter Lauren, one of the twins, asked reaching for the underwear.
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“No, honey.” I shook my head. “These are Abby’s undies. You will get your own princess undies when you start potty training.” I said smiling back at her, returning the underwear to the clothes pile.
“Okay Mommy.” Lauren responded. Her sad expression reminded me of when we had to tell her she couldn’t go to her cousin’s birthday party because she had strep throat. She was disappointed but had a look of fierce determination.
When my twin girls, Katie and Lauren, came home after their 38-day stay in the NICU, my older daughter Abby was two years old. I had been away from her for two months while I was on bed rest in the hospital and then a few weeks after the birth as well. I had a monumental task in front of me: I needed to take care of my preemie infant twins and potty train Abby at the same time. I thought if I could have at least one kid potty trained, that would leave only two in diapers and make things easier for me. But I was constantly getting pulled into different directions of whichever child had the most pressing issue. I felt like I was failing all of my children.
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In the middle of reading Abby her princess potty book, one of the babies would wake up screaming from her nap. I would run over to get her and she would have spit up all over her onesie. After changing her into new clothes, I would run back to check on Abby and find that she would have peed all over the bathroom floor.
At mealtimes when I would be feeding the twins their pureed fruit and hear Abby’s soft spoken whispers in the background. “Mommy, poo-poo,” she would say pointing to her shorts. I would drop the spoon in the puree mixture and run to put her on the toilet only to discover she had already pooped in her pants.
After Katie and Lauren’s second birthday, I had no interest in potty-training whatsoever. I didn’t mind the double diaper duty and the memories from Abby still lingered in my mind. Though my toddlers were clearly ready and willing to start potty training, I was the one flashing the red light in their moving lane path.
I was the one who wasn’t ready.
I hoped that maybe their interest in potty training would dissipate and be replaced by something else, but it didn’t. If I was in my bathroom, Lauren would barge in, take a seat on the floor and watch in observation.
“Mommy’s going potty?” she asked me pointing to the toilet.
“Yes sweetie.” I replied.
About 20 seconds later, her sister Katie would come in and join.
“Mommy using the potty, Lauren?” She asked her sister.
“Yes Katie, Mommy is going pee pee.”
Every time Abby or I used the restroom we would have two sets of eyes watching closely, examine our every move. Asking questions and repeating my answers in agreement. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise when I walked into the bathroom one Spring morning and saw that Lauren had ripped off her diaper, placed it in the trash, had pulled a stool over to the toilet and climbed onto it. Her sister Katie sitting on the floor gazing at her. She trickled urine into the toilet as I stood at the doorway.
“I went potty, just like Mommy and Abby!” she squealed in excitement. Raising her arms in self praise.
“Oh my goodness, yes you did!” I exclaimed. I stood and stared for a moment. Then helped her get off the toilet. When I went to grab the toilet paper to wipe her she stopped me.
“No Mommy, I do it. I wipe my butt.” She said reaching for the toilet paper.
And she did.
“Mommy, is so proud of you, Lauren.” I hugged her tightly and kissed her forehead. I looked down at Katie who was still sitting quietly on the floor.
“My turn.” Katie said right on cue. And just like her sister, she took care of business too.
These sisters had taught each other how to use the restroom. Abby and I had modeled the task and they absorbed it like little sponges. Then it hit me: their experiences would always be different than that of my singleton daughter. Different didn’t always have to equate being more difficult. I had dreaded potty training them for over a year. I had even felt envious as I thought of my friends that just had “one” toddler to potty train. And in a few weeks both girls had successfully potty trained themselves with fewer accidents than their sister had.
Yes, parenting twins is exhausting and challenging but incredibly special and unique. I know my experience of how my twins potty trained themselves is very unique and I am lucky. I will remember this wonderful experience and reflect on it right before we reach the next milestone and hope that their bond continues to bring them shared success.
Crystal Duffy lives in Houston with her husband, three little girls, and a yappy little Yorkie. Her writing has appeared in Scary Mommy, Mamapeadia, Twins Magazine and she’s a contributing writer for Twiniversity. She’s the author of her memoir, Twin to Twin, which details her high-risk twin pregnancy. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and her blog.