Sara Pic was born and raised in Uptown New Orleans (McMain ‘96!) and is a mom to twin toddlers and a stepmom to a teen son. She lives in River Ridge with her kids, her spouse, and her dog, Goobie.
NEXT STOP ON THE POTTY TRAIN
Parenting small children can sometimes feel like merely hopping along milestones on the road towards independence. Once one milestone is accomplished, it’s time to take a deep breath and immediately look ahead to the next one—all with the goal that someday they will no longer need you as much. And so those milestones, while still celebratory, are bittersweet for parents. This is what I thought on December 25th as I changed my twin toddlers’ poopy diapers for (hopefully!) the last time.
Most parents I knew followed the methods outlined in Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right by Jamie Glowacki, sometimes (erroneously) called the “two-day method” and also sometimes (more accurately) called “potty training boot camp.” We just called it The Book. We read The Book in summer 2022, when the twins turned 2. Glowacki recommends potty training between 20 and 30 months old and so we decided on right after Christmas as the best time for us, right at 30 months. My spouse is a teacher and so already had that time off and I would have extra holiday days off as well. Of course, when I say “we decided” we knew the kids would also have their own form of input, in that they needed to be showing signs of readiness. Fortunately, by October, they already were—telling us proudly when they pooped in their diapers, fighting diaper changes if they were busy playing. But we knew we needed to wait until the Christmas break so we could take off as much time as possible to follow the plan in The Book, where the goal is to get your kid potty trained in 4 to 6 weeks as opposed to the incremental approach that can take a couple years. The Book is for parents who just want to be done with diapers and not bother with pull-ups either (which are basically just toddler diapers). Additionally, there is always a risk that if potty training is too drawn out, children may not understand that it is a requirement rather than an option, one that, if they don’t meet, they won’t be able to attend preschool, most of which don’t allow children in diapers. Oftentimes, parents simply don’t have a week or more to let their kid run around naked in the house while they do nothing but watch them for those little signs that they are about to go, hence the “two-day method,” but my spouse and I decided that with twins, we needed more time, so I gave up a week of precious vacation time to potty training.
We started telling them a few days before Christmas that they would soon be leaving diapers behind for good. On December 26th, we proudly unveiled their new little potties, which even had a little handle that made a flushing sound. We plied them with juice, which they never drink normally, in order to fill those bladders and work on the progression of understanding from “I peed” to “I’m peeing” to “I have to pee.”
There are some aspects of having twins that I think have made parenting easier—they can play together and entertain each other, or comfort each other when they are sad. But there are aspects that are harder, sometimes more than double the work. Potty training felt exponentially harder. Something about having two naked juiced-up kids running around peeing everywhere seemed like it was 10 times harder than just one. But that’s why my spouse and I were in it as a team—eyes on both twins at all times to start to learn their cues that they were about to go and rush them off to the potty, stat. Absolutely no phones or laptops. We would cook and clean at naptime and after bedtime only. 100% focus on the naked hyper toddlers.
Beyond the practical and mechanical issues of potty training, we immediately ran into a philosophical issue as well. We try to follow the current parenting trend of gentle parenting—talking through a child’s emotions and thoughts when they are acting in ways we adults would prefer they not act. Gentle parenting does allow for boundary setting, which I tried to remind myself as my son screamed and flailed at being forced onto the potty as his pee was flying everywhere. “I hear you’re sad,” I said loudly over his wails, “but pee-pee has to go in the potty now.”
Though we were initially hesitant to use rewards, as we try not to reward behaviors we all have to do in order to function as humans in a society, that quickly fell away. We had to convince them that doing their bodily functions in the toilet was preferable to doing them in their pants, and if M&Ms and stickers would help, so be it. As Glowacki says in The Book, nothing else in life will ever bring you to your knees in despair more than begging a toddler to not poop on themselves. We quickly learned that the best rewards were more CoComelon for my daughter and playing with the vacuum for my son. So that’s what they happily got.
My sister, who potty trained her daughter six months before us, told me the part in The Book she would always return to for comfort was that toddlers are tyrants—don’t let them break you. It’s true. Though I try to use gentle parenting techniques consistently, sometimes there really are societal expectations that we also need to communicate to our kids. Unfortunately, not everything can be about how they feel. Pooping in the potty is just the first in a long line of things they will need to do in order to function in the world, such as taking turns and following rules. And hopefully, combined with the gentle parenting, flowing from that will also be empathy and kindness.
The first month was exhausting. I haven’t been so tired since they were first born. They mastered peeing in the potty in about a week but poop was much, much harder. Glowacki has an entire chapter in The Book dedicated to poop because it is much more difficult for kids to learn. As she points out, it can be frightening for them, as it can feel like part of your body is dropping out of you. Trying to reassure them that the feeling is normal, I found myself, a normally very private person, standing in front of my kids saying, “Mama is listening to her body! I feel the poo-poo coming but I know it goes in the potty!” as my spouse echoed after me, “Hold that poo-poo in, Mama! Don’t let it out!” And sat myself down on the toilet to let my children watch me move my bowels while I said, “Whoosh! Ooo, I feel so much better putting my poo-poo in the potty! Wow, my belly feels good now” as they inspected the size of my excrement. Even with my theatrics, at one point, two weeks in, I thought we would never get a poop in the potty ever, and that I would be doomed to doing laundry every day until they were off to college. But then, one day, it seemed to click. And maybe it was in fact one of those times that having twins was easier, because I would hear across the house, “He poo-pooed himself, Mama!” And then they would not let it go all day, telling the other one constantly that they poo-pooed themself. Twins: microcosm of societal shaming. But, on the flip side, the enormous smiles and huge pride they showed when they did get their poop in the potty was all worth it. My daughter would get so excited she would start jumping up and down while her pants were still around her ankles.
Throwing away diapers on December 25th was also, for me, throwing away the last vestige of babyhood for my twins. They are fully toddlers now. But both kids now have a new game they play before bed—they crawl around together on the floor and pretend to cry for a bottle like babies. And I rock-a-bye them to sleep again now, just a little. Because they will always be my babies.
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illustrations by Victoria Allen