The Potty Saga

When people ask someone where they typically spend most of their time at home, one usually responds with the garage (which would be a Douglas boys response!), the kitchen cooking, or maybe the family room spending time with family…but theoretically the answer isn’t usually “the bathroom” (well I hope not anyway!). We can, in fact, say this is where we spent a great deal of our mornings, afternoons and evenings over the past year. Why, you may ask? Two words.

Potty. Training.

This blog is a very long time coming and I can happily report that this household only uses one nightly pull-up (for one!) and NONE during the day!! Huge milestone? Absolutely? Huge money saver? YES. Not buying multiple diaper boxes and tons of wipes on every Costco run is very much appreciated by my wallet.

It’s been a number of months now since the original claim that we are a potty trained household, which occurred sometime over the winter. The girls greatly excelled at their new skill by November/December of last winter, with the potty training saga beginning for real in September when they went off to their first daycare experience.

So how did we get here? It’s definitely been a process, one that I expected to be so much worse than it actually was. I agonized and dreaded the thought of teaching all three at once and spending all day long doing nothing but potty and repeat, potty and repeat; but once we found the groove, it moved along quite well. Large credit goes to my three littles who caught on very quickly!

I have a number of fellow toddler moms with kiddos that seem to fear the idea of potty training or clearly dislike behind pushed to do it. My potty training mindset was similar at this time last year, more of a horrific and dreaded nightmare when musing about it, much of the time before the girls went to off to daycare in the fall. We knew a new and difficult period was upon us, as often happens while raising young kiddos, and planned to push the pain out a few more months until we believed everyone would be more ready. In reality, it was more so we as parents weren’t quite ready to tackle the consistent potty training period and needed more time to mentally strategize and prepare.

To go back a bit farther, we gently eased into the idea at around 18 months old by buying three matching, lady bug potty seats. The first few days the girls carried them around the living room and sat on them, without any diapers coming off, just to get them used to the “new” thing and take the pressure off (no pun intended?!). This moved into a post-bath potty chair time- once the girls were dried off, one by one, we introduced them to the idea of peeing on the potty chair before getting dressed in their bedroom. This processed occurred each night for a number of months and slowly all three would go pee in the seats. At the very beginning everyone received a treat for sitting for a period of time on said potty, with this eventually stretching to only when they went pee. The girls found it quite exciting to sit on them in their bedroom and talk and giggle. It didn’t take too long before they could actually go, even just a little drop, letting us know they were ready to move forward to bigger potty training steps.

The original reward for this monumental act of control meant an M&M was handed to the achiever. This treat was found to leave messy, melted chocolate on our freshly bathed babes and was quickly replaced with jelly beans. Side note, using jelly beans also allows the toddler to choose colors and learn both at the same time while giving them an opportunity to make their own choice on something. This is quite the hit in our household, even a year later. Not only do they love them, but they excitedly focus on what color to pick each and every time. There are still constant demands of Mommy, I need two “lelli beans” for pooping! Emerie seems the most concerned, to date, on receiving the reward for her efforts; the other two occasionally remember now and ask for them.

Joint flushing time

I’ll also note by the time we started the post-bath potty time, all three girls were showing great signs of interest in the concept, with Reagan leading the charge. Had Reagan been the only toddler in our house at the time, she would have been potty trained by her second birthday! She was very ready and able to trudge forward on this new skill and bring her sisters along for the ride.

Most of last summer was this minimal process after bathing- we did not actively practice potty training throughout the day. The girls started telling us when they had dirty diapers and wanted a change, which shifted into diaper changes based on when they noticed something was amuck “down there!”

The girls were rock stars right off the bat when it came to number one, with Reagan leading the pack and able to hold it, go about her day and remember when she needed to go, and nap in big girl undies early on! She did that last step all on her own and Harper was right behind her on nap holding. It took another couple of months before Emerie was dry during nap time; the daycare ended up noting that she didn’t wear diapers at nap when we were still putting them on when at home. I learned from that experience that each kiddo more-or-less showed us when they were ready for the next step and could hold it through nap time, and eventually overnight.

Number two was a little more (or a lot more) effort, especially when it comes to three. They have moments of all collaborating and going at the same time in their undies, and then insisted on tagging along together for the bathroom experience, which can take forever. Who knew how tight a half-bath could feel when you have one adult and three children together! It often seems if one had an accident, for whatever reason the others follow suit, even when we know they recently went. I’m not sure if that is a multiples thing or just kids being kids thing, but they still do it even now.

By this past spring, the much used diaper changing stations for the past two years were converted to just bins of wipes and big-girl underwear. Since we live in a split level home, it’s highly useful to have clean underwear within hands’ reach no matter where you are, making it easier to swap out dirty for clean when spending all that time in the bathroom with three littles. The main floor of our house does not have a bathroom, so the three ladybug potty chairs reside against the wall in the dining room. Even now, with all three fully trained with minimal accidents, everyone still uses them throughout the week. This is often because they don’t want to trek downstairs to go, they want you to go with them and you are doing something at the moment, or it’s a #2 emergency and it’s the closest option. As we round out this winter, I hope to take them away in lieu of using actual facilities going forward. One very important word of advice when emptying said portable potties. Do NOT, under any circumstance, lean over the toilet as you empty the contents in. Trust me on this…

Over the past year or so the girls put their new skills into their creative play. All three went through a phase of constantly “play” scolding their dolls, claiming they pooped or peed in their pants, stripping off their clothes, and using play doll diapers and real wipes. The phrase you not getting a jelly bean for peeing and a finger wiggle was likely uttered AT LEAST million times. The poor baby dolls ended up in constant time out for accidents, something we do NOT promote and I’m not sure why they initiated that but it was a little funny to witness.

Potty win: no idea when I took this video!

We have the method down for getting out-and-about. Demands are met for everyone to use the bathroom prior to loading up in the car, no matter if it’s a short trip to Target or a long drive to adventure. We had a few “lesson learned” experiences on park or play dates and soon after purchased potty chairs for each vehicle. This ultimately removed the big stress of trekking everyone into a public bathroom, venturing into a gross porta-potty or leaving a park to find somewhere to go and has saved us dozens of clothing changes. Prior to the portable potty chair, we had some…errr…interesting ways to handle a kiddo that HAD to go right then. Overall car seat accidents are rare; this is likely coupled with the thought that most major potty training occurred during the pandemic, meaning we weren’t spending time in indoor public places and not out and about nearly as often.

So what have I learned about the potty training process in triplicate? Well I’ve never potty trained a kid before this, I’m pretty sure Craig has which helped; here are the things I’ve noticed and learned:

  • Don’t push it. Take the pressure off and let them show you when they are ready to start.
  • While my three littles are the same age and gender, they are not all the same and advance at different rates for different skills.
  • Rewards are often and important, make them something that isn’t messy or melts everywhere.
  • High praise gets every one pumped up and then they encourage each other.
  • Make a huge deal when a successful #2 in the potty happens and make sure the siblings witness the excitement!
  • Get extra step stools so one can wash hands while the next one is on the toilet. As they start going more separately, we now use the extra steps for teeth brushing.
  • Find a way to lock the main bathroom door open while going through the training process. The girls, even now, enjoy locking the door or slamming it on sisters (and parents) and while less private, they don’t need the privacy while they are learning the skill!

In addition, you will find yourself uttering phrases you never thought possible from your own mouth! For example, I have demanded them to “not bite the toilet seat,” to “stop licking the toilet seat,” to “stop putting popcorn in the toilet,” to stop fighting over the toilet seat and step stool, and even to give sister back her underwear! Ah yes, such fun memories to share with them as teenagers.

What types of potty chairs?

I would not have this answered a year ago, but now I can easily say the built in kid potty chairs from your local home improvement stores are amazing. They are relatively expensive, but they are nice to have and only require a step stool for the kids to access the facility. We started out with three of the same portable (ladybug style) potty chair, one for each kiddo, and completely stand behind both for ease of use. The girls all excelled at using them together. During full on potty training mode, we purchased several foldable toilet seats with a built in step stool and handles to climb up on. This seat was great while they learned more balance and became acclimated with using the “big kid potty,” but eventually they tried to remove them from the room and we swapped out.

What if my kid is afraid of loud public toilets?

This is a major issue that we still deal with, especially with Emerie. Our best advise so far is the potty chair in the car when you really need it, since kiddos pick up quickly where places have “loud potties” (like Target and the jump park!). In addition, keep a small stack of sticky notes in your purse or kid bag. When using a family bathroom (or any really) stick one note onto the toilet sensor and it won’t automatically flush until you force it to. Amazing tip to keeping the littles from running out screaming!

So where are we now?

Teaching the dolls new skills

We are now entering the phase that tells me we should convert out of cribs soon, though I am sooo not ready. Here and there we get calls in the middle of the night to Mommy I go pee! and most of the time they go right back to sleep. It won’t be long before they can get up solo and then climb back into bed…we shall see. And Emerie is starting to wake up dry more mornings than in the past; we believe we are close to no more pulls ups!

Even at almost three and a half, we are still living on the post potty training high and are still enjoying the non-winter aspect of last minute “pee-ventures” that I know we will have later this year with full snow gear already on.

To any of you reading this who are in the midst of triplet potty training or thinking about starting- get some wine, lots of snacks and put piles of clean underwear everywhere across the house…and you’ll be okay. It’ll all be worth it once you get through it! I’m glad to have that stage over and done with and look forward to spending more time outside the bathroom.