When I decided it was time to start potty training, the kids were two weeks shy of their second birthday. I was tired of changing diapers. I was tired of paying for diapers. I wanted to be free. So I made a plan. We got up one day at the crack of dawn. Actually, it hadn't even cracked yet. It was pitch black outside. I wanted to make sure everyone's pants were still dry. I knew each and every one of them possessed the capacity to stay dry all night. They’d each done it, just not consistently or all four at the same time. After a long night, they’d hang out during those early morning hours (and on into the Sesame Street hour) when I was too tired to drag my exhausted body out of bed and tend to them right away, and their status from dry-all-night converted to oops-I-need-a-diaper-change. So to avoid any accidents, about three hours before Big Bird even woke up, that fateful morning I dragged out of their miniature beds four sleep-confused toddlers, marched them into the kitchen, told them to down about three gallons each of apple juice, then led them into the bathroom. We had four potty chairs. We had books. We had sippy cups. We had a jar filled to the brim with M&Ms. We were set.
The four potty chairs included three “stand alone” units lined up in front of the bathtub and one insert that went over the regular toilet seat. They took turns sitting on the Big Potty. A husband of one of my Quad Squad ladies asked me one day about how the potty training was going. He also commented about how amazed he was that we re-plumped the bathroom to have four little toilets in it. He just couldn’t imagine having to do that. Once he said it though, I could only figure he wasn’t very involved in his own children’s potty training. He clearly had no idea that you bought little plastic toilets and manually emptied them. No plumbing involved.
That very first time that we tried in the wee hours of the morning, Molly was successful. With enthusiastic praise, I counted out and awarded her two M&Ms, telling the boys that they too could have some if only they tinkled in the potty. (If they pooped, they’d get three.) Besides the blatant bribery, while we waited I read stories, we sang songs, we discussed Burt and Ernie and Cookie Monster. Because of the immediate results with Molly, I thought for sure it wouldn’t be long before they all graduated to Big Kid Pants.
But the process took longer than I had hoped. Hour after hour, day after day, we worked on using the potties instead of the Pull-Ups. One day, the kids were seated for their mandatory pit stop in the middle of their play. I had to leave the bathroom for a second. Really. It was only a second. When I came back in, eight bright eyes looked up at me. Each contender wore a darling smile and bubbled with giggles. And they were all on different potties from when I’d left, and one of the potties had tinkle in it. But I had no idea who’d done it. And they weren’t telling. They were hardly speaking in coherent language at that point in their young lives anyway. They sure weren’t going to waste words on outing whoever had made the deposit. The dilemma was, do I give everyone M&Ms or no one? I decided everyone should taste them. They probably planned the whole thing just for that outcome. But why now? It might entice them to find their urination on-off switch and earn more candies!
Molly was soon competent in the fine art of using the potty, even mastering the technique of pooping in it. She could even exhibit initiative and take herself, if she only needed to tinkle. Because of her growing independence, I put a potty in her bedroom so that when she woke in the morning before I got up and processed children out of their rooms by taking down their doorway gates, she could use her little chair and still keep her pants dry. The only problem, her roommate Spencer loved “helping” and knew a crucial step of the process was emptying the bowl under the seat after use. He couldn’t leave well enough alone and as soon as Molly filled the bowl, he pulled it out and dumped it on the carpet next to the door. No matter how many millions of times that I told him not to do that, every single morning, he beat me to it and poured it out. Washing the carpet each morning was getting much more tiresome than changing a diaper. I was beginning to think it wasn’t worth it.
I had a friend with a three-year-old son, toddler twin girls, and a baby. Once the baby came, she gave up on potty training and told her twins, “I’m just going to let your husbands potty train you if you don’t figure this out on your own. I can’t do this!” I knew then not to sweat it. Certainly by high school mine could have it worked out. They wouldn't have to wait until they were married, surely! Why beat myself up about it?
But the trouble was, I really—I mean really—wanted to get away from diapers. The cost was killing me, plus the constant work of changing them was becoming unbearable. Poopy pants from a three-year-old is much more taxing than from a three-pound premie. And doing it four times in a row, over and over. I was so done with it all.
Even today, I have a crisp, clear memory of the day that we used our last diaper. It took nine months past that dark winter early morning, but we got there. All three of the boys finally achieved several consecutive nights with completely dry pants and all their daytime going was getting done into the toilets. It was time to end the madness and get everyone into their Toy Story underwear.
Too bad I was too tired to celebrate or throw a party. But at least I did a little dance for joy—albeit a low-energy one—on the inside. We were finally done with diapers forever and I was FREE! At last!
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