Potty training is a daunting task for any parent, but with six children all in diapers at the same time, it seemed particularly scary in our house! There are so many approaches to potty training, and I’m not sure there is any perfect or easy way to do it. We took the approach that we would wait until they were ready with the hope that would make it easier. When Mark was just over two and a half years old, he told me, “Mommy, I am too big for a diaper, and I am too big for this table” while I was changing him. I figured if he could communicate it that clearly, then he must be ready! It was still a challenge though.
We had two main things that seemed to help us with potty training. First we skipped pull-ups completely and went straight to underwear and never looked back. Our only exceptions were during long car rides or plane rides. There were lots of accidents, but we encouraged trying often and praised a lot. The second thing that made a world of difference for us was going out in public in underwear very soon and very often. After a day and a half at home in underwear with lots of accidents, we got up the next morning and went to a birthday party, did some shopping and made several stops the next day. We spent a lot of time in the bathroom, but he was accident free during the outing! Maybe kids don’t want to have accidents in front of their friends. With Mark, we just used the public restrooms. We tried M&Ms, sticker reward charts and other things that had been suggested without much impact. What really got Mark’s attention as a reward was that he got to use Mommy’s cell phone to call either Daddy or a grandparent at work to tell them when he had done something. He thought that was awesome!
Around 18 months old, some of our quintuplets were interested in using the potty, but I didn’t feel that I was ready yet at that point. The thought of training all five of them had me so nervous, I joked that I would send them to kindergarten in diapers hoping the teacher would train them! As it turned out, I think they were easier than Mark was, partially because I was more relaxed and had a feel for what to expect and partially because they learned from each other and from Mark. Shortly after their second birthday, we decided to let them start potty training. Ali had been asking to wear big girl panties for awhile, and around their birthday Becca and David started telling me that they were too big for diapers. Again I felt that if they could tell me using words, sentences and even paragraphs that they were too big for diapers, then they probably were. So the fun began! Shortly after that Kate decided that she wanted to join in. John was not interested yet, and we didn’t want to push anyone, although we praised him when he did try. A few months later, he decided he was ready and told me that he wanted his big boy underwear. John was by far the easiest! He had observed everyone else until he was totally ready and had way fewer accidents.
We did most of the same things we did with Mark. We got rid of diapers, skipped pull-ups and went straight to underwear. We took them out in public in underwear very quickly and as often as I could. The main difference for us was that we bought five little potties. If we were training one child again, we would totally skip the kids’ potties and just use the one that is in the house already. However, with all of them learning, we were concerned that too many people would need to go at the same time and felt that everyone needed a spot of their own. We did get rid of these as soon as we could. I always kept a potty in my vehicle (still do) and would even take one with us on walks in the stroller! For awhile, I would let the kids all potty in the back of my vehicle instead of trying to take them all in a public restroom. We brought back the phone call policy which the kids resonated with. They loved getting to be the one to make that call and looked so proud! I was much more patient and relaxed training our quints, and we even had some fun. We used the restroom so often that we even took a picture by one on an outing to the zoo. Mark didn’t really like hand driers when he was first learning, but the girls loved them and would giggle and run circles near them. I guess there can be fun in everything!
The hardest thing for me was when I was grocery shopping or running errands with all of them by myself. When I grocery shop, I get two carts, put three kids in each, push one and pull the other and load up groceries around, under and on them. They love getting to hold things and the bottoms of the carts can hold a lot. My fear was that I would have two carts packed full of children and groceries at the far end of the store when someone needed to go. Somehow we made it through potty training without that happening, and the kids can all hold it pretty well now.
Overall potty training was a lot of work, but it went fairly smoothly. I am really glad that we are through that and especially like the lower bills without buying all those diapers! We haven’t night trained yet, and I must say I am dreading that so for now that can wait.