Potty Training Perils with Four Kids

As a mother of four grown children, each born within two years of the one before, I have often been asked how on earth I did it.

I know all the phases and stages, all the differences from one child to the next, budgeting, school, etc. It wasn’t easy and I will be the first to admit, I occasionally questioned the sanity of our decision to have four children so close together. But it was also the best time of our lives and I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

Now for one of the worst parts of having babies so close together: DIAPERS and POTTY TRAINING. UGH!

During their baby years I had at least one and sometimes two kids in diapers pretty much from 1978 through 1986. And when it was time to potty train them, it was never the same from one baby to the next.

I had one who only needed incentives, I had one who hated being wet and pretty much trained himself in a weekend, I had one who didn’t care if he was wet, poopy, gross, or smelly (I thought he would probably be going to college in diapers) and I had one who was pretty easy and only needed encouragement.

My first baby was my test baby. Poor thing. I had no idea what I was doing and I relied on books and my mom for advice. (Not a good idea when it came to potty training.) My mother was shocked that I hadn’t started a lot earlier than I did; I started when we were getting ready to send her to preschool. In my mom’s day, babies were potty trained by two. The books assumed all children were alike and they just gave generic advice that sometimes didn’t apply at all. Yikes! I was beside myself! My little girl would do really well for a while and then would revert back to wanting to wear diapers again. It seemed I was training myself to be ready when I thought she was ready to pee or poop. Didn’t seem too logical to me.

Finally it was the summer before preschool, she was turning three in a couple months and I was getting desperate. After sitting down and explaining that if she stopped ‘going’ in her pants she could go to school, I think she saw the logic. It was like magic to her. She really wanted to go to school, so during the day she was a champ. She didn’t need even training pants. Night time was a different story, though. She just couldn’t seem to figure out how to stay dry all night. So since incentive was what worked for the daytime, I decided to try it for night time as well.

The big cartoon fad at the time was Strawberry Shortcake. She loved Strawberry Shortcake, so if she was able to go a whole week with dry pants every morning, I would buy her the whole Strawberry Shortcake bed linen set: sheets, comforter, pillow and curtains. That did it. She just needed incentive.

Now, baby number two was a boy who hated being wet. I have to say, everyone I talked to who had boys& told me they were much harder to train than girls and so I was prepared for more struggles. Surprise! When the boy hates being wet and finds out he doesn’t have to be if he uses the toilet like daddy… well, ’nuff said. He trained himself in one weekend. He never had an accident during the day or at night from that day on. That’s my boy!

Now for a reality check. Baby number three came along and I thought I was prepared. I handled the one that needed incentive and was a bit of a challenge and I handled one who pretty much trained himself. Piece of cake, right?

Oh no. Baby number three decided to really test me. He had no desire to potty in the toilet like daddy. He was too busy and didn’t want to stop playing to go to the big boy potty. He didn’t care if he was wet. In fact, he didn’t care how gross he was. The other kids in the neighborhood would come to the front door with this little guy in tow and beg for me to take him and change his diaper. They couldn’t stand the smell anymore. When I would take off the diaper, it was amazingly gross and he was not fazed in the least.

But I wanted him to go to preschool at age three. So I started with incentives. Bribes like M&M’s kind of worked but not consistently. I tried a new fad that was going around called Wizzers. They were small tissue boats that you floated in the toilet and encouraged the little guy to aim at and sink. That only made for a very messy toilet and floor when he missed. And they didn’t really work to train him to use the toilet.

I finally just let it go for a while. I needed a break from the stress of trying to catch him when he was ready to pee or poop and I think he needed to get a bit older and more mature. He turned three over the summer and when preschool started in the fall he was pretty close to being potty trained. All it took was time. I had been over stressing about it and I think that was adding to his reluctance to do it. 

Finally, baby number four was getting ready to go to preschool and it was time to potty train her. Frankly, I was tired of diapers and was anxious to get her out of them. Fortunately, she had three siblings to emulate and was very much in a hurry to grow up and get into the group when they wanted to go play outside and they wouldn’t take her if she was in a diaper. So encouragement and a relaxed manner did the trick this time.

Fourth time’s the charm! I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to be able to gather everyone in the car to go on a family outing and not have to pack any diapers or extra clothing in case someone had an “accident.”

Image by SOMA Photography

It was a very funny time with the other mamas in my neighborhood at the time. We all had kids about the same age and we all went through the trials and tribulations of potty training. We would make a big deal out of getting that last baby out of diapers and we took the mama out for breakfast, including mimosas, to celebrate. I truly enjoyed my celebratory breakfast!

One Response to Potty Training Perils with Four Kids

  1. My daughter (I think) was really easy to potty train. We started right after she began to walk talking about going to the potty and we got her a little potty of her own. One day she sat on it and peed and poo’ed. We were super excited. It took her awhile to finally get the hang of it fully, but now at 2 1/2 she is doing great, as long as her grandmother doesn’t ask her every 15 seconds if she needs to go.

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