Sunday, August 9, 2009

Diaper Wars

When my daughter was born, I was horrified to learn that a new baby craps eight to ten times per day. This fact still amazes me. As a forty-year-old man, most days I'd pay good money for just one good bowel movement. How something so small can produce so much waste in a twenty-four hour period is beyond my comprehension. A baby's bowels are like the Free Fall ride at Six Flags. They're not full for more than a few seconds before WOOSH! Down everything goes at a hundred miles per hour.

The rapid pace of infant poopage makes changing diapers a lot like playing paintball unarmed. Often you know when the baby is pooping. You see the unmistakable Oh my gosh, I think I'm squeezing a banana out of my rectum! look in their eyes as their face turns red and tiny grunts of satisfaction escape their lips. Other times you're holding the child and suddenly feel a quaking down below. Still, other times, you aren't aware that anything has transpired until that dreaded smell you've come to know all too well hits you square in the nostrils. Regardless of how you're made aware, you know what you have to do. It's time for battle. You've got to enter the combat zone. You've been dropped square into the middle of the diaper wars.

Cautiously, you open the full diaper to be greeted by things no human being should ever have to see. Even worse, you're well aware that the child may not even be finished. Chances are, it's a trap--a cruel hoax meant to get you to remove the diaper so that your precious angel can pummel you with even more baby waste the moment you're within range. The chamber of the gun isn't empty. It's merely cocked and reloaded, awaiting the moment fresh air hits your baby's bottom and alerts him or her that they are free to fire when ready. Don't shoot until you see the whites of Daddy's eyes!

As a first-time dad, you're a sitting duck. It takes time to master the art of the rapid diaper change. Sure, you did all right on that doll you practiced with in parenting class. But that doll didn't flail, scream, and kick the petroleum jelly out of your hand every time you tried to gift-wrap its loins. Like a lone soldier sprinting across open terrain, all the while knowing enemy snipers are somewhere on the hill, you rush against time. You pray to make it to safety before being fired upon. You get the baby's butt clean and fasten one side of a fresh diaper around his or her little hip. Almost there! The safety of camp is in sight! Then, just yards away from home base: rat-tat-tat-tat-tat. You're hit! Dad down! Like a slow motion scene from a Rambo movie, you can hear yourself screaming "Noooooooooooo!" You look to see yourself, the changing table, and the deceptively peaceful picture of your infant sleeping that sits on the nearby shelf all covered in infant excrement. Like a wounded combatant dragging himself to a nearby trench, you frantically scramble for wipes as brownish-yellow goo runs down the sleeves of your formerly favorite shirt. You manage to clean the child enough to finally get a fresh diaper on. But it's an empty accomplishment. You know you've been defeated. You made a valiant effort, but the enemy still took the hill.

Over time, you become a more experienced warrior. Your skills and speed improve. As children grow older and become squirmers, you master the skill of fastening diapers with one hand while keeping a resisting toddler pinned to the mat with your other. If you have multiple kids, you even learn to wield diapers and butt ointment while refereeing fights over Oreos and answering questions like Daddy, can Batman beat up a dinosaur? and Daddy, how can Mommy really love us if she's always making broccoli for dinner?

Eventually, the battles change as well. My youngest, Carson, is the only one still in diapers. Just having turned two, he's reached a stage where he wants to remove his diaper whenever he feels like it. He's not learned to go potty yet, mind you, but apparently Carson doesn't consider that a prerequisite. The other morning I entered his room to find my son standing in his crib, holding his diaper in his hand, and towering over a pile of his own doo-doo like a victorious gladiator over a fallen opponent. All the while he grinned back at me as if to say, "Screw you and your rules!" He was clearly bucking the system--rejecting traditional institutions of authority. The smell, the statement, the anti-authoritative display... throw in a couple of doobies, some signs that read "Make Poop, Not War," and a Jimmy Hendrix version of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," and you'd have had a toddler's Woodstock on your hands.

And so the diaper wars continue. March on young dads. Stay strong fearless moms. One day soon, the diaper wars will end. Until that time, keep plenty of hand sanitizer around. And the next time you enter your baby or toddler's room to be met by smells too foul to describe or the sight of a child finger painting with his own bodily excretions, take heart. Never forget, it's supposed to be this way. After all, war is hell.

1 comment: