The Diaper-Changing Years: A Love StorySerge Bielanko
When it’s all said and done, when the week-old little fella sleeping quietly in the crib right here next to me finally climbs out of his last messy diaper, looks me hard in the eye and announces,”That’s it, Pops, it’s the potty for me from here on out!” — the way I see it, I will have been changing diapers for eight straight years.
Eight entire years.
Holy crap (pun intended), that is a long time. I mean, even if you get lucky and live for 80 years, that is still a tenth of your life spent down in that particular trench, and that has to stand for something, huh? It’s funny, too, when you think about it. It’s not the sort of thing that you would think memories are made of, all of those days and nights spent reaching for the wipes (they’re never where they ought to be) and soft-talking to a half-zonked child reasonably dipped in their own goo.
Yet somehow there are memories.
Lots of them.
Starting five years ago when my daughter, Violet, was born, right through to the birth of our son, Henry, two years later, I have seen so many pees come and go that most of my diaper changing years are long forgotten, just a hazy blur to me now.
The reality of life though is that once you become a parent you don’t simply limit your memories or highlight reels to the cliched stuff, to the first steps or Christmas pageants or Little League home runs or whatever, you know? That would be cheating yourself of the real deal, I think. You’d be ignoring all of the wonderfully bizarre and lovingly strange things that kids do and say and eat and stick in their nose and all.
Basically, it’s pretty tough to raise kids from the time they are just a lukewarm meatloaf in a Winnie the Pooh blanket and not have at least a couple of standout memories involving a diaper or two.
I mean, I remember vividly this one time, me staring down into my 6-month old daughter’s face, cooing and oohing at her as I tried really hard to convince her not to weep while I swapped diapers on her tiny walnut ass in an airplane bathroom high above the Nebraska cornfields. In a flash of realization right there, way up there in clouds, as I swayed with the gentle tilts and jolts of a jet on the move, it suddenly dawned on me that I loved this little person here in front of me more than I had ever loved anyone else before in my life.
There we were, a soft baby and a burly grown man, each of us trying to speak without speaking, our eyes melted together like cheeseburger cheese and looking back on that fleeting moment in my life, I don’t know exactly why it remains a memory to me when so many other things I have done and seen have simply faded to black. But that’s the way things go, I guess. Now that my Violet is growing up so fast and moving away from the tiny person who 0nce needed me so much, a couple of minutes in a Northwest airplane bathroom stand out as magic to me. Because they were.
With Henry, who is 3 now, there are so many diaper moments, too. The way the doctor peeled back his tiny diaper on the morning of his circumcision, only to meet in the chest with a tall, streaming arc of perfectly placed pee from my son. I was so strangely proud, though I have no idea why.
Later, as he got older, my boy would love to just romp around our summertime backyard in nothing but his Huggies, until halfway through his evening games out there with his sister, he’d suddenly realize that total and complete liberation was just a couple rips away.
It soon became a little thing for me to watch him from my spot in the garden or out the back window, always hoping I could be looking his way when the daily moment came that he tore the Velcro chains of his diaper away so he could continue the fun, au naturale. To tell you the truth, as proud as I am of him today whenever he comes barreling into a room, beaming, to tell me he just went ‘pee-pee in the potty,’ I think I am going to miss seeing that little dude flinging his diapers off into the hot evening sunset.
Now then, with a brand new little boy in our world, Charlie — born March 2nd, 2014 — I guess I’ve laid my claim to a few more years of sniffing onesie butts and peeking down the backs of tiny pants to see what’s down there. And I suppose to some guys, to dudes without kids, trying to romanticize cleaning up kid poop deep in the night might seem far-fetched, or even a little bit nuts.
The thing is though, I have known two kinds of worlds in my 42 years so far.
I have known a world where diapers meant nothing to me at all. And I have known a world where they meant a lot. And for a long time now, and for a long time to come, only one of those worlds keeps me coming back for more.
And that says it all, I think.
Image: S. Bielanko