Friday, August 8, 2008

Parenting: That Which Is Unspoken

I did a lot to prepare me for being a parent.

I'd wager that I probably did more than 99% of the folks in the United States gearing up to have a baby thrust into my arms like a tiny bundle of easily shattered crystal with the only words screamed at me while it was happening being, "This is yours to take care of for the next 18 years! Don't mess it up!"

Not that it went down that way.

But I was prepared. We had a bunch of stuff, you know? All the stuff that everyone says you need, and some stuff that everyone said we would need but that we did not actually need, which everyone said, "Oh, yeah, you don't really need that," once we had thrown away our money on said item.

And we took classes. We took classes on adoption, and parenting, and despite the fact that I had changed many diapers in my life and my child was going to be too old to swaddle, we took a parenting class that talked about swaddling and diaper-changing.

There was also a bit about cramming a thermometer into your kid if they had a fever.

Lucky us, we haven't had to do that yet.

The problem with these classes is that they mostly cover the "Your Baby is an Immobile Lump" phase of parenting. Which is nice, but kinda useless after a while.

The thing about parenting a child during the lump phase is that it's pretty simple. They're small and easily controlled, and you could set them on the floor, and as long as all sharp objects and firearms are at least a foot away from the child, they will come to no harm.

But then they learn to move, and they want to move all the time.

And they want to move at unexpected times, and in unexpected ways.

Diaper time is the worst of it.

It starts off easy, because they can't move. They might struggle, and sometimes there's the surprise fountain effect, but if you're fast on the draw with the new diaper, this can be controlled most of the time.

Then they learn to roll over, so you gotta kinda lean on the kid to keep them flat while you deal with the results of their bodily functions.

But then... ugh. The thing that no parent will tell you about, that no one will admit to you until you're a parent, and you find yourself crying to to skies, "Why, why, why would you do that?"

I am speaking, of course, about...

... how to put this delicately...

... about...


... about when your kid learns to operate their hands. And there's bodily waste. And you're trying to change the diaper.

And your kid tries to check out the "diaper area."

There are a number of horrors there, all of which are the kind of thing that can give you fits.

First, yeah, there's the poo, which no one really wants to be involved in. But anyone who wants to bring a small being into their life accepts pretty early on that there's going to be a lot of wiping and cleaning and A and D-ing in their future.

Then, naturally, there's the squirming. Which is easy to control at first, but as your kid gets bigger there's more of them to squirm, which makes it harder to hold them down, which makes it harder to keep the surface beneath them from becoming, shall we say, soiled.

And then the kid tries to flip over, or stand up, while covered in the remains of their food from 24 hours ago.

Finally, there are the hands - the tiny little lightning-fast hands, the little hands that wait for the moment, the singular moment when the diaper is off and you're trying to grab the wipes, and BAM, faster than any pickpocket they've got their hands racing to check out the food remnants they're coated in.

It's awful.

And what do you do? Do you yell at the kid? Do you grab their hands away, yelling out words like "yucky" and "no" and "look, little one, that's just not right?"

It's a mystery, really.

And you know what else? No one tells you about the sand.

When kids are little, they like to put things in their mouth. There's all sorts of science involved, stuff about how the mouth is how they best experience things, and nerve endings and such, but, yeah, it doesn't really matter, because the problem is there are just things that shouldn't go in anyone's mouth.

Sand is the perfect for instance.

Sand isn't all that dangerous, really. It's dirt, yeah, but dirt that exists away from toxic waste is generally pretty clean and, you know, earthy.

The problem isn't on the mouth end. The problem is, the sand has to come out.

There's a joke that most people make, when they get their hands on toilet paper that's not as soft as the stuff they use at home.

People say it all the time - "It was like wiping with sandpaper."

The thing is, though, that the digestive process? Can make this a total possibility with small children. They empty out, you go to wipe, and there's this, you know, grit. And if we're all honest with ourselves, when we picture taking an actual piece of sandpaper to our lower regions, we all flinch a little.

And yet, there's nothing you can do.

I suppose you could always strip your kid to nothing, stick 'em on the lawn, and spray the grit off with a hose. But I don't think they would enjoy that either.

In my year as a parent, I've probably changed 1,000 diapers. I've cleaned and scrubbed and washed and medicated and, in general, managed to keep my kid healthy and happy and free from long-term suffering in the diaper area.

And so, so I think it's time she met me halfway and stopped eating sand. At the very least, it will help me to help her.


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