Thursday, May 6, 2010

Why I Will Always Bring a Diaper Bag Everywhere: A Tragic Tale

For the last several weeks, things have finally been warming up around here, and the giant yellow ball in the sky has finally started sticking around past 5:30.

In some ways, this is bad, as it is becoming a little more tricky to convince the little one that bedtime is nigh, when the sun is still a-blazing outside.

In other ways, this is A Good Thing, mostly because after a long winter of her wanting to sit and watch “a movie” after dinner, she is now much more entranced with the idea of being outside.

This pleases me, since I can now worry a lot less about whether or not I’m turning my child into a couch potato. If I am, I’m doing it slowly.

When we have time on our hands, we usually head to one of three places:

The backyard/around the block: We did this a lot last year, as we finally had a swing set, and a walk or two around the block was usually a good way to kill ten minutes.

A local school: They have a play area, they’re in walking distance, and if it’s just the two of us she can even walk by herself, with some assistance when we cross the street.

City Park: For some reason, this is often the place We Must Go. The problem is it’s kind of a commitment. We either have to drive, because it’s more than a half-mile, or we have to walk, and there’s at least one major street-crossing along the way.

Plus she can’t walk it, because it’s too long, so we have to get out the stroller, and walk for fifteen minutes, and play vigorously, and then walk back.

Don’t mock. This is how I lost eight pounds last summer.

The problem with carting the little one around is that you have to bring all her “stuff” with you everywhere you go. You need the diaper bag. You should probably have a drink in there, and snacks, and diapers, and an extra outfit, and also make sure you packed wipes…

But I’ll admit it. I’ve gotten lazy.

At first it was just the school. It’s a short walk, so why bring an extra diaper? If she gets wet, yeah, it’s uncomfortable, but we can be home in maybe five minutes.

Then I just got tired of bringing a diaper bag to the park, because it is a long walk, and after a while carting around an awkward bag just gets tiresome.

And here comes the meat of this story.

So, it was a pleasant Sunday afternoon. A light breeze, a lot of sun. The perfect park weather, when it’s not too hot to run around, and not so cold that you need a heavy, arm-impeding coat.

As per usual, it took a little scrambling to get out the door. We’re ready to leave, but first we need a snack, okay we ate, let’s clean our hands, okay, let’s go, no, wait…

So when I saw that the little one’s diaper was starting to look a little wet, the conversation went like this:

Me: We need to get you changed.

Her: No, I wanna go to the park!

Me: … Eh. Fine. We can change you there later.

And so we got out the stroller. And I looked at the diaper bag. And I thought, “Meh.” I just didn’t feel like lugging the thing. I’d already spent most of the day running from place to place, and I was tired and didn’t want to drag along an extra five pounds.

So I jammed a diaper in my pocket and we rolled out.

Things started well. The walk was tolerable, even though I felt like I could use a nap. And when we got to the park, we discovered that a couple of kids from Mihret’s day care were already there.

Then things went a little South.

Mihret, it seems, has something of a love/hate relationship with the little one in question. They’re both three, they’re both not great at sharing, and as it happens, neither of the kids had taken a nap and they were both running on fumes.

So they played for a while, and then there was some yelling about, “My ball!” and then the other little one started crying.

Mihret ran off to continue playing with the ball in question, while the other kid’s parents calmed him down. I apologized about the ruckus, but they calmly informed me that it’s just the way things go at this age.

I could not disagree.

Mihret returned, ball in hand, and gave the ball to its rightful owner so the other family could go home. A moment later, she lifted up what appeared to be a sand-covered finger. “Poop!”

I looked to the other family, who looked down at her. I looked back over at my daughter, and said, “I don’t think so…”

Partially because my daughter isn’t a diaper-digger. I’m not saying she’s a perfect angel, but we keep her hands away from the goo in her pants.

Also, partially because I really didn’t want her to have poop on her hand. Because, ick.

The other family looked at me with sympathy. The mom confirmed it was probably poop, and apologized and said they didn’t have any diapers or wipes. And then they left me there, to face the consequences alone.

(I don’t blame ‘em.)

I looked down at my daughter, who then turned around… and exposed the horror. The back of her pants, almost an entire leg’s worth… were brown.

Something had gone seriously wrong. And all I had on me was one diaper. And a fifteen-minute walk home, by stroller.

Oh. And Kara? She was at work.

I was on my own.

I glanced around the park, hunting for a restroom. It wasn’t a perfect option, but if I could at least clean her up somewhat… maybe stuff a huge wad of paper towels under her… perhaps I could get home mostly poop free, and fix things from there.

I grabbed Mihret’s poop-free hand and led her towards the bathroom. Luckily, she came with me. Sadly, that tapped out my luck reservoir.

Mihret and I stepped into the bathroom, and I saw immediately that nothing here was really going to help me. There was one stall, with some, but not much, toilet paper. There was no soap dispenser.

And in place of the paper towels, they had a hot air blower.

Oh – and no trash can in the bathroom.

I stood there and pondered my options. My child was, literally, covered in poop. And the scraps of toilet paper available to me were not going to protect her stroller, even a little bit. I could drag her home, and try cleaning it later, but the fact is, poop molecules don’t just leave that visible stain we all hate.

It also leaves The Smell That Will Not Die.

Plus, seriously. Poop all over the pants.

I took a deep breath and considered my options.

If I took the pants off and folded them juuust so, I could carry them home and try to figure out what to do with them. Or, if they were old, I could just toss them. Because seriously, this was a lot of poop.

I started pulling toilet paper off the roll, in an attempt to create a makeshift changing table on the floor. This didn’t really work, as toilet paper isn’t all that wide, and the slightest breeze, like, say, the one caused by setting a toddler on it, causes the paper to shift.

I removed the little one’s shoes and socks and set them aside. They appeared to be clean, but there was no way to know.

Then I started tugging at the pants.

I tried. I tried so very hard to keep the poop away from the parts of her leg that were clean, but the poop fought back and coated her entire leg, up to and including her foot.

I checked the pants. 3T. They were new. I couldn’t morally toss them in the trash. They would have to come with me.

I then discovered the source of the problem.

First, if you aren’t aware of it, Pull-Ups aren’t really diapers, per se. They’re too thin, don’t absorb all that much, and as a bonus, have a tendency to cave under stress. Either the sides get torn or detached when being pulled off and on, which is what a Pull-Up is FOR, or a too-large urine or poo flow can easily spill out of the edges of the filth containment system.

In this case, a side of the diaper had torn, rendering the diaper useless, but giving no outward signs that this was the case. So the poop was free to roam wherever it chose.

I took off the remainder of the diaper, which had very little poop inside it. It was, in fact, fairly clean.

Since there was no trash can, I just set it aside.

Then I started pulling toilet paper off the nearby roll, and attempted to turn the massive smear on my daughter’s leg into a slightly smaller smear.

This did not work. At all. The poop was already starting to dry, for one, and for two, it was coating her all the way to her foot, which gave me nothing to grab and manipulate the leg with. I couldn’t remove the stuff so much as spread it around.

Finally, I started grabbing a few squares at a time. Then getting them damp in the sink, but not too damp, because then they would disintegrate and I couldn’t use them. Then I’d wipe off perhaps a half of a square inch and throw the waste into the toilet.

This went on and on and on. At least two men came into the restroom while I was there, neither of them offering comment or help.

Finally, I deemed my little one “slightly cleaned,” and put a new diaper on her.

Then I picked up her pants. Poop rolled out.

I sighed. I used some more paper to pick it up. I realized that my fingers smelled badly, but there was nothing I could do because there was no soap in the bathroom, and nothing to wipe my hands off with except toilet paper or a pair of poop covered trousers.

I carefully shoved Mihret’s shoes and socks into my pockets, in order to get as little poo as possible on my own pants.

I picked up her dirty diaper, and dirtier pants, and also grabbed the last of the toilet paper. Sorry, anyone who was in there after me. I really needed it.

We walked out.

I found a trash can and disposed of the diaper, and then gave more consideration to just tossing the pants. Looking inside them revealed just how awful the damage was. There was a lot of poop, it was smeared everywhere, and it wasn’t just a light glazing. It was almost an eighth of an inch deep in several spots.

We walked back to the stroller, and I laid all the toilet paper down, but as I mentioned, the stuff doesn’t sit well. I put Mihret in, and started the long walk home, with a child who had no pants, and probably had at least some poo on her shirt. And also, one of my hands was mostly full of poop pants that I didn’t want to squeeze.

By the time we got home, I still had no idea what to do next. I had Mihret’s poo-covered shoes and socks on hand, and no one to take the little one from me while I attempted to deal with them before they dried out even more than they already had.

After much deliberation, I opened the screen door, then opened the door and tucked her inside. In an attempt to keep her from rolling away, I set the brakes.

I zipped down to the basement, and desperately tried to rinse the larger hunks of poo out of the pants. It simply didn’t work. Meanwhile, my child was sitting in her stroller waiting for me to set her free.

I gave up, and tossed the pants and socks in the washer, hoping that even if the stain didn’t come out, at least the washer wouldn’t smell like feces.

I went upstairs, passing my child along the way, and started running a bath for her. I had to move her soon, as she had started yanking the toilet paper off of her stroller and throwing it on the floor.

Finally, blissfully… I washed my hands. It never felt so good. I then selected a special towel, dubbed it the poop towel, and vowed I would dry my hands with no other towel in the near future.

I looked at myself. What to do? Had I soiled parts of myself? Should I just throw everything I was wearing in the wash?

I tossed my shirt, and went down to get the kiddo. All the toilet paper was now on the floor.

I sighed, freed her from the stroller, and brought her up the stairs. I did this by holding her under her armpits and not letting the poo foot, or any other poo-parts, touch anything. At all.

Until I set her in the water. On her feet. And pulled off her diaper and her shirt.

The diaper went into the pail. The shirt went into the laundry, which I had already started to think of as “the poo laundry.”

I took one of the six washcloths I had grabbed and did a thorough re-scrubbing of all the affected poo parts. Then I took a second washcloth and did it again.

Finally, my daughter was allowed to sit down in the tub. A thorough bathing was administered, and when I was done I had used six washcloths.

Her towel went into the poo laundry. As did my pants. And post-bath-and-getting-dressed, all poo-laungry was put in the wash. Her pants and socks had come clean, much to my shock.

But, sadly, I still wasn’t done.

I had to collect all of the bits of toiler-paper that were on the floor under the stroller, and then scrub the stroller with soap and water. And then wash my hands for the eight-millionth time.

In conclusion: Ick. And also, bring a diaper bag with you when you go out to play. For that matter, consider bringing two.

Just in case.