Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Family History and the Big Girl Bed

Growing up is tough. Growing up as a parent is tougher.

The various tests and troubles of parenting start the moment your kid comes home. They have a pattern of some kind, but they can’t explain it to you, because they haven’t learned to talk yet.

So your life turns into a science experiment of eating, and sleeping, and diapers, and cuddling, and eventually you get to a point where everything works.

At which point: Boom. Over. On to the next phase.

And you get to learn a whole new set of eating/sleeping/running rules.

Then you adjust, and then, BOOM, over.

In the midst of it all? The big girl bed.

As an adult with no children, you spend very little time thinking about the many beds of childhood. Your brain understands the whole baby/crib, older child/bed thing, and that’s about it.

But as you start raising actual human beings, you learn that there are many itinerations of the big-girl bed.

First, you’ve got the crib. NO blankets allowed. Maybe one, if it’s really tucked in. Because if you don’t tuck it in, the kid will kick it on their face, and then IT’S ALL OVER.

At least, that’s what the parenting books tell you.

Then they get a little older, and maybe you put a blanket in there.

If they’re little when they come home, you leave the bar on the crib down. The kid gets bigger? You raise the bar.

Then comes the day when your child moves to a “toddler” bed. Which means you take the bars off the side.

It’s like a small miracle. First it was a crib, and now, with a little tugging, it’s a bed. A small one, granted, but a bed all the same.

Finally, it’s time to move your kid to an actual, you know, bed-type-bed. Maybe a full. Or a twin.

In our case it was a twin, though I didn’t realize it at first.

You see, Kara and I were PREPARED for this moment. We bought an awesome crib, which is designed to turn into a toddler bed, and then into a bed-type-bed. Even better, when I told my parents that I thought it was time to move the kid to a regular bed, they said they had one.

There’s a story I’ll come to there. In a moment.

So our plan was set. They’d come over, they’d bring the bed, and we’d arrange the little one’s room to accommodate her brand-new, big girl bed.

Only, as it turns out, I know nothing about beds.

To start with, I didn’t take into account that my daughter’s bed-to-be would have to be a full-sized bed, in order to accommodate the head-and-foot-boards previously known as “crib parts.”

So, instead, I tore apart her crib, and my dad and I (mostly my dad) hauled the parts of the bed upstairs and started assembling them.

Which is when I learned something – the bed used to belong to my dad.

For weeks, my parents had referred to the bed in question as belonging to my grandparents. But I didn’t realize they were talking about the Patterson side. I had assumed they were speaking of the Dorows, who both passed away this year.

I was sort of right and sort of wrong.

According to my father, the bed that now sits in my daughter’s room was his – or possibly his brother’s. My dad was one of seven kids, and the bed in question was, essentially, a cheapie from Sears. Back when my dad was young. Which would have been back in 1950-something.

The bed resided at the Patterson household for years, until the Dorows had to move into assisted living, and needed beds that would fit in their tiny apartment. So this little bed, and its brother, left the Patterson household for the first time in their long history, and became part of the Dorow household.

Then my grandfather passed away, and the bed returned to my parents.

The bed itself is in great shape. There’s a scuff here and there, but my Grandma Patterson recovered the headboard years ago in fake brown leather that almost perfectly matches my daughter’s bedroom set.

You might notice that the color is a little off from the other furniture, but it would take you a while.

In a lot of ways, the bed is perfectly at home in my daughter’s room, a collection of books and toys from her childhood, my childhood, and my wife’s childhood. Adding a bed that my father, my grandfather, and almost certainly I, have slept in at one time or another feels right.

I’ve already said that growing up as a parent is tough. Three generations of parents have slept in that same bed, and with any luck, one day Mihret will present a big-kid bed to her son or daughter with the words, “This used to belong to your great-grandfather. And your great-great grandfather, for a while.”

And if we’re all very lucky, the bed will pass along four generations of parenting wisdom.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An Open Letter to Huggies

Dear Huggies People,

I've been meaning to talk to you for some time about your Pull-Ups. These are, of course, the diapers that have been designed to act like underwear for kids who sometimes still pee in their pants. Or poop in their pants. Or have other pants-related accidents that parents would rather deal with by throwing something in the trash instead of trying to wash something covered in fecal matter.

Here's what I wanted to say about them: I hate them. They are worthless. They have exactly one good quality, which I will detail now.

This is the good quality: Just like a regular diaper, you can put them on and take them off without having to remove your child's pants, shoes, socks, leggings, lederhosen, etc.

So I want to thank you for thinking of that, since you are the only Pull-Up makers who realized that would be a good thing.

But now it's time to talk about the stuff that makes me froth at the mouth like a rabid marmoset.

1. Pull-Ups are almost totally useless as a waste-containment system.

In winter, this is less of a problem, because the lack of heat in the air means my child doesn't require a lot of liquids. Ergo, she doesn't have to pee as much.

But now, as summer drapes its sweaty body over us like a warm, moist towelette, my kid gets thirsty all the time. And she wants something to drink. Something that comes out as urine. Which goes into her Pull-Up. Which can hold about two ounces of widdle before I start seeing little puddles of pee on my couch, on the floor, on my kid's pants, and so on.

What this means is, I STILL have to remove my kid's pants, and replace them, and while I'm not a huge fan of the process in general, I enjoy it even less when I get urine on myself in the process.

The job of the waste-containment system is to CONTAIN waste. So let's work on that, shall we?

2. Let's talk about how diapers go on.

Every disposable diaper that exists right now goes on in the following fashion: The the front of the diaper goes up over the waste-excreting part of the child, which is then held in place by two Velcro straps that move from the back of the diaper to the front.

To review: The straps in the back go over the TOP of the diaper in front.

But for some reasons, your Pull-Ups are the complete reverse. The straps in the FRONT go over the OTHER straps in the back.

Now, you might argue that Pull-Ups are designed to be pulled UP. Which is true. But please see above, re: removal of lederhosen.

Regardless, it's an irritating thing to have to learn in the midst of teaching a child to put their waste in another receptacle. We as parents are already frustrated - why do you feel compelled to ADD to it?

3. And speaking of Velcro...

Frankly, folks, your diapers just don't hold together all that well when doing the thing they are designed to do. Which is to slide off like faux underwear so that our kids can get used to the semi-removal of clothing all adults who need to void their bladders do on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, like most human beings,kids push down on the sides of their undergarments when getting ready to let the waste fall into the toilet. This is right where your Pull-Ups come together.

Which means that, frequently, the Pull-Ups just plain fall off. And when that happens, kids come to view it as how Pull-Ups are supposed to function. So they just start tearing them off, which is not how you use underwear at all.

At least, not in a bathroom setting.

To this end, let me make a radical design suggestion that just might prevent me from having to burn a pile of horribly soiled clothing that I just don't want to get involved with:

First, let's up the containment factor on these things. I realize that you make a "nighttime" version as well, but I don't feel like slapping Sleeping Beauty on my little one's booty every time she wants a cup of juice.

Second, let's fix this strap issue. For the love of sanity, please make Pull-Ups assemble the same way all the other diapers in the universe assemble. I realize this might cost you one more cent for that stretchy fabric, but you can pass that cost along to us, the parents. You were going to do it anyway.

Perhaps you can save some money by eliminating the "wet spot" portion of the diaper, which is supposed to tell kids that they're wet and should go pee in the potty, but just gives them a diaper rash.

You can get rid of the "when pee gets on this, it turns purple" section of the Pull-Up as well. You know why? Because it's under PANTS, which means no one can see that the color has changed.

I mean, have you not HAD children? Do you not realize that if a kid learns their diapers change color when you pee in them, they view it not as a reason to use the potty, but as a reason to play "baby science?"

In conclusion, way to go on the Pull-Ups that change like diapers. Now, I'm begging you, please do something so I don't have to change my kid's trousers three times a day just because she wants a drink of water.