Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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Parenting is About Sharing The Load: no pun intended

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The whole family was at the dentist. Mel, Tristan (age 7), and Norah (age 5) were each in chairs having their teeth cleaned. I was walking up and down the office bouncing our four-month-old, Aspen, when I felt something warm and wet on my t-shirt. 

I could smell what it was.

Mel and I had gone through several different brands of diapers trying to find one that would contain Aspen’s poop: Costco brand, Huggies, White cloud, Pampers… Nothing seemed to work. I’m going to sound like my grandfather here, but we can send a man to the moon, but we can’t invent something that can, 100% of the time, contain my baby’s crap. Stuff like this is maddening. If Aspen were one of the X-Men, her power would be poop. To make matters worse, she looks like the kind of baby you’d expect would be able to drop a major duke. Aspen is a chubby little thing, with rollers in her arms and legs, big cheeks, blue eyes, and a bald head. If she were placed in a line up of blowout suspects, she would be identified as the criminal every time, I assure you.

She has a blowout at least once a day. Sometimes twice. Usually Mel is the one to get crapped on. However, at the dentist, I was the lucky one.

Mel was meeting with the dentist when I asked her where the diaper bag was. It was a large office, with multiple dentists and hygienists, and I felt horrible for dragging my poopy baby along the hallways for everyone to smell. Although no one made a comment, or even gave me a dirty look, I assumed everyone could see stink lines coming from Aspen and myself. I think few things are as embarrassing as having a child crap on you while in public. Although I think Mel and I do a good job of containing the situation whenever it happens, and in hindsight I can see that, in the moment, I always feel like a horrible parent that can’t do something as simple as keep my child’s poop contained.

The hygienist, who was a little bubbly, but well-intentioned, said something snarky about a man changing a baby. As a father, I get this more than I’d like to admit. I don’t know if this is a result of fathers refusing to change a poopy baby, or if it’s just some social taboo that a man doesn’t know how to change a baby. Either way, it's total garbage. If you are reading this, and you are a father who refuses to change a poopy baby, knock it off. You are making us all look bad. And if you are a person who thinks that a father can’t properly change a baby, stop being a jerk.

By now Aspen was crying. Poop was down her leg, in my shirt, and on my hand. Breast feeding babies poop like cats. It’s disgusting.

Once in the men’s room, I quickly realized that there was no changing table. Few things piss me off more than that, particularly when I’m soaking in baby crap. In the seven years that I’ve been a father, I will admit that there has been a lot of forward movement when it comes to adding changing tables to men’s rooms. When Mel and I had Tristan seven years earlier, it seemed like a regular occurrence for me to take the baby into the men’s room only to find out that there was no changing table. Mel would then check the ladies room, and sure enough, she’d find one. I have to assume that there are some fathers out there who get really happy when there’s no changing table in the men’s room. It means they got out of the job. However, it makes me angry. I’m not saying that I love to change a baby’s butt, I don’t, but I love my wife and I don’t think it is fair for her to have to change every diaper when we are out and about.

I ended up placing Aspen on a small sliver of counter next to the sink. I didn’t feel right about placing her on the floor. I thought about going out to the car, but before I left, the dentist mentioned that he’d be ready for me in a few minutes. I didn’t feel like I had time to walk out to the parking lot.

The counter wasn’t comfortable for Aspen so she started squirming and crying. To make matters worse, someone (I’m trying not to incriminate Mel here) forgot to put the wipes back in the bag. I used toilet paper, which after using wipes for so long felt like I was performing some MacGyver style improvisation. This was the first time I’d ever used toilet paper rather than wipes on a baby, and I must say it really showed me how ineffective toilet paper is. I think it only cleaned up about 70% of the mess. I paused for a moment, thought about my own butt, and wondered what I’d been missing all these years.

I cleaned Aspen and myself as best I could. It took much longer than I would’ve liked, and by the time I made it back into the dentist, Mel had a look on her face that seemed to say, “What took so long.”

I told her about the blow out and the lack of a changing table. I pointed at the large dark spot on my shirt showing her where I’d tried to clean the poop of it. I expected pity and compassion. But instead, I got, “It’s about time that happened to you.”

“Thanks,” I said. “Now I feel like a loser.”

Mel shrugged. “Getting pooped on everyday has made me feel like a loser.”

She gave me a forced smile and kissed me. Then she took the baby, and I headed in to get my teeth cleaned.

And as I sat in the dentist chair, feeling picked on, I thought about how so much of parenting young kids means feeling this way. Much of it is thankless and messy. It means getting crapped on, and then making the best of it. It’s about sharing the load, no pun intended.

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter