My wife and I have an understanding about my business trips – she toughs it out with the kids by herself while I’m gone, but upon my return, I’m on major kid duty the following weekend. To paraphrase Dylan, she has to find some way out – she needs some relief. So when duty called in the predawn the morning after my return from Florida, I was up.
The clock said 6:00 but it was Saturday and still dark. Boy #2 was yelling my name from his bed so I moved groggily down the hall to see what his problem was. [I feel like I’ve written this post before…!] He’d had a bad dream (#2 that night) and was cold, so I covered him up, refused to let him come in my bed or join him in his and headed back down the hall. But of course his yelling had awoken #3, who was in his crib doing his own version of yelling for us.
It was dark, I was up, and the baby was calling, so I gathered my courage and headed in. He stands up in his crib now, so there he was, staring at me with a look that said, “What took you so long – I got needs here, I’m hungry! Oh, and I’m poopy too. Welcome home Daddy!” I should have known that there’d be trouble stored up for me from being away for a few days.
I decided to change him first before giving him a bottle, so I picked the lad up, laid him on his back on the changing table and unbuttoned his fuzzy sleeper and onesie. That’s when it all started to go wrong. I opened his diaper and immediately sensed my peril. It was pitch black in the room and I quickly realized that I couldn’t distinguish stink from pink. I began fumbling around the drawer under the changing table for the plastic bags to put the mess in but they’d been moved. (I suppose I could have forgotten where they were but I’d only been away four days!) It suddenly seemed like I was on foreign land and hadn’t changed a diaper in my life. I fumbled around the table, knocking tubes of ointment and medicine droppers to the floor in my quest of anything resembling a bag or a wipe. He started to sense my confusion and began to squirm a bit on the table, wondering what the hold up was and why I hadn’t just gone right to the bottle. In my desperation I made what seemed like a logical move but in retrospect was a huge blunder. I reached up and pulled the cord that turned on the overhead light since I was getting nowhere in the darkness and had to clean off my child from the foul stench that was filling up the room.
You’d have thought that I’d stuck the child with a cattle prod the way that he jerked up at the blinding light that suddenly filled the room. He started contorting into positions that I didn’t know babies could do, and I found myself holding him by his ankles while he did a headstand, back arched and twisting back and forth. I felt like I was trying to give a cat a bath, only without the claws but instead a butt full of poop. Speaking of which, was now getting smeared all over the changing table pad, my hands, arms, his sleeper and onsie…pretty much everything. He frantically writhed about and flipped over onto his stomach to his hands and knees. Now an expert crawler, he started forward, heading towards the door, likely in an attempt to escape from this crazy man with the blinding light who surely couldn’t be his Daddy or else he’d be doing a better job at this. As I reached for him, the changing pad (which for 7 months I’ve forgotten to secure to the table) slid to the left under his movement and the wipes box tumbled to the floor with a bang.
I’d had enough and I yanked the light cord again with my free hand, sending the room back into blackness. I prayed that the stinky beast might calm down for a few seconds so Daddy could get his bearings. I can’t tell you with certainty what happened next, but somehow I managed to get the gruesome diaper secured in the bag and liberally rub the boy’s general midsection area until I was reasonably sure I’d cleaned the majority of the mess. Things settled down, and I managed to get the baby clothed and fed and we hung out for a while in his room without waking up Mommy or the other boys.
Those precious early morning moments are the ones that keep you coming back (at least the post-poopy ones). Seeing his smile, watching his little legs pull him up, his face so proud of his accomplishment. I’ve written before that The Family Man is one of my favorite movies. There’s a scene when Nicolas Cage’s daughter thinks he’s just returned from being missing. “I knew you’d come back,” she says as she squeezes him in a hug. I could swear that there were moments when Aaron stood on my lap in his room that morning, the early light of dawn sneaking past his window shades, when he stared at me with a look that could have only meant the same thing – “I knew you’d come back.”
Daddy’s home little man. It’s good to see you. Poopy and all.