Last month, we went up to Melinda’s hometown and saw her cousin Leslie. Leslie and her husband David used to live near us in Virginia, but they had a daughter and a set of twin boys in quick succession and decided it would be much easier to weather the child-rearing storm if they were closer to family.
Pre-kids, we’d go to Leslie and Dave’s house and hang out a fair amount, drinking beers and grilling meats on the patio or tucking into a game of Tiger Woods on Wii. That is to say, we had a normal, early-30s friendship.
But becoming a parent automatically changes your daily conversations. Rather than talk about sports or TV shows or whatever we used to talk to Leslie about, we talked exclusively about kids, comparing notes on nap times, bath schedules, and eating habits.
Melinda told Leslie that Robert’s had this recent habit of holding in his poop all morning, then letting it fly as soon as he goes down for his afternoon nap. It’s really annoying, because he doesn’t sleep well, and if we don’t catch it in time, he wakes up with dried shit caked all over his back and legs.
“Oh, it used to happen to our boys all the time,” Leslie said. “We called it a nap crap.”
Ostensibly, these kid-focused conversations are conducted in the interest of gleaning some nugget of wisdom from the other parent. It’s absolutely true that NO parent knows what the fuck they’re doing—most parental tactics are the equivalent of throwing a dart in a dark room and hoping to hit the board. So it’s not uncommon for parents to go does Jillian ever… or how do you handle it when Connor…
These conversations also tend to devolve into dick measuring contests, where you’re silently tallying your parental talents against your partner’s. I learned this early on, when I told a friend of a friend that Robert started sleeping through the night at four months old. She straightened her back and said “oh really? Celeste started sleeping through the night at THREE months.”
Check and fucking mate, Celeste’s mom. Here’s your parenting trophy.
If I’m being honest, I’m just as guilty. Whenever one of my friends starts complaining about something their bratty kid does, I feel a little superior. “Oh, Robert doesn’t do THAT,” I’ll say, as though I’m Dr. Spock.
Since Robert turned 2 in April, a lot of recent conversations have centered around the Terrible Twos, a mythical period where toddlers, for no clear reason, lose their fucking mind.
For the most part, I didn’t notice any difference in his behavior. Terrible Twos? I’ll scoff. Not MY Robert. He’s the BEST baby. I began to think the Terrible Twos was some excuse shitty parents cooked up to compensate for their inability to effectively control their kids. I mean, how far does it go? The Treacherous Threes, the Feral Fours, the Fuck You Fives?
That is, until the other day, when I went into Robert’s room to wake him up from his nap. It was like a scene from Seven, when Brad Pitt comes across whatever gruesome tableau the serial killer had lain out for him.
Robert sat cross legged on the floor, his butt spatula in one hand and a can of diaper rash cream in the other. He’d used the spatula to merrily spackle the cream on his dresser like a painter working a canvas.
“Good boy!” he yelled when I entered, then turned back to his masterpiece. I might be misremembering this, but I feel like he was also whistling like a dwarf in Snow White.
I scanned the room for additional damage, coming across his bed. There, on the mattress, were two cigar-sized turds.
It seems Robert had taken one of his nap craps, and, not wanting to lie in it for the next few hours, had attempted to change his own diaper. He’d taken off his soiled shorts, placed them in the Diaper Genie, and set to applying the butt cream.
Points for effort, my man, but you came up a little short on the execution.
My initial instinct was to throw the kid across the room, but of course I didn’t. I didn’t even yell, because really, what was that going to solve? Instead, I quietly mopped up the cream and stripped the bed, telling Robert in my best I’m not mad, I’m disappointed voice that he’d done a bad thing.
“Good job, Daddy!” Robert said when I’d finished the job.
“Thanks, buddy,” I said, because regardless of the source, it’s nice to be recognized for your efforts.
Next, I did what any parent in my position would do: text a picture of the damage to anyone who would look. If anyone’s looking for natural birth control, check out this photo, I wrote to my work friends. I did this because otherwise, what else would I have to talk about?