I'm venturing into new blog material with this post. If you've never changed a diaper or waited patiently while prune juice did it's work for your child, think twice before reading below this first paragraph.
This is your last WARNING ... read on at your peril.
My wife and I were chatting nonchalantly tonight after I'd returned from changing my son when it occurred to me that my life had changed irrevocably; I no longer see a clear OFF LIMITS sign on potty conversations.
We were both relieved at his relief, and the blessed quiet that had returned to the house after his little potty bomb detonated and eased his mood down from fidgity and unpleasant to calm and sleepy. I'll give you a sample of our conversation here.
"Do you think it was the pot roast at dinner?" I won't tell you which one of us posed the question. It was said in the same manner that a lab technician might inquire about a voltage irregularity or spike in a water acidity test.
"Had more of a dairy thing going on," the other of us replied with the same toneless manner of a patient scientist pursuing their observations with deliberate non-haste.
There was a silence, as there often is when we remember that we're actually talking about what we're talking about. Then we looked at each other and laughed.
"God, I cant wait for the day when I don't have to perform potty forensics anymore."
It doesn't matter which of us said that either - we both agreed.
I used to chuckle silently at older friends when they'd talk about their kid's like this. They were probably just lapsing into their thoughts the way that people with an involved profession will sometimes forget themselves and talk in the jargon of their office, but to me it seemed humorously pitiable.
"Brain's already gone," I'd think quietly to myself, "Desperate for adult conversation; or just lost beyond recall - gone baby native. Poor soul; got to remember to buy them a book or take them out to the movies."
The placid unwavering look of maturity on their face would never occurred to me as anything but the bliss of unknowing.
"So far gone ... and has no idea ... how sad, alas."
Thousands of diaper changes later (THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS --- TIMES TWO) it doesn't seem so silly. I might as well be a seasoned riveter on the end of a Chevy assembly line; there is no variation of the unspeakable substances that I have not seen ... or discussed.
And it doesn't seem so strange these days. Actually, I find that I'm in good company.
Robertson Davies in the first edition of the Cornish Trilogy writes about a funded university study of the adult version of the diaper chronicles and their link to psychology and magic. I thought he might have been having at the learned profession a bit with a skewer. Now I'm not so sure. I'll need to see if Davies was a father to be certain; but I think he was on to something about the unspeakable and the mysterious unknown.
When the kid can't talk, you look for anything, ANYTHING, to give you some insight into what's going on in that little mind body.
"Why won't he sleep ... did that jar of baby food turn bad ... is it colic ... should we try prune juice?"
There's really no answer that a one or a two year old can give you that makes any sense. So we sit there like ancient druid priests or Roman generals, studying the shape, the color, the quantity, the ... well you can use your own imagination ... as if it were a vein of gold stratified in the earth that needed careful inspection before extraction.
Honestly, ridiculous as it appears, what else can you do?
My wife reminded me of a near panic I had when the result of a heavily food colored cupcake presented itself in vivid BLUE the following day.
"GET THE CAR! CALL THE DOCTOR! GOD ... WHAT IS THAT?"
"Dave," my wife had said calmly after some quick deductive thinking, "It's the Cookie Monster cupcake from the bakery yesterday."
To my own defense it was BLUE. BLUE the color or police flasher siren blue and nearly as luminous. Darn those Sesame Street bakers!
But there it is. It happens to every parent I guess. It's a kind of right of passage.
Even now I can tell a parent that has changed diapers from one who has left it up to their spouse just by the fortitude of their olfactory glands when my son let's go in mixed company. That or the more obvious signs of fear when I actually move closer to the boy for a more sure sniff test of the situation.
"Feeling a little queasy?" I think as I catch the look out of the corner of my eye, "You should try it from here. This one smells as if it might be detected by NORAD or Los Alamos."
There's a steely kind of nerve that you can see in those veterans who've met the call.
"Good luck with that one ... glad my diaper days are done!"
I've even met an old soul or two who have changed my child for me - bless them.
Sometimes I think that the rite is like that awful scene from The Shawshank Redemption where Tim Robbins crawls through a sewer pipe to finally escape from the Maine prison.
"That's the length of five football fields," I can hear Morgan Freeman's voice over the footage of Robbins' epic crawl, "to come out clean on the other side."
I suppose it's natural - though a little over the top - to try and make a grand simile for something every parent has to slog through. To bring some meaning to something which conversely takes up much of your waking consideration but that most polite society considers off limits as a topic for discussion. You'll have to judge for yourself.
"Sound asleep," I said to my wife just a moment or two ago after checking on the little guy, "All better now."
"Good," she replied, half alseep herself, "Maybe he'll let us get some rest tonight."
"If the auspices are good," I thought quietly to myself, "the waters for the journey will be calm."