Often when I’m out and about with my children, or it comes up in conversation that I’m a father of four (usually because, like most parents of young children, I talk about little else), people say to me, “Wow, you’re like a Super-Dad.”
To which I must humbly reply, Yes. Yes I am. In fact, I hold a black belt in Preschool Parent-Fu. (Requirements include: Can assemble a crib in under 10 minutes without swearing; can remove bloodstains from favourite stuffed animals; Can make a grilled cheese sandwich one-handed while cradling a sleeping infant.)
When my parenting skills are on full display, women often stare in my direction and sigh wistfully, because popular culture leads them to believe that most men have no clue what to do with small children. So, in what will hopefully become a regular feature, I plan to share nuggets of my vast wisdom with current and prospective fathers everywhere. Young men, take heed: contrary to what Axe deodorant commercials tell you, what women really want is a man who can be left alone with a baby without freaking out.
Today’s lesson: The Art of Changing Diapers.
I have changed, on average, roughly 2.7 diapers per day over the past five years and three months. That amounts to a conservative estimate of 5,174 dirty behinds. I have changed diapers in airports and mall bathrooms, on hotel beds and car trunks, in friends’ bedrooms and government offices. I have changed diapers in six different countries on three separate continents. On rare and particularly effluent occasions, I have changed five diapers before 10 a.m.
Does that qualify me as one of the world’s foremost experts on diaper changes? Quite possibly.
Elements of a successful diaper change
There are two key components of a successful diaper change: speed, and a good seal. First, you want to get in and out as fast as possible. The longer the diaper is off, the higher the chances your child will pee on you. (And if it’s a boy, also himself, the walls, surrounding furniture, and possibly the ceiling.) Infant boys have a near-Pavlovian response to fresh air: as soon as a breeze hits their boy parts, they go off.
But quickness can’t come at the expense of a good seal. If a diaper’s on crooked, if those stretchy, sticky tabs aren’t secure, you’re at risk of leakage. And leakage is the enemy.
A caution: perhaps, in your enthusiasm to perform a swift change, you have accidentally ripped a sticky tab right off the diaper. I have done this several times, and let me say that you should cut your losses and use a new diaper. Attempting to repair the ripped diaper with duct tape is not a good idea. I can attest from first-hand experience that while duct tape has myriad uses, it cannot stand up to infant pee.
When to change your child
Diapers should be changed every few hours, at least, though every child is different. Diet, mood, bladder size, and the phases of the moon can all affect how often a child fills the basket, shall we say. But if you notice any of the following signs, you should change your child immediately:
– When it appears from the outside that he has sprouted a third knee;
-When you lift her off your lap and realize she left a puddle behind;
-When passersby stop, wrinkle their noses, and stare at your child. And then at you.
Perhaps you have noticed that diaper packages have numbers and weight measurements. As a friend helpfully pointed out to me, it is important to note that the specified kilogram range refers to the weight of your child, NOT the amount of waste a diaper can hold.
As you get to know your child, you will come to recognize The Face. All small children have a particular expression that they make when they are in the process of Unhitching the Caboose. You may be tempted to swoop in immediately and apply a fresh diaper, but that would be a rookie mistake. Give your child a moment, because there is frequently an aftershock.
I myself once intervened too early on a Code Brown in progress, and I wound up leaving baby poo all over the lawn of the Rwandese Department of Immigration, which may or may not have been illegal.
Hopefully these tips will help you on your journey to becoming a diaper-changing expert. All it takes is practice, and trust me: you’ll get plenty of that.