I have a disturbing number of diaper related catastrophe stories. At first I thought it was just a feature of parenthood; parents have diaper catastrophe stories. I would try to commiserate with other parents though, but instead of nodding along as though they understood, they would give me these looks of surprised pity, as though I were an alien from a very sad planet. Eventually I understood; my daughter was special. (I’m going to pretend that, obviously, the problem wasn’t me.)
I do have one diaper story that’s merely cute however, a story about my daughter being special in a good way.
It started like any other diaper change: she was rambunctiously trying to find toys with which to occupy the time, I was grimly focused like a medic in a combat zone. Some people are gun shy, I’m bum shy. She was a toddler by the time of this story, so I had more than a year of experience. Thirty-thousand times burned, twice shy.
Her changing area consisted of a foam changing pad in the center of a bed surrounded by diapering paraphernalia. Usually she would grab a stack of diapers or a bottle of lotion, but on this day she found something new. The foam changing pad had a seatbelt.
I’m not sure why actually. As far as I know, diaper pads don’t need to be street legal. They’re not involved in a lot of crashes. (A lot of accidents, yes, but those are different stories.) Perhaps the manufacturer expected the pad to be used to restrain prisoners. Small prisoners who liked pastels and couldn’t operate simple plastic clips.
My daughter was only just learning to put objects together. Her skills at destruction were the stuff of apocalyptic literature–we playfully called her “the destroyer of worlds”–but assembly had only interested her for a couple of weeks. The seatbelt clip was a challenge; she knew that the pieces ought to fit, but she didn’t have the motor skills required to make them.
Meanwhile, I was focused on my task. Focus was a survival instinct. Some portion of my brain acknowledged with thanksgiving that my daughter was more subdued than usual, but I couldn’t risk a moment to investigate.
Then I heard two sounds.
The first was a sort of snap-click. It wasn’t loud, but the entire world seemed to drop into silence so that it could resound with import. Naturally I froze. If I had ears that swiveled, they would have been searching for the sounds of approaching hunters while the rest of my body made ready to bolt from the clearing into the protection of the surrounding woods.
The second sound was my darling daughter. She only knew a few words at the time, and she said most of them incorrectly, but she said this right and with the most sweetly angelic alarm: “Oh no!”
She had managed to buckle the seatbelt, but her triumph was immediately swallowed by the realization that she had strapped herself down. I looked away from my urgent task and discovered her pitiful eyes staring up at me as though to say, “Daddy, I didn’t know that would happen!”
I melted, in the way of fathers, and rescued her from her dire distress by unbuckling her. If I had somehow managed to go the year without falling in love with her, I would have fallen at that moment. I can’t do justice to how cute she was. It remains the best of all of my diaper time memories.
Of course, she apparently liked my reaction, so she belted herself down five more times before I finished changing her diaper. What can I say, she knows her dad too well. I didn’t really resist though, I just kept unbuckling her and telling her how adorable she was. I’m a softy.