Finalist No. 3: The diaper

One crucial detail was missing from this dad's post-bath drill.


Kathy Schmidt
June 15, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

Our firstborn son, Ryan, was 8 weeks old and it was time for me to go
back to work. I really hated the idea of not being with Ryan all day, not
seeing every little smile and hearing those little cooing sounds he made,
but my husband and I thought we had the perfect plan for my return to
work. My husband Dave works for a national cable-TV station four
nights a week. We had opposite days off, and on the two days where
we overlapped he would be with Ryan until 1 p.m., then take him over
to our neighbor's house until I got home at 6 p.m. No daycare, no long
hours at a baby sitter's and best of all, Ryan and Dave would get some
real, quality, father-son time.

Until Ryan was born, Dave really hadn't been around kids much, much
less a slightly colicky 8-week-old. I was a little nervous, but I figured it
was much better than daycare and somehow we would work it all out. I
just kept reminding myself what a great thing that Dave was doing and
how lucky I was to be married to him.

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The big day came: my first day back at work. Dave and I must have
gone over Ryan's schedule a million times. I made all the bottles for the
day, laid out three different outfits (in case of spit-up emergencies) and
posted the numbers of the doctor, the hospital and what to do in case
Ryan was choking on the refrigerator. I gave my son one more hug and
Dave reassured me that they would be fine. I left with tears in my eyes.

I called them when I got to work and Dave said everything was great.
"Don't worry," he said, "we'll be fine." So with that, I decided to try
and put them out of my mind for a little while and get back to the piles
of papers that had built up on my desk for eight weeks.

About an hour later the phone rang. When I heard Dave's voice on the
other end I just about dropped the phone and ran out the door.
Something horrible must have happened if he's calling me, I thought. I
yelled into the phone "What happened, is Ryan OK, where are you,
where's Ryan, what's wrong?"

"Well, we had a little accident," he said.

"What!" I yelled again into the phone as I was grabbing my keys ready
to head out the door.

"Don't worry, nothing major," Dave said. "Ryan is fine."

"OK, well then, what's wrong?" I asked, trying to calm myself down,
as I had begun to elicit some stares from people around my office.

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"Well, I was giving Ryan a bath, and that went fine. Then I got him
dressed and I was holding him, walking downstairs, when I felt
something wet on my chest. Then Ryan made that face -- you know,
when he has to poop -- and, well, then I felt that on my shirt too." He
hesitated. "I kinda forgot to put his diaper on when I got him dressed
after his bath."

"How could you forget to put his diaper on?" I asked, thinking that
maybe this was Dave's way of making me feel better that I was at work
and not at home.

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"Well, I've never given him a bath before and every time I've changed
him I've taken a diaper off, then put one on immediately after. But this
time I was so worried about getting him dressed after his bath I just
started to put on his clothes from the pile that you left out for us, and I
guess I just forgot."

I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry now -- I mean, I just couldn't
understand how someone could forget to put a diaper on an 8-week-old
child. Wasn't this one of the first things we learned in that parenting
class we took, how to change a diaper? If a daycare provider were
telling me this story I would have stormed out right then and there,
picked up Ryan and never gone back. But this wasn't just a daycare
provider, it was my husband and Ryan's father.

I took a deep breath and laughed. Dave seemed relieved that I was
laughing, and he laughed, too.

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"I'm glad you left more clothes out," he said, "but I swear, this time I
remembered to put a diaper on."

"You put the diaper on Ryan, right?" I said, just to get one last zing in.

"Funny, Kathy, very funny," he said.

We now have a second child, a little girl named Hannah. I am still
working full time and Dave is still taking care of the kids three days a
week. Dave always tells me that he feels so lucky to be able to spend so
much time with the kids, even if he doesn't do things exactly the way I
might like him to. He has never forgotten to put on a diaper again,
though he still needs some improvement with putting on Hannah's
clothes the right way. But it's nothing major. As a friend of mine said
to me recently, no one has been scarred for life from wearing their
clothes backwards.

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Kathy Schmidt

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