7:30 am - change diapers




I started to write a post that was, "If I wrote a letter to the babysitter describing everything I ACTUALLY do and think about during the day, as if I were inviting her into my mind so everyone could see how much work goes into a day of parenting." 

I was originally going to go through the whole day. 

It became clear very quickly that I would lose my mind and walk into a river with my pockets full of stones long before I could successfully craft an entire day's thoughts and efforts into a cogent narrative. 

(See also: Virginia Woolf)


The Letter To The Babysitter

Dear Babysitter,

Thank you so much for being here today! You’re a lifesaver. This schedule is of course somewhat flexible, so if you need to make a call on the field I trust you. This is, however, the routine that the boys are comfortable with, and you might find them most cooperative if you stick as closely as possible to it. I’m not saying you can’t improvise; I’m just saying, there will be consequences for you if you do. Possibly fatal ones.

7:30 am :        Boys’ OK to Wake light turns green. 

Go into bedroom and change diapers.

As soon as the light turns green, go into the room. It’s important that we reinforce that green = wake up, so please don’t make them wait or they’ll start to question all the rules and whether you can be trusted to keep promises and then your day is fucked. Their ability to trust the rules is delicate at best, so when we ask them to wait until the clock turns green, but promise that once the clock turns green they can come out, WE HAVE TO LET THEM OUT when the clock turns green. That means you pee at 7:25 am.

Make eye contact with each boy and say “Good morning (name)!” Do not say it like Richard Simmons; these children do not need help getting juiced up; they need help remaining tethered to the Earth. Literally. Try to say it like Laura Linney. Like you’ve been classically trained and have NPR on your resume.

Take off their wet diapers.

Chicken will remove his if you ask him but he’ll just stand spread-legged and rip off the tabs with the theatricality of a male stripper yanking off his track pants. The diaper will slap down onto the ground between his legs and then he’ll saunter away from it, naked. He will want to eat breakfast naked, smelling faintly of pee.

Call him back and hand him a wipe. Remind him that he needs undies to eat breakfast. Remind him that his penis is his private body. Remind him that his penis is perfect and wonderful and that he should enjoy it whenever he wants to, in a private place. Remind him why hand-washing is important. 

Remind him that today, at 5:30 pm, he has a swim lesson, and that part of that swim lesson will be taking a shower before he gets in the pool. Acknowledge his distrust of showers. Name the feeling and validate it, but do not try to solve the problem; acknowledge the truth of his fear, but do not support it. Remember what his therapist said: “I understand why you’re scared of the shower, but I am not scared of the shower. I will keep you safe.” 

Remind him you will be there the whole time. 

Do this without thinking about it.

Buster will not want to have his diaper changed. If you say the word “diaper” he will grab the wet wad of synthetic material and squeeze it until it explodes in his hands. Do not say the word “diaper.” Instead, say, “Step into my office,” and pat the changing pad. Say it with the expectation that he will do as you ask, the first time. He will not do this. We all know it but we have to try.

Say it again. Pat the pad. Gesture grandly. “Step into my office, sir.” He will not do it. Change your tone and say, “I can’t make your breakfast until I take off that wet dia—“ Whoops. That was a close one. 

“I can’t make your breakfast until you’re clean and dry.” He will make a break for the door, so stay loose. Catch him and smile and tickle him a little bit, just enough to make the walk back to the changing pad fun, not so much that he gets juiced up. Remember. He doesn’t need any help with that. Lay him down and change his diaper. He should be fine at this point. He knows the drill. Enjoy his sweet face for a second.

Remember that he has 5 weeks to be potty trained if he’s going to go to preschool. (Do not worry about whether the boys will make friends at the new preschool. There’s nothing you can do about that now and worrying about whether they can make friends will make you micromanage them all day because every time Chicken pokes Buster you won’t see a regular if rambunctious 5-year-old; you’ll see him, 40 and friendless, wandering the Renaissance Faire in puffy white sneakers, poking feisty barmaids with a foam jousting spear, unsure why people don’t like that.)

Express delight that we get to wear undies today. Not too much delight; high expectations create anxiety around the potty. Express 40% delight. Express nonchalance that we are wearing undies today. Because this is what we do now. Express 50% nonchalance. The other 10% is your chance to show me who you are, so don’t hold back. I usually go with 10% “talking in the voice of undies who are so excited to get to hang out with Buster today.” Because I’m playful.

Remind him that if he has to go potty today, he should not go in his pants. Remember that positive directions work better than negative ones. Try again.

Remind him with sing-songy questions: 

If you have to go potty, do you go in… the sink? Nooo! 
If you have to go potty, do you go in… the Cheerios? Nooo! 
If you have to go potty, do you go in… the potty? Yes!!! That’s right! 

Remind him that he’s getting so big; remind him that he’s still your baby. 

Remind him that you will be there the whole time.

Be there the whole time. 


7:35 am:         Breakfast

Oh my God I can't.



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