Everyone knows that dogs are the gateway drug to having children, so I feel for couples who jump straight from couplehood to parenthood without going through puppyhood. It would be like if your first sexual experience was an orgy instead of an awkward kiss after a spin of the bottle, or if, instead of a cheap beer stolen from your dad’s garage, your first experience with drugs or alcohol was a line of cocaine at some glitzy LA party in the 80s.
I was reminded of the important role dogs play in preparing us to be parents when a friend of mine, who is expecting, sent me an email inquiring about cloth diapers. Now, if you’re one of the four regular readers of this blog, you’ll know that cloth diapers require a level of intimacy with human waste, not encountered by Disposablers. My friend seemed mostly concerned about how to get them clean. Here is my response:
As I’m writing this, I realized that this guy doesn’t even have a dog. He’s never mopped up dog vomit. He has never stooped down in a public place, his hand sheathed in a plastic bag, and picked up feces. Dogs are like training wheels on the bike that takes you from the orderly everyday world where poop, without question, is deposited in toilets, leaving bottoms unsoiled, and is flushed discreetly away into the sewer, to a planet altogether different where a sentence such as “We do NOT use our poop like fingerpaint on the walls!” is shouted with a dead serious face.
So my friend is screwed. His everyday world is about to collide with Planet Poopiter and without a dog to ease him through the transition, that first diaper is going to be a shocker. And let me tell you, that first one – that meconium diaper – the one that looks like a roofer dumped a bucket of tar into your infant’s diaper, is a bit of a “Holy shit! What the hell is that?!” moment for every new dad (and it’s the dad BTW, because the ladies are usually still tore to hell getting stitched up, which isn’t to say I would want to trade places, but still, What the hell have you been eating in there kid?!). When my friend sees that meca diaper he’ll be like a nun wandering into an orgy, or an Amish teenager on exchange in Los Angeles. You can bet that after changing that diaper, he’ll think twice about cloth.
I didn’t, because dogs normalize a lot of things. Carrying that warm and gooey plastic poop bag in my pocket until the next unwatched garbage can during my nightly walk with Clover prepared me. It’s not a huge leap from that to strapping down my kid to a Koala Station in a public restroom, peeling back a shit-caked cloth diaper off her butt, putting it in a plastic bag, and depositing it into my diaper bag. You can’t do that without confidence. You have to own it. You got to walk out of that restroom, back into the potty trained world of adults, and look into their eyes and be like, “Yeah, I got a bag of shit in my bag, what’s up?” I can do that, but it would’ve been rough without Clover.
The first time I cleaned vomit out of my daughter’s hair at 3 a.m., I remember thinking to myself, “Clover’s smells WAY worse!” And those sweet smelling breastmilk poopy diapers? Delightful! Feed my son raspberries all day? An odoriferous bouquet! Only after your kid is drinking cow’s milk, eating meat and cabbage do their shits start to rival your dog’s, but it’s okay, right? You’ve been there. You’ve been picking up warm and gooey dog shit and putting it into your pocket for years! Scraping feces off a submerged cloth diaper in the toilet ain’t that bad!
Except that it is. I can’t think of much worse except for the time I dug up and fixed my clogged side sewer. Maybe that’s why kids in cloth diapers are potty trained, on average, close to a year earlier than those in disposables. It’s not because they can FEEL it more, or whatever. It’s because parents using cloth have more incentive to get them out.
To those of you without dogs, it takes, on average, three YEARS to potty train humans. It took three MONTHS, on the other hand, to potty train my dog. At the time, it felt like forever. Three…MONTHS. This is one of the many reasons why, if you do not have children, you should not try to relate to parents using your pearls of canine wisdom. Good for you for having a dog – it will serve you well later, but don’t give us parents advice on poop (or anything else for that matter). Parents are playing on a whole other level of feces. And parents like me, who used cloth diapers, are on another level above that. There’s only one level higher that I know of, and it is reserved for those insane parents who cut the butts off their baby’s pants so their bare assed children can by rushed off to a toilet every time their six week-old squirms.Think about their upholstery…think about the family photo albums. I feel awful for these kids. They will not be visiting their parents in the old folks home.
But when you begin potty training your kid, or as many parents more accurately describe it: floor pooping, again, no big deal. Do you remember how back when it was only the two of you and your puppy, the puppy would occasionally poop INSIDE THE HOUSE? On the floor! The horror! HA! When I potty trained my daughter, she’d run around sans pants all summer, and I remember stepping out onto the porch one morning, coffee in hand, and looking down over the rim of my mug at a turd on the steps. I know what my family member’s turds look like, and this one was most certainly not Clover’s. I did not think, “OH MY GOD, THERE IS HUMAN SHIT ON MY STAIRS!!!!” I remember feeling a twinge of pride only hikers who regularly poop in the woods will understand, thinking to myself, as I returned with a wad of toilet paper, “Now how did she manage to squat on the stairs like that and keep her balance?
So here’s my friend, with a baby on the way, sounding squeamish in his reply about the shit stick in my bathroom. To him, and to the rest of you, the dogless environmental couples engaging in unprotected sex, I say this: Continue your nighttime efforts only if, every so often, you can go into the bathroom, poop into a plastic grocery bag, and carry it confidently around the neighborhood. You can put it in your backpack if you feel self-conscious, but if you should engage in conversation with any of your neighbors, absolutely no one should suspect that you’ve bagged a brown anaconda and you are carrying it around. Be cool. Own it. If you can do that, by all means, continue your nighttime efforts.
God help you if you can’t, ’cause that first diaper in the hospital will blow your mind. Shit, it’ll blow anyone’s*
*The author would like to give a preemptive “You’re welcome” to his reading audience for neglecting to include any photos over the course of this blog post.