It was long ago — or was it yesterday — when this dad watched his son playing T-ball, chasing the dog around the yard and smacking into a tree, balancing paper cups on his baby sister’s head with his friends, fidgeting in his first prom tux, leaving for college, coming home again, leaving again, kissing his bride.
Fond memories, for sure.
Recently, I watched him change his own son’s diaper.
That tops them all. No kidding.
My mother once told us matter-of-factly (and with an odd sense of pride, I think) that Dad never changed a diaper. “Not one. Not ever.”
I asked her how come. She said, “Your dad was working or golfing. Was he supposed to change diapers, too?”
“What about at nighttime?”
“I didn’t want to bother him.”
Had I the nerve to ask Dad why he didn’t (wouldn’t) change a diaper — not once, not ever — I know he would have said, “Because your mother did, that’s why.”
Times change. Most new-age dads like me diapered, fed, bathed, comforted, diapered, fed, bathed and comforted our kids no more and no less (ok, maybe a little less) than new-age moms — even though, in my case anyway, my wife (Mom) was the boss of me (Dad) when it came to such matters.
Nowadays, it’s more about parents collaborating and synchronizing their down-to the-minute baby-rearing action plan: to let cry or not cry; milk temperature; bedroom temperature; bath water temperature; sleep aid sounds; outfits for the day; outfits for the night, and, above all, keeping the baby ON A SCHEDULE.
“Hon,” my son’s wife says sweetly but with a hint of concern on the speakerphone (she’s off partying with girlfriends on a weekend getaway somewhere in the Upper Peninsula), “when did you feed Ben?”
“Hold on. I’ll check my app … No, it was 9:43.”
“Okay, that changes things. Ben’s off-schedule. Feed him and put him down at 12:03. Okay, Hon?”
“But if I put him down at 12:03, then …”
And so on, until deliberations conclude with a decision about when to schedule the next diaper change.
How odd that sounds to me. In simpler times the proper moment for a diaper change was determined mostly with a whiff.
That’s old school now. More goes into the timing of a diaper change than I am able to follow. “When you were a baby, we knew when …” falls on deaf ears. He’s the dad now.
“I’ve got this, Dad,” he says to me. No doubt he does. I smile. This is the same kid who once chased his dog around the yard and smacked into a tree.
I daydreamed all kinds of improbable scenarios starring my kids when they were young. You know what I mean: a flawless piano recital, a rousing valedictorian speech, a last-second winning touchdown run …
Imagining my son’s adeptness and confidence as he changes his son’s poopy diaper was not one of those visions. But it should have been.
Watching my son and his son stare at each other in awe as he does that is the ultimate gift for this dad’s Father’s Day.
Dick Schwartz lives in Minneapolis.