It was monsoon season in our house recently. Each night for a few weeks the Minor would produce such a robust gush that his nappy would be unable to contain it. And he would wake up in a little wet mess. To his credit he would not be downcast by this accident. In fact it was on these mornings that he was at his most energetic and wriggly. If I was not careful he would squirm from my grasp and roll across various bits of soft furnishings, spreading his wee scent like a musky fox. There are probably parts of my house that are still covered in historical piss. There may even be bits on me I’ve missed with the shower loofah.
It seemed that his nappy could not cope with the volume created by his blockbusting bladder. Which left us with a problem. For a few nights we changed him in a middle of the night – a pit stop to keep him dry – but it was not sustainable because the inevitable kerfuffle stirred him awake. My wife then took the decision to change our nappy provider.
From the first day of parenthood we used Pampers. Pampers was there to catch the very first poo. When I went to buy nappies all I saw was Pampers. Nappies, Pampers. Pampers, nappies. It never really occurred to me that there was any other brand. We walked dreamily into Pampers and Pampers welcomed us presumptuously with open flaps.
I did not challenge Pampers until the time that its nappies began to fail us. At that point we began to flutter our eyelids at alternative nappy manufacturers. We eventually plumped for one from Lidl called Toujours, supplied as part of Lidl’s unswerving commitment to weird-sounding continental brands. On the backside of the nappy are printed the words “made with love”, which presumably refers to the nappy itself as opposed to any future contents. Perhaps in the nappy factories of Europe there are operatives lovingly placing individual piss-crystals in each gusset, a bit like Rowan Atkinson preparing Alan Rickman’s gift-bag in Love Actually.
The reality is that the Toujours nappy feels a little less luxurious than the Pampers nappy. A little less pampering I guess. It has a slightly crinkly feel like the bog roll from a 1980s school. But the ultimate test for a nappy is whether it can handle the storm of pee rained down on it on a nightly basis. In this aspect the Toujours nappy pisses all over the Pampers one, to use a deliberately unfortunate metaphor.
So it’s taken us four years of parenting to work out that Pampers wasn’t the best choice of nappies for our children. The Minor has begun to request that we hold him over the toilet for his evacuations so it may be that our need for nappies is coming to an end. Just when we’d finally worked it all out.
I was not paid by Lidl for this post. I just think that their nappies are better than Pampers.
In case I didn’t know that children are illogical, the Minor has recently developed a habit of waking up in the middle of the night to complain that he is tired. Sometimes he does this in a soft sad wail and sometimes he does it in loud angry rant. The rant would probably be expletive-ridden if he knew what expletives are. Last night at around 3.45am he pointedly said: “excuse me I’m tired” as if I’d gone into his room and woken him up on purpose. Then he added “actually actually actually I’m tired” to stress his point, each ‘actually’ slightly more tired than the first. It’s demented.
The sensitive reaction to this absurd protest is to advise him gently that he is best to go back to sleep. But set it against a backdrop of night after night of interruptions, it comes out more like a livid hiss: “we are all tired, pal”. This would definitely be expletive-ridden except I don’t want him to know what expletives are. We’ve found that it’s best not to engage with him at all. Because every snippet of conversation exchanged with him makes him a little more alert and a little less likely to fall back to sleep.
Traditionally the best way to get him down is stuffing a bottle into his mouth and putting him into milk-induced stasis. But now he has discovered this new streak of contrariness, his reaction on finishing the drink is “I’m thirsty”. My head at this point is full of expletives.
It seems he regards his night-time milk as an aperitif for some other beverage. I have once given him water (the milk was a kind of chaser) and predictably woke up a few hours later with a confused piss-soaked little boy next to me. The Pampers didn’t know what had hit it. The other effect of his midnight feast is that he is less hungry during the day. The fatigue makes him less hungry. He is also tired because he slept badly. He tells us he is tired a lot. The person who coined the phrase ‘vicious circle’ definitely had children.
He repeats that he is tired when we are trying to put him down for the night, it comes out like a chant. He fights off sleep by telling us he’s tired. He bolsters his resistance with increasingly surreal requests like ‘a giraffe’ or ‘a horse to carry him home.’ It’s ironic, avant-garde performance art. It’s at this time that becoming overtired is a live threat. I’ve never really understood the concept of ‘overtired’ given that there is a very obvious solution to the issue (going to sleep) that is always eschewed in favour of a high-octane paddy. I don’t understand the concept of ‘overtired’ but I’ve definitely witnessed ‘overtired’.
There is a lot I don’t understand about the Minor’s various states of ‘tired’.
And I’m tired. Actually actually actually tired.
Of all the sickening sights that I’ve witnessed as a parent there is nothing more putrid than the nappy bin in a public baby changing room. The stench from my own son’s nappy is unholy enough, but when the nappy is atop of a mound assembled from a hundred other children’s nappies then it becomes overwhelmingly evil. To glimpse down the open shaft of a communal nappy bin is look into the actual depths of hell, the very basement of hell where even Satan is a bit scared to go.
A lot of parenting is waste disposal. It’s not just nappies, there other revolting unwanted substances to get rid of: half-digested breakfasts, dripping snotrags, sodden bread crusts. Bin administration dominates conversation. The quality, or lack of quality of bin bags has a serious material effect on my wellbeing. We have three large bins outside our house which we fill almost the second they are emptied. Some homeowners want to improve their house by converting the loft or installing a new kitchen. We need to create a landfill site in the garden.
One of the few benefits of producing so much rubbish is the necessity to visit the local dump on a regular basis. I’ve been so often recently I deserve a loyalty card. In truth I’ve been keen on dumps even before I became a dad. I have many cherished memories of the dump in Wembley near where we used to live. It even had a traffic-light system in place to ensure that waste was disposed of in an orderly manner.
The dumps local to me are not as organised. It’s sensible to go early in the morning when the ginormous bins are just starting to glister under the milky sun. Even at this time there are several other dump-goers. And there is a communality, a sense of shared satisfaction in clearing the decks, getting things in order and flinging large objects energetically into skips. I find peculiar pleasure in lobbing bottles into the bottle banks. If I hit the right trajectory a tremendous smashing happens. But I’ve also got it wrong on occasions and shattered a bottle on the side of the bank like a mental Queen christening a liner.
What I really like about all the dumps I’ve visited is that the staff always seem to genuinely care. The customer service is excellent. The moment they spot you grappling with a large slab of MDF they’ll dart over and say things like: “ooh, I know a lovely bin where that could live”. I once turned up with a knackered old microwave and the operative waved me over to a small stack of microwaves he’d built. I felt like I was releasing the microwave back into the wild.
This piece is an excerpt from The Good Dump Guide 2017.
I once saw a man limping down a supermarket aisle, a demanding toddler in each arm and a basket crashing rhythmically into his thigh. Both his children had obviously required an urgent cuddle, but he also needed to buy his groceries. He looked exhausted. And faintly hunted. I would not do well in this scenario. I do not have the muscle. The three of us would end up cowering in a huddle by the bakery counter. Continue reading “A Good Way To Entertain Your Child In The Supermarket”