Welcome to Parenthood: Fourteen Months

The boy is dangerous. They all sense it, why can’t you?

When Jedi padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi spoke those words to his master, Qui-Gon Jinn, he was referring to Anakin Skywalker, whose passion and anger would eventually turn him to the Dark Side.Or perhaps he was trying to warn George Lucas about casting Jake Lloyd as the boy who would grow up to become Darth Vader. That is a discussion for another time. My young apprentice has not yet started down the path that will forever dominate his destiny, but since we began weaning him off baby food and feeding him “real food”, Laura and I have witnessed the Dark Side.

I’m talking about poop. Specifically, the ever-intensifying foulness of that which darkens the diaper. In the beginning, the diaper biscuits were largely odorless, but as we slowly change the nature of what goes into Kyle’s mouth — abandoning bland jars of baby food in favor of more interesting fare like spaghetti with meat sauce, ice cream and peanut butter — so do we unwittingly change the nature of what comes out the other end.

Where the diaper change was once a thirty second affair involving — at worst — a vaguely unpleasant odor, a few moist wipes and the danger of an unexpected golden fountain, today the affair might potentially involve an eye-watering, tongue-shriveling pungence, a half-dozen or more moist wipes, a kicking, flailing child whose mood changes from unbridled glee to unrestrained outrage and back four times in as many seconds, and the danger of an unexpected golden fountain.

Diaper changes are often preceded by a faint odor that inevitably leads to a period of denial, wherein the parent who must ultimately perform the task attempts to assure the other parent that the growing stench is “just gas”. To be fair, Kyle does seem to be propelled by rapid-fire flatulence at times. As with most denial, this is a defense mechanism, for with every diaper change there is also the threat of that most disastrous and unpleasant event, the Blowout.

The Blowout is exactly what it sounds like: the capacity, fit or structural integrity of the diaper is exceeded by the viscosity, volume or sheer tenacity of that which fills it, resulting in failure of the containment field. When this happens, plasma is vented into space, Yes, it’s a euphemism. There are only so many times I’ll use the word “poop” here. necessitating special hazardous materials cleanup processes. It ain’t pretty.

Thankfully, there is more life with my young apprentice than the occasional journey to the Dark Side of the Diaper. In early January, he made a sudden transition from crawling around on his belly to pulling himself up on furniture and “cruising” around the living room, dining room and anywhere else he could get. The amount of stuff he could reach tripled and end tables were no longer safe havens for keys, iPods, cell phones and the like.

Right around the time Kyle started “cruising” he also, much to our surprise, began climbing stairs, which necessitated the use of a second baby gate in the living room (the first preventing a fall into the downstairs hallway). Now, when it is time for a diaper change, a bath (one of his favorite activities) or a nap, Laura and I simply remove the second baby gate and follow Kyle upstairs. He has not yet learned that sometimes a climb up the steps means it is time for a nap (by far his least favorite activity).

As Kyle’s mobility has increased, so has his curiosity. The farther an object is out of his reach, the greater the lengths he will go to retrieve it. Objects with many buttons are particularly alluring, as the connection between pressing of buttons and something interesting happening is one that Kyle made several months ago. The object he most desires is the remote control, and if it is on the back of the couch or on the bookshelf near the couch, he will climb over Laura and myself to reach his prize.

When not attempting to steal the remote control or “pet” the cats, Kyle researches new ways to foil the latches on our kitchen cabinets. His library is vast, and he will sometimes roll around in a pile of Richard Scarry, Dr. Seuss and Sesame Street books, much like Scrooge McDuck in his money bin. While the wealth of knowledge at his disposal may not help much in the realm of breaking and entering kitchen cabinets, Kyle has learned much about the BTFD (Busytown Fire Department), the challenges inherent in keeping oversized pets, the folly of trying to touch the moon, and the ticklishness of crocodiles; information which will undoubtedly prove valuable in years to come.

The next big adventure for Kyle will be walking without hanging on to a couch or coffee table. As with most of his advances, I have mixed feelings about Kyle walking. I am at once excited to see him learning and growing every day and saddened that it seems to be happening so quickly.

Just this week, Laura and I stopped giving Kyle a bottle before bed, and I felt strangely wistful when I put him to bed. I miss cradling him in my arm as he drinks the day’s final bottle (which, in the past month, had become the day’s only bottle). I’ll miss his Army-style belly crawl when he starts walking, and I’ll miss his enthusiastic chanting of “dada” when he really starts to talk.

I won’t miss changing the Diaper of the Dark Side, though. Not one bit.