Diapers and Spirals

Growing up, in movies and TV shows where Parenting was either mythologized (with moms) or used as character-building shorthand (for dads), I always heard these cliches…

“I mean, I don’t even know how to change a diaper…”

“I want to be there when he takes his first steps…”

“I wonder what her first word will be…”

“I can’t wait to teach them how to ride a bike, how to throw a spiral, to play catch in the yard…”

Now, I don’t know if the world is different significantly now or if none of this was ever true. Or maybe it’s just that I live in New York or have weird kids or… I suppose it’s possible that I’ve just been doing it wrong. But *none* of this has been applicable to having babies for me. Taken one at a time…


There was a time when you had a ripped off sheet of muslin and a hand grab of sheep’s wool to diaper your baby, but that was 800 years ago. For the last four or five generations of Americans, there have been people (often scientists) (YEAH! SCIENTISTS!) who have been cutting out specially shaped pieces of fabric that will fit your baby perfectly.

I don’t care if you’re going single-use-disposable-landfill-clogging diapers or reusable-waterwasting-fecesleaking diapers (I genuinely don’t care, there’s no good solution for getting rid of poop before people are flushing it, so do your thing and *don’t get judgey*), either way, you won’t have any trouble figuring out how they work. They’re idiot proof. And by day eight, you’ll have changed at least 40. Even if you’re an idiot, you’ll know how to do it by week two.

And seriously – if you *don’t*? If you can’t figure out diapers? Here’s what happens. You get covered in poop. Your baby pees right into your face. But guess what! Even if you’re a diaper GENIUS, your baby is gonna shit on you at some point. Not even at some point – at a bunch of points.

It’s summer? You’re gonna be hot. It’s winter? You’re gonna be cold. You’re having a baby? You’re gonna get shat on.


I have a video of my son walking from two weeks before Thanksgiving. He was born in the middle of December, so I have video evidence that he was walking at roughly eleven months. Why, then, do I usually say he was 14 months when he started walking?

Because there are no first steps. He had probably taken steps before that video and he probably didn’t take steps again for two or three weeks after it. That wasn’t the first time he walked, and it didn’t even really count as “walking”. (He didn’t, like, go to the deli and get me a sandwich or anything, so I don’t really count it as “walking” anyway.)

Ugh, it’s the most frustrating thing about having kids. You want it to be a mountain your baby climbs, where she puts a hand up, pulls herself to the top and there she is, at the summit. But that’s not what happens, it’s just this long amble up a hill. You won’t know how far you’ve come until you look back and see how far down the starting point was.

There aren’t first steps, there’s no first word.

What’s really fun, once your kids are out of the toddler phase, is watching videos of them before they could talk and realize they were talking the whole time. You know their voice now, you didn’t then, and you can even make out words and thoughts, you know what songs they’re singing at 13 or 14 months.

People used to think there were first steps and first words. That’s because parents used to put kids in playpens and ignore them for hours, only paying attention when something non-simian happened. It wasn’t until one of the kids clearly said, “make mine a double” that they realized the baby was copying their language.


This will be where most people will say I’m full of shit, but I honestly believe that you can’t teach anyone anything. Not even your kids. You can show them how you do something, you can insist that what you’re showing them is the right way, but it’s up to them to learn it.

You can do a thing 500 times in front of someone, they still won’t know how to do it. Don’t believe me? How many times have you watched your favorite sport? Do you think you can actually play it?

You can even stand next to someone while they do something and re-direct them so they do it right. Sure, that’ll work, but only that one time. You line up a shot in pool, take your time, focus and then hit the ball in… BUT if you don’t go get the ball out of the pocket and line up everything exactly the same way again, you’ll never actually *learn* that shot.

Musicians know this, it’s why we sit and play scales forever, even once we’re good. Why do basketball players still practice their jump shots, even when they’ve made it to the NBA? Because nobody *taught* them a jumpshot, they have to keep *learning it* every single day.

Nobody can teach you anything. It’s up to you to learn it. And if you think you’re gonna spend a lot of time teaching your kids? You aren’t gonna be ready for what parenting actually is. It’s mostly watching them, desperately trying to stop yourself from a) yelling at them to do it how you showed them or b) just yanking whatever-it-is out of their hands and doing it yourself.


One day, your baby will be sitting up. They’ll lose their balance and start to tilt back, but they’ll move their hands forward slightly and not fall back. This will happen a few times.

This will be the most important thing that happens during the first 9 months.

Before this happens, you will spend every single second either holding the baby or sitting within a foot of your kid with your hand at the ready so you can catch their head when they fall backwards. Or the baby will be on his back, about to start bitching. Or on his stomach, about to start bitching. Sitting up, they’re happy. Right up until they fall backwards, hitting that soft monkey-brain hemisphere on the tile and lowering their SATs by 40 points every time they do it.

Once they can sit safely on their own and not brain themselves falling backwards, your radius around the kid moves from zero feet to twelve feet. If she starts crawling towards an extension chord or puts a xanax she found on the floor in her mouth, you can get to her before she’s done any harm.. But finally, after however-many-months, you will have a baby in the room who’s awake, content and sitting on the floor. You’ll stand up, hands on your hips stretching and cracking your back and you’ll notice, for the first time in months, that your upper shelves desperately need dusting.

This will be the first real freedom you’ll feel. The next time you feel this way is when you drop off your youngest at their first full-time day of school. For me, the gap between the first and second glimpses of freedom was from May of 2007 to September of 2014.

That was another thing that I was not ready for.