Before Emile was born, I made promises to myself about what kind of limits I’d put on conversation topics that I’d heard from other parents over the years–things I never wanted to be caught saying in public. These included both specific statements and more general categories. Roughly, my list of verboten discussion areas included:
- Insisting my child was a prodigy of anything–music, verbal or written ability, athletic prowress
- Commenting on how my child would someday be a heartbreaker because he or she was extremely attractive or charming
- Talking about my child’s genome (hey, I’ve seen this parent) as evidence of future greatness
- Doling out details about my child’s defecation
I’m sure there are more things on the list, but it’s 4 in the morning and he’s just fallen back asleep. My point is, I had hoped to refrain from obnoxious parental bragging or oversharing. And it’s a lot to put on a kid to know that Dad is bragging about them to the point of exaggeration and inachievability. But in the list above, I’ve also included poop. Please don’t talk about pooping, I said to myself on several occasions before the baby arrived. Nobody wants to hear about crap, except his doctor. I don’t want to talk about crap, either.
But let’s get real: nearly three months into his life, mine has become largely about poop.
When has he last pooped? Too long? It may be why he’s crying now. This is all a shift from when, for the first two months, he pooped constantly. Eight, ten diapers a day of poop. If I wanted to worry about him, poop was an excellent vantage point–one could obsess because the latest poop was the wrong consistency or color, or amount, and deprived of enough sleep, an adult human will lose his mind that the latest poop is in any way different at all from the previous poop. There are, it turns out, 1001 specific ways to worry about poop as a proxy for the baby’s well being.
No, I don’t want to bring up the execrable subject at the dinner table, but then it just dribbles out because I’ll hear a cry from another room and associate that cry with how he sounds the moment after he’s filled up his diaper with something disgusting. Only I don’t tell him it’s disgusting. I ask him if he’s made me a present. Dear Lord, I am calling crap a present. I have made the mental note not to go overboard on characterizing his poop as a noble achievement, but strange words exit my mouth when I’m juggling butt wipes and fresh diapers.
If I had dozens of bouquets stacked up in the nursery, I’m sure I would go on and on about them to passersby. It’s just that I have 14,000 diapers in there instead, filled with poop. In other words, it’s not the poop that I find interesting, I swear. It’s that I’m surrounded, at the moment, by poop. To rule it out of all conversation when I only the see the baby doc every couple of months is, I now realize, unrealistic. I will try not to go on and on about poop in mixed company (i.e., parents of small kids and everyone else), but it may come up for a couple of minutes. My apologies in advance.
The rest of my forbidden topics remain secure against the ocean surge of parenthood.
So the other night Emile got to see his first piano, and he just loved the sound of it. I bet he’s going to be a great concert pianist.