After two and a half years of parenting, I’ve discovered the essence of life with kids.
It all comes down to moisture.
When you have children, you are always concerned with moisture in one form or another. There’s either too much or too little, and it’s your job to pay attention to the levels and react when necessary.
The predominant form of moisture for new parents is, of course, the diaper-area kind. As long as it’s in the diaper, it’s relatively safe, but you must ensure that it stays in there and that you replace the diaper when the moisture levels go beyond its capacity. While you are performing diaper maintenance, you must observe the moisture for color, texture, and odor. You become obsessed with what is in your child’s diaper for at least the first year, since it is the primary clue to whether your kid’s body is working properly.
Other kinds of moisture include spit-up, which both of our children did until approximately six months of age. Our oldest did it so regularly that I secretly called her Old Faithful. Parents of young babies are often seen draped with accessories called “burp cloths”, which can range from cute little squares of terry fabric to large bath towels. Some carry around cloth diapers, which all parents seem to have one or two of but no one (except us) ever actually uses as a diaper. Those are great for catching moisture, obviously. But just about any kind of material can be used for this application. I once received a layette gift set that included a matching burp cloth. I laughed out loud at the thin little strip of fabric, once I figured out what it was supposed to be. Trust me: when you’ve just become the victim of a baby geyser, the last thing you’re worried about is whether your mop-up cloth matches. Experienced parents realize that you just grab whatever is handy: hand towels, a washcloth, table linens, even something out of the dirty laundry basket. (What? You’ve never done that?)
Of course there is always drool. Drool’s a good one. It’s clear and odorless, and if you aren’t paying attention, your child will soon feel like he’s dumped a glass of water down the front of his shirt. There is the distinct possibility that he did dump a glass of water down his shirt, but be reassured that neither drool nor water stains, and you can simply launder, dry, and put away.
There’s a lot of laundering involved with this whole moisture battle. Our washing machine is always humming, unless it’s soaking something. I like to soak things. It’s very relaxing. Since I don’t get to soak myself very often, I take comfort in the knowledge that at least my kids’ clothes are getting some water therapy.
As your child matures, the mositure becomes more surreptitious and, less often, actually produced by her body. The first stage is usually some type of edible spill. This begins with the messy chin and fingers, as your baby starts to eat something other than your milk. It might be applesauce, or mashed potatoes. Even though these seem like solid foods, they are full of moisture, and will permeate every imaginable corner of the high chair and nearby vicinity. You will discover, years later, remnants of these substances on impossible surfaces like the bottom of a lamp, or under the window sill. My mother chipped dried squash off the ceiling when I was about ten, and she hadn’t served that since I was nine months old.
Before having children, I never paid much attention to moisture. I think about it a lot now. It makes up the bulk of my day, actually. I am constantly checking to see if there is something wet that’s supposed to be dry, like our mattress or the loveseat. I am forever anticipating an onslaught of moisture, ready to combat it with towels and changes of clothing. It’s become a reflex. Maybe mothers have a blotting instinct, because I do it without thinking. I even wipe things off in my sleep. But, like the salmon swimming against the current, I know it is worth the effort. Someday, my children will be grown, and my house will be as dry as a desert. And I will long for a little moisture.
Just a little bit of it.