May 31, 2009
No more poop patrol
By Colin Goh
For those of you who have ever felt that your life was just an endless stream of cr**, well, you're not alone. Because that's exactly how I'm finding the fatherhood experience. Literally.
Sure, I've read the books and heard my friends' war stories, but none of that truly prepared me for the sheer, unrelenting monotony of diaper duty.
'Ooh, lookee,' I'd say to the Wife at 3am, unswaddling our baby daughter on the changing pad. 'Yakuza Baby has left her daddy another little present, all gift-wrapped. I wonder what's inside this time? Something nice? An iPhone, maybe? An Amazon gift voucher? Hmmm... no, it's just another pile of poop.' Story of my life, really.
It's come to the point that where someone recently asked me what I do for a living, I replied: 'Nightsoil carrier.' (A facetious answer, yes, but it elicits about the same level of blankness as when I say 'multimedia production'.)
I'm not generally squeamish about poop. When I was a schoolkid, every morning before heading to school, my duty was to prowl around the house hunting for whatever my dogs had ejected the previous night, and scoop it up using a horribly deformed trowel I'd made during a Workshop/Technical metalwork project. (I failed the project, but the trowel went on to find a most suitable purpose.)
I attribute my generally positive outlook on life to this experience, because when your morning begins with poop, the rest of the day just seems so much more pleasant.
But with my dogs, I only had to clear the cr** once a day. And one bleary-eyed morning last week, it dawned on me that for the next few years, I was going to be wiping bottoms every few hours. My life, as it were, flashed before my eyes like a conveyor belt of soiled diapers, stretching to the horizon and beyond.
That freaked me out and so when I was at the library, a certain title jumped out at me: The Diaper-Free Baby. Basically, there's a growing movement in the United States, particularly among the granola-eating, sandal-wearing crowd, to train babies and toddlers to signal to their parents when they need to go to the toilet, and then once safely over a bowl, relieve themselves on cue. The aim is to save money spent on diapers, not to mention the environment.
Critics in the US scoff at this as a mere fad, saying that parents have to spend much more time and effort monitoring their kids for when they have to go than just tossing a diaper in the trash.
Reading the book, however, I was more surprised at the statistic that most American kids wear diapers till they are three years old or older. And I was stunned to learn that the diaper-free technique being advocated was one that probably every child in Singapore, if not all of Asia, has undergone.
The technique is roughly like this: You start watching your baby and learning her signals for when she needs to go. Once you pick them up, you hold your baby over the potty or toilet and go 'shee-shee' when she needs to pee and 'ngh-ngh' when she needs to poo. Basically, over time, babies learn to associate the sounds with the urges, and gradually, the ability to control the release of their waste. Sound familiar?
The Wife and I confirmed this with our respective mothers, both of whom said they had employed the method, and stopped using diapers on us after only a few months. They were incredulous that this age-old technique was news to Americans.
It led me to think that the critics of the procedure must have been paid plants of the diaper industry: three years' worth of diapers, plus associated products like odour-suppressing bins and bags, wet wipes, diaper rash creams, etc., amount to a steaming pile of revenue.
So we've decided to try the method out when Yakuza Baby attains greater motor control. If it worked for our mums, why not for us too? It can't hurt. But there is one point of disagreement between the Wife and I over its execution, and it is a fundamental one.
'In my family, it wasn't 'shee-shee',' said the Wife. 'It was 'sss-sss'.'
'Well, we can't go 'ngh-ngh' for pooping with my family,' I responded. ''Ngh' in Teochew means 'sleep', not 'poop'. It will confuse the poor child.'
And so on. We still haven't come to an agreement on the terminology, so if you have any suggestions, e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I generally receive a lot of cr** at that address as it is, so messages specifically about cr** would be considered progress.