My son Robert was born when I was 19. I was still in college, and married to my high school sweetheart. Life was great. I adored everything about my newborn son, and couldn't wait for him to grow up, and start to play baseball, just like I did. I had it all planned out for him... start him on tee ball at 5 or 6, let him get used to it, then switch him to coach pitch for a year or two, then on to Little League. After that, who knew? Big leagues, maybe? I could only dream about it.
It all changed, however, when Rob was 8. He had been a late learner in a lot of the things he did. He didn't crawl until he was 14 months old. His first step came just shy of his second birthday. It was all so very frustrating for Julia and me. We had seen almost every doctor and specialist we could find, to see if Rob was in any way retarded or of he was just one of those slow learners. And guess what? No doctor could find anything physically or mentally wrong with my son. He was just a slow learner. They all told me to relax, and enjoy my child, to not let other parents make me feel bad about my son. One comparison they made for me was James Earl Jones, the famous actor and pitchman. He is now known the world over for his deep baritone voice, and smooth delivery of any line. What is not widely known, however, is the fact that James Earl Jones didn't speak his first words until he was 4 years old. (And no, his first words were NOT 'Luke, I am your father' :D) I took this knowledge to heart, and backed off of Rob. I had gotten pretty tough on him by this point, and hearing this story about Jones made me realize that I was not helping Rob at all. The next 9 months were awesome. Rob came along, and by the time of his 4th birthday, was, dare I say, normal, for a boy his age. He was almost one hundred percent potty trained, and was age appropriate in all other areas of activity. His 4th year saw him out of training pants, and into pre-school. Life was rolling along just fine. I realized that my backing off of Rob was the key to all these successes. Life was going good, and Rob was doing great in school. The one thing that didn't happen was Rob never tried out for tee ball, or baseball, at all. He was just too small. I have always been small, and Julia is a tiny woman (she stands 4'9'', I am 5'4''). We never figured to have a giant of a son, but we thought that he would be ok to do things other kids his age did. For the most part, he has been able to, but sports were out of the question. Even now, at 10 years old, Rob is always mistaken for a 4 or 5 year old. It is a bit embarrassing for him. He was always being picked on at school, being called names like "shrimpy" and "shortcakes". He would come home every day, crying about what the kids at school had done to him that day. I felt really bad for him, and tried to teach him to just walk away from the bullies. It didn't work. He was just so sensitive, and the moment a bully picked on him, he responded. I had dreams at night of my sweet son one day going postal, and doing a school shooting. It was that bad. Then, one day two years ago, Rob came home, crying as usual, but something else had happened as well. He had been beaten up as well. He had two black eyes, a bloody nose, and split lip. He looked awful. I asked him who had done this, and he told me it was the biggest kid in third grade. He had actually been left back twice, so this kid was not 8, not 9, but 10... and a big 10 at that. And remember, my Rob was a tiny kid, easy pickings for this older kid. I immediately called the school, and explained what had happened, and that Rob would no longer be attending the school. They advised me not to pull Rob out of school, that the school was a safe place, but I had had it. For 2 and a half years, I had seen my son come home from school crying and emotional about it. I was emphatic with the principal that Robert would be home-schooled from now on. She again told me it was not in Rob's best interest, but I was not to be dissuaded. I had seen other kids be home-schooled, and knew that they were fine, both academically and emotionally. I hung up with the school, and told Rob what was up. He smiled through the pain he was in, and thanked me. I hugged my bloody son for a long time that day.
The next morning was the first time in nearly 4 years that Rob woke up to a wet bed. He was afraid I was going to be mad, but I wasn't. I helped him clean it up, and he took a shower and dressed for the day. He met me in the kitchen, and asked if I was going to be his teacher. I told him yes, and that we needed to go to the school to get books, papers, and whatnot. He instantly tensed up, and told me he didn't want to go. I told him not to be scared, that I would be there, too. He relaxed a bit, but was still edgy. When we got to the school, and went into the main office, Rob began to whimper. I looked down, and saw him trembling in fear. I followed his gaze to where he was looking, and saw a rather large boy of about 10. I put one and one together, and realized that I was looking at my son's assailant. I looked back down at Rob, and told him it was okay. Before Rob could answer me, the older boy saw my son, and began to laugh. I didn't know why at first, but soon found out. I noticed a darkening patch in his jeans, and knew he was wetting his pants right there. The older boy began to howl with laughter, calling him "baby boy", and "pissy pants". This went on for about 10 seconds, long enough for the principal to come out of her office, and see what was up. She told the older boy to stop it, and go into her office. He clammed up, and walked into her office, still, however, laughing. I was incensed, telling the principal exactly what I thought of her so-called "Safe school". I told her I wanted to get the formalities out of the way, and process whatever papers I had to, so I could begin home-schooling my son. She seemed very horror-struck at what she had witnessed from the older boy, and quickly went through all the paperwork with me. I then took Rob by the hand, and led him back to our car. When we got there, Rob told me he was sorry he wet himself, and I consoled him, saying it was okay, he was afraid. We got home, and I sent Rob to shower, and started a load of laundry. The rest of the day was accident-free, and Rob and I started to plan what our 'schooldays' would be like. He seemed to have forgotten about the accidents today, and that was good. When my wife came home from work, Rob and I kept the accidents from her. I felt it would be bad for Rob if she somehow became involved as well. She seemed very happy that things would be okay with his schooling. We went to bed that night, and I felt a little guilty about not telling Jules what had happened with our son, but I felt also, that it was for the best she not know.
The next morning, I went in to wake Rob, so he could get ready for his first real day of home school, and I was troubled to see Rob sitting up in his bed, tears in his eyes. I went to ask him why, and when I got there, I found out. He had wet his bed again. I told him it was okay, even though, deep down inside, I was scared for my boy. I hugged him tight to my side, and told him it would be all right, that we would work through the sudden problems. He seemed to calm down somewhat, and I decided right then and there to call the doctor. After making an appointment with Robert's pediatrician, I helped Rob get his bed cleaned up. He was still a bit miserable about the whole wetting accidents, but was quite relieved to know he had a doctor's appointment later that day.
We arrived at his doctor's office at 1:30, and were shown in right away. One thing I love about this pediatrician is that he has really no patients. He dedicates himself to 2 or 3 families, and that's it. So I knew that he knew Rob very well, as he had been seeing him since we moved here when he was 2. The nurse had Rob strip down to his boxers, and she weighed and measured him. He weighed in at only 47 pounds, and stood just 47 inches tall (in other words, 3'11"). He was very undersized for his age, as I have stated earlier. Then she took his temp and blood pressure, and everything was fine. She told him to have a seat on the bed, and that the doctor would be in shortly. Rob and I passed small talk for a few minutes, and I got the sense from him that he was afraid. 'Well, of course', I thought to myself. 'Wouldn't you be?' About 5 minutes later, his doctor walked in and asked Rob what seemed to be the troubles lately. Rob became apprehensive, and looked to me for support. I told him it was okay, and Rob tearfully told the doctor about the accidents. The doctor took it in stride, and was very kind to Rob. He then told Rob he was going to do a special test on his belly, to see if anything was wrong. He had my son lay back on the exam table, and went down the hall to get a sonogram machine. I knew that they used them to see a fetus and such, but honestly didn't know that it could be used for other things. Moments later, he spread the goo for the sonogram on Rob's belly, and placed the "microphone" on his belly. Rob giggled, as the goo was cold, and the microphone thingy tickled. A moment later, the doctor examined the sonogram screen, and made a few noted on Rob's chart. He turned to me and asked to see me in the hall. I patted Rob reassuringly on the shoulder, and followed the doctor to the hall. Once there, I heard awful news.
"Mr. Riley, your son has an extremely underdeveloped bladder. I am quite frankly surprised that Robert has not had any accidents before now. The last time was when?"
"Um, when he was 4 or so, I guess. What does all this mean?" I asked, very confused. I did not like the answer.
"Well, Danny, it means that until now, I surmise, Rob has been able to overcome the smaller bladder by going to the restroom quite often. It has always been a terrific struggle for him, I should assume. And now, with the beating he was given by the older boy two days ago, he has lost willpower. That is only my opinion, Dan. But I have seen it before."
I was comforted by the doctor's words, and dreading what I knew might be asked next. And dreading even more the answer. I had to ask it however, and I did.
"So what do we do to help him, Doctor? Is there any medication we can give him to help him?"
The doctor looked unhappy as he told me the news.
"Dan, the only thing you can do for Robert now is to make sure there is protection. His bladder will grow, but at it's own pace. I have the number of a friend who can help you better with this side of it. I'll give it to you before you leave. Know, Danny, that providing protection for Robert is not only good for your sanity, as there will be no more wet things to wash and the like, it will be good for Robert. I doubt he enjoys waking up to cold wet sheets and pajamas. Would you? No. So, for your son's sake, and your own, please, call my friend and make an appointment with him. OK?"
I was dazed by this turn of events. My son's pediatrician was telling me to diaper my son. Deep down, I knew it would be good, and had already, I guess, made up my mind to do so, but hearing it from the doctor made it all very concrete. I nodded, and asked him to not say anything to Rob when we went back in, that I would break the news to him. He agreed, and we went back in. It was not a happy sight. Rob was sitting on the floor, crying, his boxers wet, and the exam table had a puddle of urine on it. I rushed to his side, and consoled him the best I could. He looked up at the doctor.
"Why I havin' all these accidents?" He sobbed. "I'm a big boy, right?"
"Yes, Robert, you are," soothed the doctor. "But some of the things inside of you have not grown up like the rest of you. Now, let's get you cleaned up, OK? At least it's only your boxers, not your pants, right?"
Rob seemed a little better, considering this. He nodded, and wiped away his tears, and took off his wet boxers. He pulled his jeans and tee shirt on, and the doctor took the soiled boxers and put them in a plastic baggie. We both thanked the doctor, and headed out to the car. My mind was doing cartwheels. I didn't know what to do. I knew that calling the number the doctor had given me would save me and Julia a lot of laundry, and it would save Rob a lot of embarrassment. I hemmed and hawed all the way home, and decided to do what was best. When we arrived home, I sent Rob off to his room to play, and I went to the den to make the call. The man who answered the phone told me that he could see Rob and me that day if we wanted. I agreed, and told him we would be there soon. I went to Robert's room, trying to figure out a way to break the news to him. He was sitting on his bed, playing with a Matchbox car when I went in, and told him that the doctor had an idea that might help. He looked at me with sad eyes, and asked me if he had to wear diapers. I was stunned, and relieved, too. He had already figured it out. I sadly nodded to him, and told him it would be for the best for right now. He said to me that he knew what the doctor had said, that he had been eavesdropping on us. He told me he was sorry for spying on us, but I was okay with it. That meant I didn't have to tell him. I told him we were going to a man to get his diapers, and he said okay. He followed me out to the car, and we headed out to the man's house, where he told us to meet him. When we got there, he led us to his workshop. That's what he called it. A workshop. I understood when we got there. He had boxes stacked up along all four walls; boxes I knew had diapers in them. The guy, whose name was Frank, told me that he used to be an engineer for the company that made Luvs diapers. He worked there for 12 years. When his son Adam developed an extremely bad bladder infection that rendered his bladder useless. Adam would need diapers, but was too big for baby diapers, and too small for adult. The option for cloth diapers was there, but Frank was a disposables guy, he told me. So he quit his job, and used his knowledge to create a new size of diaper. The downside, he told me, was that they diapers he made for his son came out exactly like a baby's diaper. Plastic covering, pretty thick, the whole nine yards. But it was all he knew how to make. Adam wound up liking the diapers, and acting like he was the right age to wear them, a toddler. Frank was curious, so he did some research. The web wound up being an awesome resource for him, he told me. He didn't realize there were so many "older babies" out there. That's what he called them, and I now know that they are more commonly known as teen babies and adult babies. Well, to wrap this part up, Frank saw an income maker right there. He could find a furniture maker and a clothing designer and partner up with them, selling all kinds of adult and teen baby items. He would obviously make the diapers and the others could make the cribs, playpens, clothes, and whatnot. I was impressed, but told him my son just needed the diapers for right now. Frank told me he understood, and we proceeded to ask me how big my son was. I should mention at this point that Rob was walking around wide-eyed in the next room, the one with the furniture and clothing. I called him over, so Frank could measure him for his diapers, and he slowly walked towards me, wonder in his eyes.
After Frank had measured Rob, he got me a box of diapers. He then told me that he had some clothing I might want to invest in, to facilitate in the changing of his diapers. I was piqued as to what he meant, so I asked him. He led Rob and me into the room with all the clothes and furniture. It was bizarre to walk in here, surrounded by all this "baby" stuff. I saw a crib that looked big enough to hold me, a high chair that was equally big, all kinds of things. We wound up in front of a clothes rack loaded with clothes. The styles of the clothes were like that of toddler's clothing. Snaps in the legs of a lot of the pants, snaps in the shoulders of shirts, childish designs on them, you understand what I mean. If they weren't so big, I would've thought they WERE toddler's clothes. But I knew them to be for older kids. Frank explained to me that with diapers on, most of Rob's pants would no longer fit. He told me that he had jeans cut with more room in the seat and crotch for diapers, and some even had snaps in the legs. I told him that we would take 4 pair of jeans, and Frank asked for Rob's size. I told him, and Frank rummaged through the clothes for a moment. He came back up for air with only two pair of jeans that he said would fit Rob, but that he had a pair of overalls and a romper that would fit him, if I wanted to see them. I looked at Rob, and he was still kind of spaced out, so I turned back to Frank and said sure, why not. He handed me the jeans and went back to the rack. I inspected the jeans. They both looked normal enough... until you looked closer at the differences. First, one pair had 4 snaps down each leg, and 3 in the crotch. They both had elastic waistbands in the back, like little kids do, and one had elastic around the ankles cuffs, too (the ones without the leg snaps had the elastic legs). They were quite toddlerish. A few moments later, Frank came back over with the romper and the overalls. These also were toddlerish. The romper was baby blue, and had a motif of a train on the front. They were short-legged, and had snaps in the crotch. It looked like something a 2 year old would wear. The overalls had Barney the dinosaur on the bib, and snaps down each leg. He also had a Barney tee shirt in his hands, presumably to go with the overalls. He asked me if I wanted to change Rob there, or later at home, and I said later. I still needed to explain all of this to Julia. That would be a conversation for the ages, let me tell you. He totaled all of the things I had gotten, and advised me to pick up wipes, powder, and Desitin at the grocery store. I paid him, and thanked him. He told me to come back if I had any other needs, which I would eventually, as there were only 50 diapers in the box. They would not last forever. I took the things I had just bought for my son, and we headed out to the car. Once we were inside the car, Rob broke down and began to cry softly.
"What's the matter, sport?" I asked him. He turned to me and said he liked looking at all the baby things, but that he was going to be so scared to use them. I agreed with him that it would be peculiar to dress him in the toddler-like clothes, but that it was those or no pants. He nodded his acceptance of the situation, and we rode home in silence. Rob had his thoughts, and I had mine. We stopped at the store to get his needed supplies, and not much was said. The clerk looked a little funny at Rob, but didn't say anything. We resumed our journey to home.
Upon arrival at our home, I saw Julia's Eclipse in the driveway. I parked next to it, and told Rob to head right for his room when we got in, that I would explain everything to Mom. He nodded, and we went in. Rob said hi to his Mom, and went to his room. I entered the kitchen, which smelled like Julia's world (or at least, MY world) famous lasagna. I smiled at my wife, and crossed over to her, and kissed her cheek. She seemed a little distracted, and I asked her why.
"Well, I had a long conversation with Rob's doctor this evening. I got home, and there was a message on the machine from him. He asked if you had taken his advice. I was curious, so I called him back. He told me everything, Dan. Why didn't you tell me Rob was having accidents? I am his mother, I should be kept informed, too."
I was relieved I would not have to tell her about Rob, or what the solution was. She already knew. I was, however, still in the doghouse. I had to been honest with her. She was right to be angry and cold with me. I apologized to her, and asked for forgiveness. She seemed like she was going to say no at first, but just then, Rob appeared in the doorway to the kitchen, tears in his eyes, pee in his pants. I rushed to him, but Jules beat me there. She knelt down, and brushed his tears away form his cheeks. She comforted him, and looked at me, and mouthed the words.
"You are forgiven... I love you."
I mouthed, "I love you too," back to her, then asked Rob to go shower and clean up, that I would get his 'stuff; out of the car. He ran down to the bathroom, and Jules and I went out to my car to get the stuff. She asked me if I thought 'babying' was a good idea.
"No, I don't, but Jules, I can't handle all the wet clothes and sheets anymore. His doctor seems to think it's a phase, and we really won't be babying him, as you said. It's for his protection, and our sanity."
My wife grudgingly agreed with me, up until she saw the clothes that he had now. She got a bit angry.
"If we aren't babying him, why these pants? They look like they are for a 2 or 3 year old, dammit." I knew I had to tell her something good to calm her down, so I told her his other pants, except sweatpants maybe, would no longer fit over the diapers he was soon to be wearing. She thought about it, and looked a little less angry. She told me that she still wasn't happy, but that she understood. A few minutes later, Rob came into the den with a towel around his waist. He asked if he could wear the diaper now, that he was sick of having to take showers to clean pee off himself. I told him to come lay in front of the couch, and I took one of the diapers out of the box. Julia looked unhappy as he did so, but handed me the powder anyway. Rob was on his back, in front of me, and I undid the towel, leaving it under his butt. I lifted his legs up by his ankles, and slid the diaper under his bottom. The diaper was exactly like the old Luvs diapers... it did not have one of those new 'cloth-like' covers. It was plastic, and crinkled quite loudly. I laid my son on top of his diaper, and sprinkled baby powder on his genitals. Julia told me to make sure to rub it in, but I said I couldn't touch my son like that. I don't feel right about it. So my wife knelt down, and massaged the powder into Rob's skin. He giggled and squirmed a little at the touch, just as if he were a real toddler. After she had rubbed all the powder in, she told me to tape Rob up, cuz she had powder all over, and it would ruin the tapes. I did, and looked down at Rob. He looked like an oversize 3 year old, lying on the floor with a diaper on. It made me sad, but I knew it was for the best. Julia then told him to go get his PJ's on, and come back for dinner. He got up, and the diaper's crinkle was very loud. He walked down the hall to his room, and I could see a definite waddle to his step. I looked at Julia, and she looked almost happy. I asked her why, and she told me she never expected that diapering Rob would make her that way, it was just that seeing her baby look like a baby again, and smell like a baby again, it just made her nostalgic. I felt the same way a bit, I guess, but no Dad wants to see their 8-year-old boy in diapers. Rob came back a moment later in his Spider-Man PJ's. There was a bulge in the pants of them, and I saw some of the diaper sticking out over the tops of the pants as well. He came over to us, and hugged us both.
"Don't worry, I know I have to wear baby diapers... I been actin' like a baby, so I deserve it."
To hear my son say this made me sad. Yes, he needed diapers, but no, he did not deserve them. I hugged him back, and we went to the kitchen for some lasagna. After dinner, we all watched TV for a while, and at 8:30, we put Rob to bed. He seemed to be more at ease going to bed tonight, maybe because it was the fact he knew his bed would be dry in the morning. We kissed his forehead, and closed his door. Jules said she was going to bed, and I said I would be there shortly, that I was going to shower first. We kissed, and I enjoyed a long hot shower. When I was done, I dried off, and put my own PJ's on. I went down the hall, and checked on Rob. I was surprised to see him sleeping on top of the blankets, his knees drawn up under him, his butt in the air. More surprising, though, was the fact his thumb was in his mouth, and even though he was asleep, I could see him gently sucking on it. I closed his door, and went to my room. Jules was sound asleep, and I crawled up next to her. It took me quite a while to fall asleep that night, my thoughts going a million miles an hour. Was my son like one of the ones that guy Frank told me about? Did he enjoy the diapers, and did he want to be babied? If so, how would Jules react? How would I? How would he, for that matter? It was a long night for me, finally falling asleep just before Jules gets up for work, at 4:30 am.