Editors note: The photo on the right is not reality. Potty training is not a happy time for the parent or child! This is a Madison Avenue ruse.


With potty training comes freedom from the confines of the cloth and disposable shackles they must bear around their midsection. Freedom from grownups yanking at the back of their pants and taking a whiff. Freedom from being put on public display for anyone who happens to be talking to their parents at the time of the diaper change. Freedom from the constant parade of men washing their hands in public restrooms as you balance a bag, a dirty diaper, shopping bags, a clean diaper, and your child on the tiny little shelf they refer to as a changing table. What table? I’ve seen bigger hors d’oeuvre trays.


This theory of freedom is what I surmise, because, about the time your child becomes potty trained, their entire attitude changes. They develop this incredible independent streak. It is not an entirely bad thing, not entirely! For instance, when and where they “go” now becomes their decision.




I know with my boys they have a tendency to hold their pee until about five minutes past the two-minute warning. Mind you they have been holding themselves in a “Roseanne singing the National Anthem” kind of way for the past fifteen minutes. And you have been asking them every five minutes if they need to go. So let me just say, once they do say they need to go, I know I have seventeen seconds to find an unoccupied bathroom or I will be using that two sizes too small spare change of clothes that has been riding around in the minivan since the Clinton Administration.


Don’t think for a minute that once the diapers are shelved next to the Teletubby videos and the Talking Barney Doll that your days of cleaning up bodily fluids are over. Especially if you have boys.




The art of arcing just right to have pee hit “nothing but water” is a skill that does not apparently come in the early years. We’re hoping by high school! It has gotten so I have to carry around a spray bottle of Lysol and roll of paper towels at all times. I looked a little out of place at Christmas dinner last year, but I did manage to clean that upended wine glass in record time.




I swear to you; from the minute your child is born, all of your senses become more acute. I won’t claim that I can see through walls and hear a cry for help from 100 miles away, but I am definitely more attuned to my surroundings. I now present for your reading pleasure, the 5 senses and parenting.


  • Smell

    I can smell a poopy diaper from fifty yards out in a crowded mall. Which, coincidentally, is primarily where the poopy diaper occurs. They never happen when you are playing at home in the middle of the day. Usually they will rear their ugly smells during a long airline flight, right after you get everyone buckled in the car and start the engine, or, my personal favorite, in the middle of a grocery trip with the cart half full (Is the cart half full or half empty?).

  • Taste

    I challenge you to try that baby food and make a pleasant face, encouraging your young child to eat the gruel you are endeavoring to feed him. They are smarter than you think. They recognize the disgust underneath that phony smile and besides, they can smell the pancakes on the griddle.

  • Hearing

     No sense becomes more acute to your child than your auditory sense. Remember when you could sleep through a thunderstorm? With children, you can hear their sheets rustling in the middle of a stormy night and have an irrepressible urge to go check and make sure they are still covered.

  • Sight

     A friend of yours is showing you some photographs at a party, you are half watching the ball game on television, your wife is trying to signal you something from across the room, and somewhere behind you, your two year old pushes a little girl. And you saw the whole thing: Your child went on a time-out; Jimmy G got the first down on third and seventeen; your friend bought a new boat; and it looks like your wife is acting out a movie title, two words, first word Dark! Don’t ask me how, but your children are never out of your sight (or at least they shouldn’t be! Where are they right now???).

  • Touch

    Forget silk, forget fresh cotton sheets, forget the cool feel of a marble statue, nothing rivals a baby’s skin. Nothing is as soft or as gentle as skin that has never had a mosquito bite, been sunburned, or scratched. And there is no comforter in the world that radiates the warmth of a child’s hug. It is totally without inhibition, a selfless act of love that is not judgmental or contingent upon receiving something in return. They love without expecting any compensation except your love. And isn’t that the purest form?




It was a disposable, wrapped in a cloth, inside a diaper pail…and it still smelled like a dumpster fire! Like the ocean engulfs a submarine, your child’s digestive system submerges your life when you are a parent, and nothing can ever prepare you for it.


Being a parent, you learn more about the digestive process then you ever wanted to know. All the sudden those high school biology classes from old man McDougal become crystal clear. 


“Oh yeah, from the esophagus into the stomach, then into the small intestine, and lastly deposited into the large intestine and then out the rectum.” Some of the time the whole process can be alarmingly quick. And if they eat small things like raisins and grapes, well, you’ll see. Chewing was obviously not a priority!


The frightening reality is that when the children are young, your whole life revolves around the digestive process. Such as, “Did you change the baby?…When should we change the baby?…I don’t want to get on the road and then have to pull over to change the baby…I’ll change the baby then we’ll leave…Here we go…nothing to it…Hon, can you open the window I think the baby…oh my God it’s horrible, call Air Quality Control, get the gas masks from the air raid shelter, alert the neighbors…”




The funny thing is, no matter how prepared you think you are, you’re not. A simple trip to the grocery store becomes a critical test of our organizational skills and packing ability.


“Okay, I’ve got sixteen diapers, three change of clothes, graham crackers, water, juice, toys, sticker books, three videos loaded on the tablet, coloring books, my grocery list, and a miniaturized version of the Star Wars Deathstar that actually explodes into 4,286 pieces. That should about do it.”


Usually you are halfway out of the driveway before you realize your two children are still in the family room. Once you get to the store, the one thing you did not bring, their stuffed horse that sings “Old MacDonald” when you pull on its tail, in forty-seven different languages, including Hindu, given to them by their aunt Gertie in Des Moines whom they have never met, is all they can think about, and cry about, and whine about, and sulk about, and throw things about. “No, not the eggs!”  


As you are checking out the grocery clerk informs you that, while they appreciate your business, they would like to request that you not to return to the store again. Ever! Now, where was I?  Oh yes, the digestive process.




You’ve read the books, painted the room, assembled the crib, graduated (with honors) from the Lamaze class, sought the advice of parents you respect and admire (both of them), felt the Braxton Hicks contractions (alright, but it sure felt like contractions), experienced the morning sickness (could have been the burritos), gained a little sympathy weight of your own, went up with the highs, down with the lows, watched your wife radiate with the joy of new life and marveled at the embryo that was developing in her womb.


And then it is time to bring the baby home! Now what the hell are you supposed to do? It doesn’t come with instructions, no warranty, no receipt, no “if not fully satisfied, please return” tag on their toes (define fully), nothing. Just you, your wife and A BABY! Remain calm, this is no time to panic. Actually, it is an ideal time to panic.




Perhaps if the hospital was nice, they threw in a pillow and some diapers as they briskly escorted you out of the maternity ward. “Can’t we stay until preschool begins?” Here is my advice about one of the first things to do. Kiss your wife on the forehead, put the baby in the bassinet (not the other way around) and go buy diapers now. A lot of diapers. Unless you have already made arrangements with a diaper service, those three disposables will only last until you have unpacked the car, then if you don’t have a large supply you are in big trouble. Define “large.” How does 70-80 per week strike you?


As for all the family and friends that will be parading by to see the new baby, it is time to accept you new role as Jeeves. If you don’t know, Jeeves is a fictional valet based on a series of novels by P. G. Wodehouse. There was also an Ask Jeeves site that eventually morphed into  Basically, your sole purpose is to answer the door, offer a beverage and point your guests towards the bathroom when they need it.




These well-meaning people are invading your home to see the new baby and the mommy. Try to be polite because some of them might come bearing a casserole. Others will bring a plant. Yeah, I don’t know why either. Besides the duties mentioned above your lines consist of “Isn’t he great, and so alert… Yes, she’s up and around already, isn’t she amazing.” You might want to practice in front of the mirror.


They are not, I repeat not, coming over to see you. You did not just begin your collision course with life or lose six pounds, seven ounces over the course of seventeen excruciating hours. That is what they came to see and want to hear about. For the next few days, possibly years, you are background noise. Most of them will be driving home thinking, “I didn’t even see Alex. I guess he was out.” Accept it and move on!


It is when no one is over visiting that panic sets in, especially with the first child. Not since kindergarten have you been this scared to see your own mother walk out the door. “Mom, why don’t you stay for a twelfth cup of coffee?” “It’s two in the morning.” “Exactly my point. You shouldn’t be driving at this hour!”




Babies can be very scary things when you’re first exposed to them and then after a while, they become downright frightening. They do not tend to follow any logical pattern or consistent behavior, like the guy in front of you driving home last night. They cry when they are tired… or wet… or poopy… or scared… or sad… or alone… or awake, and then they laugh when they are three and a half. The trick comes in deciphering one cry from another. Luckily the babies do have different crying intensities and you will know when you should walk into their room and when you should run.


The good news is you, your wife and the baby will come to an understanding pretty early in the relationship. The one thing to keep in mind is, don’t be afraid to assert your opinion on occasion. Maternal instinct is wonderful and all, but I am convinced paternal instinct exists and sometimes dad knows best. For additional information, please see my follow-up blog entitled Sleeping on the Couch for a Week.