Tuesday, February 1, 2011

In which I finally kick the diaper habit

This might shock some of you, who think of me as this perfect being, a model to emulate in every way, but - I was a bedwetter.

Yep. I wet the bed until I was seven.

My poor mother.

I did just fine during the day. I was as toilet learned as the next second grader. But at night? Couldn't or wouldn't wake up. I understand that. Even now, I hate to get out of bed in the middle of the night just to pee. It's cold. The toilet seat is cold, although it's not so bad since Primo got me a wooden toilet seat for Christmas.

Oh yes this is a house full of wine, roses and romance. I wanted the heated toilet seat (you laugh, but only if you live someplace that doesn't get cold), but it costs $189, even at Menards, Primo's favorite place to shop, and you have to plug it in. The entire design aesthetic of our downstairs bathroom would have been ruined by a cord running from the toilet, across the vanity (which I hate and which will be replaced AA - After Alimony), and to the outlet.

Now, it's me who has to change the sheets if I wet the bed. I have a strong motivation not to, not to mention that I am 47 years old and bedwetting is not a big problem among women my age. As far as I know.

Back then, it was my mother's problem.

After taking me to the doctor and ascertaining that this was not a physical problem over which I had no control, my mom decided to put the burden of the consequences (or most of them) on me. She put me back in diapers.

Not the fancy diapers they have now, where a kid doesn't even know she's wet, a development that has been great for getting rid of diaper rash but not so great, I have heard, for encouraging toilet learning. (See? I am au courant with all the child-rearing lexicon.) But the old-fashioned cloth kind that fastened with pins and were covered by plastic pants. The kind that sat in a plastic bin with bleach until there was a full load to be washed. You wonder why moms in the 60s didn't have time to meet their friends at Starbucks for a latte? It's because they were washing diapers.

By the time I was seven, I was putting on and removing the diapers myself. Which is pretty sad. Even sadder than the kids who walk up to their mothers, unbutton mom's shirt, and hey! Lunch!

Go ahead. Flame me. But I maintain if your kid is old enough to help himself to the boobie, he is old enough to be weaned. And I would have said so to the women I worked with in Chile who would go through three-hour meetings with a kid casually latched on but it seemed like bad manners. Note that the director of my agency, who kept an infant attached to her naked breast, told me that I had to stop knitting during meetings because it was "distracting."

Knitting = distracting

Naked breast with baby attached = not distracting

We were in the Southern Hemisphere, where the water swirls down the toilet counterclockwise or clockwise but opposite to how it swirls in the Northern Hemisphere, so perhaps other things were opposite, too.

Every night before bed, I would put on my diaper. Every morning, I would take it off.

Not such a big deal, really. I wasn't the one washing them. I still didn't have to get up in the middle of the night to pee, so it was win/win as far as I was concerned.

Then my mom started bribing me. If I could go seven days without a wet diaper, I could have a prize, probably a piece of candy.

I can be bought.

I easily went the seven days.

But then started peeing again because what was in it for me?

Then we hit the trifecta, only with two things, so it was a bifecta.

I spent the night with my best friend Lisa, who lived in the same building we did. We were in Spain at the time and we lived in an off-base housing area with fourplex houses. We lived in 61-D. Lisa was in 61-C. Her phone number was 452, which I knew to say in Spanish to the operator: cuatro cinco dos. I don't remember our phone number because I didn't call it so much.

The housing area, which was not a restricted area the way a military base is, was a combination of US and Spanish culture. Little League, Brownies and Cub Scouts plus Spanish vendors and craftsmen passing through. The knife sharpener rode his bike, blowing a little whistle to announce his presence, and sharpened knives and scissors with a grinder powered by a chain looped to the back wheel. The candy guy sold not just red lollipops and gummy bears but also plastic strips for making lanyards, which was present #2 that we made for our parents after present #1, the clay ashtray from the school art class. Whether our parents smoked or not.

We took Spanish classes in school, wrote letters to the Three Kings at Christmas time, and took field trips to the wax museum in Madrid. This was Franco's Spain, so it was still very poor, which meant that even servicemen of modest means could afford household help. We had a maid who came once a week. First, we had Rosario and then there was Sole. Then there was the gardener and his tools, which he stored by Lisa's house, but I'll tell you about that adventure in another post. Let's just say that perhaps a gardener should not leave pruning shears out where there are little kids who have long hair.

The house isn't there any more, or not the way I remember it. Primo and I went to Madrid a few years ago and took the metro out to Royal Oaks, which had been several miles away from the outskirts of Madrid. Now the city is built all the way out to Royal Oaks.

About least 25 years ago, the Spanish government didn't renew the lease or whatever on Torrejon Air Force Base, where my dad had been stationed, and the housing area also reverted back to the Spanish government, who apparently sold it to private developers who knocked the houses down and built luxury villas with walls in front of them. My house was gone. My yard was gone. Nothing remained of what I remembered: our house, the pool, the school. There is a Facebook group for people who went to Royal Oaks Elementary. Everyone remembers their house number.

I was at Lisa's house. And I had to put on my diaper.

Well that's a little bit embarrassing. Second grade and wearing a diaper is not a big deal if nobody knows about it. But when your best friend finds out?

That's motivation.

Plus being sissy enough that at 10:00 p.m., I decided I didn't want to spend the night any more because it was scary, so Lisa's mom called my mom, who came and got me and my diaper-clad butt.

Shortly thereafter, my mom offered me a 30-day deal: dry diapers for a month and I could have the doll advertised on the back of the cornflakes box.

That, plus the allure of not having to humiliate myself in front of my friends any more, was real motivation. The bifecta. My mom had finally hit the proper combination of incentives, which is always so tricky in any management situation. How to align the interests of the individual (me) with those of the organization (my mother)?

My mom found it. Humiliation + desired toy = dry diapers. I kept dry for 30 days and after that, wet was not acceptable. I had been exposed: I could control it after all. No more cereal-box goodies for me.


  1. Wow. Deja vu. I wet the bed until I was almost ten, I think. No diapers, just a rubber sheet under my regular sheets. My poor mother had to wash the sheets (and my pajamas) every day. I never was aware of what was happening during the night until after the fact and I woke up wet. I hated it, but I have to give my mother credit for never, ever belittling me or getting mad. Finally outgrew it. And I was a thumb-sucker until I got braces at age eleven. What a mess I was! haha

  2. I forgot about the rubber sheet! I had that, too. Our poor mothers.

  3. Hi there. Thanks for your comment on my blog. Who were you on Journalspace? Hope you have a fabulous day!

  4. I lived in Spain from 1968-71 and attended Royal Oaks Elementary School too (1st - 3rd grade). My memory of the time there has gotten a little fuzzy. I do rmbr my 2nd grade teacher was Ms. Balian and my 3rd grade teacher was Mrs. Perez.

    I was a cub scout and learned to play baseball there.

    Like you, I still rmbr our old address...135-C, but unlike you, I rmbr my old phone number, 554.

    Thanks for the post, I enjoyed it.

  5. Anthony, wasn't that such a great place to live?

  6. I agree with you, it was a great place to live. And everyone that I had any contact with, who live there (mainly people on facebook: Royal Oaks Elementary School- Madrid, Spain page), agrees with us.

  7. I agree with the breastfeeding thing.Once they can walk they can do so with a suppurate cup. I am so strongly opposed that I think I'm on the La Lecher League's 10 Most Wanted.

    1. Joy, it's just not something we see much in our culture - kids who unbutton their mom's shirts so they can have a drink.


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