Dodging Trains

The bedroom of our new apartment overlooks the house’s modest backyard, followed by a small municipal parking lot, then by the elevated platform for the N/Q subway line. Trains come and go about every two minutes or so, all day. Seven-month-old Maggie is riveted.

This presents a challenge: We change her diaper on our bed, which is about four feet from the window. When Maggie hears a train coming, she immediately transitions from normal squirmy to championship-caliber squirmy, flipping over and around to see the shiny trains rumbling in to the station. Suddenly every step of wiping and diapering is free run 3.0 v4 interspersed with having to twist her tiny body back to face-up.

Trains triple not only the time needed to change her, but also the chances of spreading a mess.

Thus, changing diapers has become a task of opportunity. If Maggie is not upset about the secretion she’s sitting in, I am behooved by waiting for the station to be trainless. Once the tracks are quiet, I rush her into the bedroom and try to swap diapers before the next arrival. It’s a race against the New York City transit system that I rarely win.

So I’ve learned to change diapers faster. This helps not just with my train dodging, but when I’m busy with work, too.

My process:

  • I calmly explain that Daddy will win almost all of these little battles, so she may as well cooperate. She smiles at me and giggles.
  • I keep the essentials on the bed throughout the day. This would drive my wife nuts, as she prefers household items to be properly stowed at all times; she’d be great on a sailboat. However, having the diapers, wipes and A&D on the bed and ready to be used saves me precious seconds.
  • I give Maggie a job. Her hands are like kittens, roshe run curious and impossible to herd. If left to find her own interests, she would grab everything she can, including the dirty diaper and a handful of vitamins in goop form. So I give her a toy. Or I hand her a diaper with a request that she hold it (“Can you help Daddy?”). With her attention (i.e., her hands and mouth) briefly focused,  I can work faster. And I can work cleaner, which translates into working even faster than faster.
  • I withdraw the required number of wipes before opening the dirty diaper. This helps expedite the cleaning when the mess is exposed, reducing the odds that she gets a hand or foot in it.
  • Rather than placing a new diaper to the side, I open it and slide it under Maggie before removing the old one. That means that once she’s clean, the replacement is already in place. Also, if Maggie decides she’s not done doing whatever she did, the bed is protected. Again, any measure for cleanliness potentially saves time.
  • If Maggie is particularly squirmy, I can throw a light blanket or T-shirt over her face for a faux game of peek-a-boo, which usually buys a few seconds of stillness. This also works on alligators.

Usually before this is all over a train has arrived anyway, and despite my best and quickest efforts, Maggie is rolling over to observe it.

But sometimes I succeed.  Then we can just calmly watch the train together, as daddy and daughter.