I’m glad I wear glasses for many reasons.
They make me look smarter than I actually am, I’ve never been hit in the face while wearing them and, like Clark Kent, when I don’t wear them (and combine them with a clean shave) then I can become entirely unrecognisable. But that’s not the reason that, right now, at 9pm on a Thursday evening in the back bedroom of my house, that I’m glad I’ve got them. Tonight they’ve been less glasses and more goggles, defending my eyes from a fountain of piss aimed up at me by my son.
It’s one of the things that gets glossed over I think – in favour of sick down the back or distressingly horrific nappies – but piss, or specifically, the velocity, range and randomness of a 2 week old boy’s piss, is massively under-rated.
It was a normal evening.
A sense of calm is in abundance, outside it is a warmer evening following weeks of torrential rain, the last embers of the sun creeping in through the window. The dog is napping on the rug, flat on her side, relaxed and peaceful. I’ve just had a cup of decaf tea and a mince pie – because why the fuck not, we’ve had a tough couple of weeks and if a man can’t reward himself with a mince pie then what can he do?
The flickering of eyelids.
The boy is waking softly from his 97 minute slumber. I wonder what he dreams of – I’m assuming forceps and blood – that, after all, is what haunts my increasingly harrowing dreams at night at the moment. His legs gently kick, one then the other, like a boxer limbering up with a ringside shadow fight.
I know he’s going to need changing – it’s been 3 hours – the only question is what kind of change I’ll be doing. Will it be the a poo-pocalypse – where his lower body is coated in a cheap chicken korma mixed with seeds – or will I get lucky, will it be a wee, a quick on and off then back to slumbertown.
He cries, gently, then more firmly. I look for the signs. What is he trying to tell me?
I plump for nappy – it’s usually nappy and he’s not making any of those suckling mouth actions that mean he requires food instantly. I carry him upstairs to the back bedroom where, on top of a check of drawers, we’ve set up a changing station. The changing station is a podium of pride – perfectly the right height to avoid crippling back pain, and with several elements held on with heavy duty bright red gaffer tape, it’s the right place for the job at hand. I’ll just be five minutes I call to my partner.
Rewind 3 days and the warning signs were there.
I was next door and heard a shriek from the change station. I go in and piss is dripping down the wall. 4ft away on a window there are light yellow droplets on the glass. He’d caught my partner out, lingering 3 seconds too long when putting a new nappy on, allowing time and, crucially, cold air to send shots of pee into the air. I’d laughed, “classic lad behaviour” I found myself saying as I dabbed the wall with toilet roll.
But I’d not paid attention.
I’d been arrogant.
I’d assumed it couldn’t happen to me.
Fast forward and press play and the first part of what appeared a routine nappy change had been straightforward. I’d peeled back the layers of vest and sleepsuit to reveal a nappy, clearly full, weighed down with wee. I remove the nappy and then realised I’ve made a schoolboy error, a rookie mistake, I’ve not got a fresh nappy out ready to go on. No bother, I think, the one I’ve taken on weighs about 15lbs, there is absolutely no way he can have any wee left.
I open the drawer, find a nappy and stretch out the sides, and as I’m getting the tabs ready I see my boy’s face. He is calm, an oasis of calm, his eyes are bright and follow me now – whether he can see me, or just shapes and shades, I don’t know, but in this moment, it looks like he’s staring deep into my soul. And then a twitch, a twitch in the corner of his eye, nearly invisible all but the most astute observer, but a twitch nevertheless. His shoulders seem to drop slightly, pressure and tension let go, and he releases a breath that I didn’t realise he was holding.
At first it’s a dribble, a spring on a mountainside, nothing really, nothing I can’t handle…
As his shoulders drop further his knees move towards his chest and it sprays, directly up into my face. I reel back, I know he’s got me, now it’s just damage limitation. But of course it’s uncontrolled. It’s not like a bloke at a urinal, keeping in his lane, eyes locked on the drain, one hand taking aim. There is no aim, instead, like one of those blow up inflatable air dancers you see outside cheap car dealerships, it flails – it’s a fountain, or maybe a pressure washer, his clothes are coated, the changing mat a pool. I’ve got a penis, I’ve been peeing from it for over 39 years but yet even with what can only be described as extensive hands on experience, I am floundering.
And it’s still coming.
If anything, he’s gone from a K2 to a K5 pressure washer. I’ve not seen this much pressure for over a decade, maybe two.
And I panic.
I put my hands in front of my body like a defence mechanism, I’m trying to decide whether to cry straight away or not, and, of course, I shriek for help. He has defeated me and I’m suddenly wishing we’d made every room in the house a wet room.
My partner strides in. She knows exactly what to do, how to sort the situation and make everything better. She is the traffic police at a motorway accident, gliding in, taking control, making sure everyone is okay and safe, putting up barriers, redirecting traffic, ensuring that the debris is neatly clearly away. My relief is palpable – the adult is here, everything will be okay. She tells me it’ll be okay, I’ll learn from this and, to be aware that the tread on my front left tyre is getting low.
Then calm resumes and sleep, although briefly, calls.
P.S. For the record. If you have a boy, be aware that goggles, a snorkle, wetsuit and easy wipe paint may be useful additions to your new baby plans.