I’ve taken my daughter to the public pool dozens of times. It’s guaranteed to tire out your little one out, and it’s a great and affordable way to have fun together. Unless you miss the signs and find yourself up s*** creek without a swim diaper.
Yesterday, I should have seen the warning signs. When packing our bag for the pool, I noticed that I only had one swim diaper left. “No problem,” I thought. “She’s never had an accident in the water – not at the pool, not in the bath, not at the beach. One swim diaper should be fine.”
When we arrived at the pool and were getting changed, I realized she hadn’t gone #2 yet that morning. A little unusual, sure, since she usually does her business in the hectic hour while Mama is getting ready to leave for work. “No problem,” I thought. “She’s not a machine, she doesn’t run like clockwork.”
We hopped in the pool and splashed around together. She seemed a little more clingy than normal, less willing to float around on her own. “No problem,” I thought. “She’s been a little ill. Maybe she’s just a little less adventurous today.”
It wasn’t until we were in the jacuzzi that the alarm bells started ringing. Instead of diving from one side of the tub to the other, my little one froze. She got quiet. She started to look thoughtful. My thoughts drifted off momentarily. But then it all clicked into place…
She’s taking a crap in the pool!
One quick peek into her swim diaper confirmed the worst. I immediately shifted into parental panic mode. I scooped her out of the jacuzzi. The elderly couple soaking beside us seemed wholly unaware of the unfolding crisis. I blurted out a warning to them and dashed to the baby changing tables. They’re poolside – a convenient feature most days, but today it meant I had nowhere to hide.
From there, things got worse in a hurry. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say that a swim diaper, when dry, fits snuggly to a toddler’s bum. Once wet, is very difficult to remove. In a flash, I was standing over a highly public disaster zone.
Soggy. Poopy. Mess. Everywhere.
Aside: If you’re a soon-to-be dad out there, stop reading now and take a breath. This is absolutely a nightmare scenario. I won’t lie to you: if you take parental leave, you risk finding yourself in a similar situation.
But there’s good news too. This is parental trial by fire. If you can get through something like this, you’ll feel like a boss. You’ll know you can handle anything.
The trick (I’ve learned from painful experience) is to not get overwhelmed by the scene.
“Okay Alex,” I told myself, “what needs to happen here?”. I made a quick list in my head while fighting the urge to puke. Clean the baby. Clean Papa. Clean the changing table. Clean the jacuzzi. Remove dirty swim diaper from the scene of the crime.
Next, I hunted for equipment. I had baby wipes with me and a plastic bag. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. I tried the wipes on my distressed daughter, but it was too little too late. I changed tack and tried to mop up the mess on the changing table instead. Much better results.
I raced through at least a dozen wipes, chucking them in the plastic bag with one hand while holding my squirming toddler down with the other. A professional clean would still be needed, but at least the changing table wasn’t a soupy poo bath anymore. I also threw the dirty swim diaper in the plastic bag. Now at least the situation wasn’t getting any worse.
Clutching my smelly, dirty, naked, confused little girl, I rushed towards the showers. Along the way, I flagged down one of the lifeguards. He did not look pleased to see us. In broken Dutch, I tried to explain what had happened: “Daughter… tiny pool with bubbles… dirty….”
His eyes grew wide, and then he scrambled off to find the cleaning staff. I pressed on.
I borrowed some soap from a kind stranger and after a few minutes of scrubbing in the shower, things started to calm down. Status update: Baby cleaned. Papa cleaned. Pool staff handling the rest of the mop-up.
Aside #2: Guys, if you’ve made it this far, you’re fully within your rights to just call it a day and go home. There’s no reason to revisit the scene of the crime.
I started thinking about what to do next. We’d only been in the water for like 10 minutes before poozilla. And, I’d already committed to an hour of logistics for this outing; 30 minutes getting to the pool (gear prep, travel and changing), plus 30 minutes to reverse the process and get home. Not to mention my daughter does love splashing around, and it’s fun for me too.
I decided to stick around. One problem: I had no spare swim diapers.
Time to beg, borrow or (last resort!) steal.
I started with the ‘borrow’ idea. Were there any other parents around who might have a spare? My daughter and I lurked around the changing areas for a couple minutes, until it felt awkward. No luck.
Next up, begging. I flagged down the lifeguard again. He was even less pleased to see us. Pointing at my toddler’s exposed behind, I said: “New diaper… necessary… help?”
He rolled his eyes (or at least it felt like he did), but stepped up to the challenge (again!) and trotted off to the office area to see what he could find. A few minutes later, he returned triumphantly holding a fresh swim diaper. Hooray!
We slipped back into the pool discreetly and resumed splashing as if nothing had ever happened. I avoided all eye contact with the elderly couple from the jacuzzi.
Epilogue: On this site, I talk a lot about the joys of parental leave and the special dad-baby bond that you’ll form while you’re at home with your child.
This, obviously, isn’t a story about joy; there’s nothing like a public pooping to put sweat on your brow. Yet, this is – in its own way – a story about the dad-baby bond. I walked away more confident in my ability to care for my daughter. That’s the core of parenting – building confidence through experience. The more you’re able to be there with your child, the more you learn to manage and thrive.
Don’t believe me? Take the time and you’ll find out for yourself.