…I found myself in a major shopping centre Parents Room having just done that ‘nappy change thing’ on our son, and I was trying to put the little bundle of joy back into his jump suit. Unfortunately, I haven’t mastered those mongrel b#$@%*d press studs, and I was in the middle of cursing the bugger who’d invented them, when I heard the sliding door ‘whoosh’ open behind me.
Then a man’s voice says, “You too mate? Pricks of things aren’t they!”
I looked over my shoulder at another Dad, with what appears to me to be a two year old in tow and pram with baby, at the ready. Both little people looked somewhat distressed, nature was calling, and in the infants case – clearly nature had been – and gone!
He wore a look I recognised instantly. I had seen it in the mirror this morning except in his case – his had extra layers and depth to it – after all, he had a toddler in company too.
“Yeah mate, I’m all thumbs when it comes to these bloody things” I say. It’s amazing how meaningful a simple gesture can be, even when it’s constrained to simply lifting a pinch of piece of fabric wrapped around a baby, on a public change table.
He ushers his daughter into the little person’s toilet, and with the door ajar continues with the impromptu conversation piece we’d struck up between us.
“If I could press stud the inventors hands to his arse cheeks mate – I would,” he grumbles. “When this one came about,” I hear a pause in the conversation about where I’d expect a ‘Her’ gesture to be, “it just about did my head in trying to change her at night”. The toilet roll tumbles metalically, as dunnypaper is gathered and ends in a loud RIPPP, and I go about the business of putting my boy’s legs back into his jump suit. There’s a rustle of movement that I imagine heralds the gentle wiping of a toddlers bottom, then a flush, and after a moment – the washing of little and big hands – as taps arc up and the water flows.
The hot air drier signals the end of toddler ‘bottom’ business and the beginning of baby ‘botty’ business. Dad comes out of the little person’s toilet with a much relieved toddler in tow, whom he gently pushes off into the direction of the toy wooden car, playing ‘feature’ in the middle of the room. I’m now finished with my boy’s ablutions. His ‘botty’ business is over, but the little fella in the pram has his yet to come.
Dad hoists the little man (clearly identified now that they’re both closer) up and onto the change bench beside me. He does so with the ease of a veteran, and I wonder if he’s a stay-at-home Dad, much like me. I’m in no hurry to move, no-one else is in the changeroom, and I feel there’s more to make of this ‘conversation’ yet, this man has both myself and my son waiting expectantly.
We get to yarning – all arse about faced – the introduction part kicking in now where we exchange mutual compliments and make the ‘space’ comfortable for conversation. How old is he, good looking boy, looks pretty switched on etc… you know, a Man’s version of baby banter between parents. The tone makes it sound like we’re comparing tattoos, but there’s no mistaking the pride we both feel, looking down at the ‘business ends’ of both our respective baby boys, it becomes quite clear neither one of us would have it any other way.
Once we’ve established the preliminaries in the conversation, we get back to the business at hand. Press Studs! I admit that I too, struggled with (and still do) the mongrel bloody things, and at night my language could all too easily remind people that I was once a sailor, despite the sing song voice I often attempt to employ. He nodded and grunted understanding at me. His hands full with the task at hand, mind focused and clearly on the job. His hands move professionally, with a precision and efficiency I’ve yet to completely master, I find myself admiring this man and his abilities… one day, I too will achieve such proficiency.
“Yeah… you’re only human mate!” He said. “I promised myself I’d cut down my swearing, when she came along,” his thumb jerked up and over his shoulder towards his daughter at play in the car. She was amusing herself wildly – ‘driving’ like she was the only car competing at Bathurst – and simply not caring.
“Did too” he sighed, “till I discovered THESE mongrel b#$%&*ds!” – and with that, he gathered the fold of material with the offending items on it and shook it almost aggressively, in my direction. It was now MY turn to nod knowingly. This was enough by way of acknowledgment, his grip relaxed and his hands got busy again, lining up the ‘male’ and ‘female’ pieces of the press studs, and closing them with a firm – if at times semi-fumbled – CLICK!
On his final press stud, he asked me to watch his boy as he washed his hands. I looked down at the two of them, not quite side by side, not quite the same age and not quite the same length nor build, as the taps arced up again, followed by a PFFFT of liqud soap, and the noisy clashing of hands under a warm water tap. Their needs were the same – and clearly both boys needs were met. They were both ‘fat, dumb and happy’, and I smiled.
I had met a complete stranger in a parents room in a busy shopping centre who’s world may have been completely different to mine, but at the same time was so similar. A simple Man’s discussion of nothing more then the shear s@#ts one can get when dealing with those mongrel press studs, telling us both, a world of information about each other. We were on the same wave length, and we were almost equals. No ‘single’ man could ever share that space, not one without a child.
The sound of the taps running ceased in the rush of air and noise that told me he was drying his hands again. The hot air fan drowned out the fact that he had quickly finished and was now at my side, and ready to gather up his boy. Into his pram his boy went, with a jerk of his head at his daughter, and a quick gathering up of his baby bits bag, he looked up to me, smiled and nodded. Our conversation was over, and his daughter was waiting patiently at his side. I gathered up my boy and placed him in his own pram – my baby bits bag already stowed. I walked over to the door and pressed the button that told the door it was time to open up, and let us out. It did, and as he passed – family in tow – I nodded back, our ‘mothering’ MAN’S moment at it’s end.
The irony of this moment wasn’t lost on me, and I felt a little taller in my step too. Apparently, Men can be ‘Mothers’ too, and I smiled once again at yet another generalisation busted cleanly apart. And if you happen to meet that bugger responsible for the inventing of press studs (in ANY of your lives) you tell him or her to beware… the picture in my head of that person’s hands firmly press studded to their arse cheeks still hasn’t left me, and I imagine the language spilling from their mouth to sound very similar to ours at about two in the morning! Oh, an extremely unlikely scenario I know – but the smile this image elicits from me during those ‘botty’ business moments at night could well light the room – and they’ve stopped me from swearing too.
Well… a little.