Ever see a movie and know what the ending will be before the opening credits finish? Ever watched a TV show and felt upset that it ended ONE way when it should have ended another?
As I stood waiting for Cody to think through what I had asked him I felt like it could go one of two ways: it would end like I hoped or, well, it would leave me with a disappointed feeling and I’d be forced to keep smiling as we spent the rest of the night playing video games.
If you could have stretched out 30 seconds to an hour, this is probably what it felt like, and I could tell by Cody’s face that there was a whole movie’s worth of emotions and drama running through his mind – highs and lows, questions and excitement, and an unexpected twist or two.
I sensed that it was moving in the direction I was hoping. That this 20-year old who stood shuffling a little, blushing, listening and thinking would say ‘yes’, and by agreeing to wear diapers we’d maybe have a way to figure out both why he seemed to end up back in protection now and then, and I’d find a way to understand my instinctive feelings of care for the boy.
I could see the start of a nod, the opening of a mouth to say yes, the resolve and decision in his eyes as he came to realize that there would be no guilt or fear in agreeing to wear a diaper.
But instead I found myself in a movie that has one of those surprise endings that nonetheless made perfect sense. The kind of ending where it really was the only resolution, but you hadn’t managed to see it coming.
Because Cody looked into my eyes. And with what seemed like the start of tears in his eyes he opened his mouth and said in a quiet and slightly trembling voice: “I…I don’t know.”
A Gentle Hand
I’m not very good with describing feelings, so it’s hard to find the right ones to describe what went through me just then.
I felt a welling up of emotion combined with some sort of peaceful calm.
It’s easier for me to describe what I SAW. Because more than what I was feeling, what I saw in Cody guided my emotions and actions.
And what I saw was a boy whose eyes, which seemed at the brink of brimming with tears, were almost pleading as they looked at me.
And what I saw was a 20-year old boy whose body language and gestures and trembling lip made him seem, to me, not just like someone who looked a few years younger, but who looked for all the world like a little boy, a 4 or 5-year old maybe, still at that place in which emotions and vulnerability appear in a flash.
So regardless of what I was feeling, the sensation I had from looking at Cody was the sensation I might have had with a small little boy standing in front of me with all his uncertainties and swelling emotions.
And what I did was I walked quietly towards him, stood beside him and placed a hand gently on his back, rubbing a small circle reassuringly as his eyes shyly cast down towards the floor.
And I spoke to the boy in a soothing voice that I didn’t really know I had.
“It’s OK Cody, it’s a big decision for a little guy,” I said. “Don’t worry, it’s all right – you just let me take care of this.”
And with that I pressed gently on his back, saying “Come on”, and while there was the slightest hesitation his body seemed to glide under my light touch.
Bringing my palm to rest on his lower back, I led him toward the hallway at the back of the house and he seemed to naturally find obedience to my gentle pressure, his eyes flickering up and down to look around until we found ourselves at the spare bedroom.
Hopes for a Change
To this day, I can’t help wondering whether some side of Cody didn’t feel a little like he had been set up.
If he felt that way, he didn’t show it, not in the way that I would have expected, anyways, with resistance, a pulling back, or a grimace or smirk.
Sure he looked around and took everything in, but what showed on his face was the kind of furious blush that seems like it belongs in a movie or at the very least on the face of a little kid.
And maybe I HAD set him up. That was the idea in many ways, and his grandma and I had agreed that if we could get Cody in a place where he was comfortable talking about wearing diapers we might get to the bottom of why a 20-year old still went through phases where he woke up to a wet bed, still wet his pants every now and then, and seemed content enough to have protection to deal with the problem.
Getting him back INTO diapers had been my idea and maybe my reasons were a little selfish, but it did seem to make sense – how else could we get him into a state where he could talk openly if the diapers themselves weren’t out in the open too?
A Room for Change
So my instinct to be thorough and prepared had kicked in, and that became clear as Cody scanned the room. Whether he saw the plastic change mat on the bed first, or the powders, lotions, wipes and ointments on the side table I’m not sure.
When he turned to the right and saw the dresser with the stacks of diapers on top his face turned a bright red and his mouth even opened up a little into a cute little ‘oh’ shape that I’ll never forget.
Now, the poor kid had already endured a few shocks to his emotional system and I could almost feel him vibrating with – with anxiety maybe, uncertainty, excitement, or maybe all of it. I could sense him shuddering like it was a little hum through his body and this made him seem, well, somehow smaller, vulnerable, and softer.
But rather than let him get to the stage where his mind clicked in or his resistance went up I followed my instinct and moved towards the bed, patting the change mat with my hand, giving a light thump sound to get his attention and a loud crinkle as the plastic cover responded.
“Come on, Cody, let’s get you changed.”
He hesitated briefly, but then looked into my eyes. I’m not sure what he saw there, but his motions told me that somehow looking at me seemed to over-ride whatever doubts or questions might have been surfacing. It was as if his body was in obedience to whatever those feelings were and although there might have been some side of him screaming “no” or “why”, his legs carried him towards me and he sat down shyly on the corner of the bed.
I placed a hand on his back reassuringly. He started to open his mouth as if a question was ready to pop out but I interjected:
“Come on Cody, this will be over in a flash,” I said. “Now be a good boy and lie down so I can get you into a nice clean diaper.”
Again, just the hesitation, but he gave a slight tilt of his chin and his eyes brightened when I said the words ‘good boy’ and somehow his body again just sort of glided along with whatever feeling was guiding him.
With my hand on his back I helped him to scoot around and then slide into place, and without a word from the boy he was lying on the change mat which crinkled beneath him.
Diapers for Cody
Looking back it sounds easy. Practical almost.
Just give him a little encouragement and guidance and then get him on a change mat and it’s time for a diaper.
But to think that is to miss the things that went unspoken. A shift in dynamic between him and I. Subtle changes in body language. And, more than anything, the feeling that it was happening not as some practical matter between a boy and his neighbor, but rather the playing out of a dream.
There was some sort of energy, some sort of feeling between us, and I felt like every little movement communicated far more than the practical matter at hand.
Cody lying back was like the consummation of all the trust we had built with each other through our afternoon chats, the smiles, the waves, the time I pat his diapered bum.
As I undid the button of his jeans, unzipped them and then helped him shimmy them off, the gestures felt like careful attention, and held a feeling of giving rather than a stripping away.
Removing his underwear, the boy squirmed slightly, embarrassed a little, or maybe a little cool from the air conditioned room, and yet the way he arched his back just slightly, and the way his legs kicked out a bit, told me that although there was an instinct towards resistance that there was trust also, and my gentle shushes and the way I gave his tummy a little circular rub told him in return that there was nothing to fear.
The scents of baby powder and lotion, and the involuntary burble from the boy, a little sigh almost combined with a gulp held feelings of transportation. The babyish smells, the cool sprinkle of the powder, and the silky feeling on my hand as I rubbed it into his skin added to the dreamlike state, the waves back and forth between us, told through simple gestures, sounds and smell.
And then something happened as I went and grabbed a clean diaper from the top of the dresser. Because as I held it in my hands and unfolded it, as the crinkle sound and bright white of the diapers seemed to fill the room the boy did something I didn’t expect – he slipped his thumb in his mouth.
This isn’t a practical thing. This isn’t some boy who is letting his neighbor put him in a diaper ‘just in case’.
Suddenly, the silent communication between us, the gestures and attention, the lying down and undressing, took on a new dimension and I felt what I can only call a flood of, well, of caring love.
Cody too seemed to enter some bright, calm new space. There was a looseness to his limbs and a faraway but almost loving look in his eyes.
Looking down at Cody as I lifted his bum and slid the diaper underneath, lowering him onto the soft padding of the diaper, I saw a little boy, a little boy who needed care, who sucked his thumb as his diaper was pulled up and adjusted and securely taped up, a baby boy who was looking up at me and communicating something powerful with his giving, trusting, floating gaze.
“I really am a little boy” his eyes told me, “I really do need this, and need to be changed by you, and this place I am right now feels right, and this place right now is only feelings, just my feelings, and I need you to carry me through them.”
And as I checked his diaper along the waist and legs and assured that it was nice and snug, my gestures held the reply:
“Yes, you are a little boy, and I will care for you.”