Todd sat at the kitchen table with his math book open, a pencil in hand and a clean sheet of notebook paper on top of one half of the textbook. Todd frowned at the almost blank paper, his name and the date currently the only things occupying the page. Math came unusually easy to Todd, he was his middle school’s only sixth grade student in Algebra 2, which was normally an eighth grade class. Not able to motivate himself we wondered if maybe the work was simply too easy or if perhaps he wasn’t challenged enough? Was there even any meaningful distinction between the two?
Todd could just look at most of the problems and know the answer without even having to compute anything on paper, which made the effort of having to ‘show his work’ seem all the more tedious. He could remember the first day of class when Mr. Minneretti had written on the board for the whole class that they absolutely had to show their work for everything. “I don’t harbor laziness in my class!” he had declared proudly. Todd had never previously minded showing his work, but now that it was required he found himself wanting to push back. As long as he had the correct answer then why should he have to jump through hoops?
Todd reflected for a moment more on the nearly pristine piece of paper. Nope, he didn’t feel particularly lazy because he didn’t want to do a bunch of arbitrary extra crap work for no reason. Picking up his pencil he drew a robot right in the middle of the page, and while the robot wasn’t part of the assignment he did feel better for having drawn it. Todd smiled at his creation and wished he were a robot because they probably don’t feel any angst at following instructions, even stupid ones.
Getting a fresh, robot free, sheet of paper Todd started over and with an audible sigh as he forced himself to start on the first question. He had made it to question 22 of 25 when the dryer buzzed, startling Todd and breaking his concentration. He looked across to the clock on the microwave and felt disappointment toward his earlier lack of focus. The greenish lcd proclaimed it to already be 4:32! He had wanted to be done a half hour ago. That’s what sitting around daydreaming and drawing robots will do, he scolded himself. He had wanted to get to watch Naruto on the big TV in the living room, but now he would have to watch it in his room later as he and his brother couldn’t use the DVR in the den for kids shows since they had their own DVR in their bedroom.
The dryer buzzed a second time and Todd slid off the chair and walked across the kitchen to the laundry room. He opened the dryer’s door and pulled the warm bundle of bed sheets out. He spun the inside of the dryer to make sure there wasn’t a pillowcase hiding on top of one of the fins. Satisfied the dryer was indeed empty he adjusted the bundle so as to not drop anything before heading for his bedroom.
Studying the big wad of linen on the way to the room he and his brother shared, he could see his own striped sheets had tangled with Blake’s dino sheets. My dino sheets he corrected himself, before feeling more than a little petty and immature at being jealous over his old sheets. When Blake had turned four, Todd’s parents removed Blake’s old toddler bed and with much fanfare had given Blake Todd’s old twin bed. This meant that Todd had also gotten a new bed, sans the fanfare, but a big full size bed all the same. Todd loved his big bed, and everything was great until bedtime that first night when Todd pulled back the comforter to see solid colored sheets instead of the smiling stegosaurus, triceratops, and cartoonish t-rexes he was accustomed to. Not wanting to seem ungrateful, Todd never said anything to his parents, it wasn’t even that he really wanted his old sheets that badly, it was just that it seemed like everything that was his was somehow also his little brothers. Todd told himself that it was stupid to feel jealous that his little brother got his old stuff, but he was still irritated by the fact that no one even asked if they could give Blake the sheets Todd had gotten for his seventh birthday.
Reaching his room Todd glanced to his bed thinking about how his parents couldn’t find dinosaur sheets for a full size bed but they could sure as hell manage to find a plastic bedwetters sheet easy enough. He frowned at the crinkly mattress protector on his bed, the sunlight coming through the window making the vinyl look extra shiny. With a sigh, Todd threw the linens on top of his bed before separating the two sheet sets, he wadded the dinos into a ball and threw them on his brother’s bed, but only after he had sniffed them to see if they smelled of pee. Todd was always worried that his room might smell like pee, his parents had used that excuse enough on why they should get their wet sheets in the wash as soon as possible. Thankfully both sets of sheets passed the sniff test, but there were clearly some slight discoloration on the dino sheets, whether it was from Todd’s own accidents or Blake’s he couldn’t say but it was probably from Blake considering the sheets given four years of service, three of which were all Blakes.
Returning to his own bed he sniffed at his own sheets just to be certain and like the other set they smelt only of detergent and fabric softener. Todd frowned, It had been his leak this morning which had prompted the sheet washing and a frank and uncomfortable breakfast discussion between his parents about the effectiveness of the goodnights Todd had been wearing.
“Todd honey, I really don’t see any other choice, you simply wet too much for the pull-ups” His mom had explained from the kitchen.
Todd’s cereal had gone soggy already but he spooned at it anyway, wishing to not have this conversation.
“We’re having to wash sheets several times a week, and pull-ups are too expensive to buy and then not work. Besides, you’ll sleep so much better if you stay dry.”
Todd felt his face redden, he hated when his parents talked about his bedwetting. He looked over at his brother, whom he had hoped was paying attention to the morning tv or his tablet and not the conversation. No such luck Todd realized when he locked gazes with Blake, who was watching him rather than cartoons.
“Diapers! Todd has to wear diapers!” Blake said under his breath with what Todd felt was an unseemly amount of mirth.
“Blake, you don’t tease your brother, this isn’t his fault, and your bed isn’t dry every night either, is it? You wouldn’t like it if Todd made fun of you would you?” Todd’s father entered the conversation.
“No sir” Blake said after he realized his father’s pause was an expectation for him to answer.
Typical, Todd thought. Had he had gotten caught making fun of his brother for something like wetting the bed he would have been grounded on the spot, but Blake could say anything and get away with it and the only thing he ever got was talking too.
Turning back to Todd, his father continued “Now son, your mom and I know this is hard for you, but this is for the best. You know I wore diapers to bed until I was fifteen years old, but I did get over it, and you will too. But until that time we have to try something that works.”
Doing his best to put the conversation from this morning behind him, Todd made up his bed, and then his brother’s. It’s not like goodnites aren’t diapers, he tried to rationalize, a pull-up is a kind of diaper after all. Be that as it may he counter argued what was he going to do if one of his friends found out? Having someone find out about his goodnights would have been bad, but if someone found out about him wearing tape on diapers? He was certain that would be much, much, worse. Maybe his parents were bluffing? Maybe he would have another chance?
Todd suspected his hopes of another chance were misplaced when five o’clock passed with no hint of his mom, who was usually the first parent home. Her absence was not a good sign. Todd heard the door open and was prepared hoping for his mom, but was instead disappointed to see his father with Blake in tow. His dad must have picked him up from his after school tutoring program. Blake was having trouble with his reading and had to go to an after school program to get caught up. Which for anyone keeping score was yet another thing Todd couldn’t make fun of his brother for.
Blake threw his backpack down by the door and looked around “Where’s Mom?”
“I told you she had an errand to run after work, that’s why I picked you up from Advanced Learning” his father countered before turning to Todd “Hey there sport! How was your day, you finished your homework?”
“Yeah, a little bit ago and I remade the beds and took the trash out” Todd recited his list of chores.
“Fantastic, buddy, your mom and I both appreciate how mature and responsible you are, we probably don’t tell you that enough, but it’s true”
Shit, now Todd knew he was screwed, his dad who was usually nice, had fully crossed over into ‘obviously nice’ and ‘obviously nice’ could only mean that he must be trying to make up for something. It was strong enough evidence that Todd could already begin to imagine himself in the middle of the living room floor with his pants down getting diapered for bed like he was two. ‘Fuck my life’ he thought, giggling to himself, he had really just started swearing and even though he was careful to not do it outloud the novelty of it was still fun even given the horrible circumstances.
Within the hour, Todd’s mom returned home with a deli rotisserie chicken dinner and instructions for her husband to bring the box in from the car. Todd felt his stomach sink, just more confirmation. He could only guess what was in the box in the car.
“I’ll get it after dinner, there’s no need to rush anything, and besides, I’m starving!” Todd’s father offered, taking the take out chicken to the table. “Blake, it’s your night to set the table”
Blake set the table without protest and within a few short minutes Todd found himself picking idly at a piece of chicken, he wasn’t very hungry, his mind only able to focus on what was probably going to come later tonight. Still, the longer he picked at his food the longer until the inevitable bedtime was, so hungry or not he was going to push that chicken around his plate. He was so consumed in his own thoughts that he didn’t realize that no one else was talking until his father finally broke the silence.
“So how was Evelyn?” He asked between mouthfuls of mashed potato and lemon pepper chicken.
“It was lovely! Oh and the new kitchen looks beautiful. I still think they spent more than they should have, but it looks fantastic.” Todd’s mom answered with a wave of her fork. Todd’s mom always gestured while she talked, usually it cheered Todd up to see her waving a utensil around without a care in the world, but not tonight.
Well that explains it Todd thought, Mom’s been to see Aunt Evelyn, which means he was probably getting some of his cousins diapers. Hooray retard diapers he thought, before feeling guilty at using the pejorative, he knew better. His cousin Toby was a few years older and was ‘developmentally delayed’, or that was how his aunt and uncle put it, Todd’s own father would say that Toby was ‘just a little behind is all’, usually before adding that he was not “what you would call capital S ‘Special’, just a little special”. Still Toby was almost old enough to learn to drive, but Todd doubted he would ever be competent enough cognitively to get a license, so older or not he had always seemed to Todd like a younger cousin.
Ice cream followed chicken and Todd found a bit more appetite for that. After the ice cream, the table was cleared and the two boys went to their room to watch TV. Todd could feel the minutes slipping past, he felt like he was waiting for the other shoe to drop, knowing what was probably coming later that night. Todd hoped that some mindless TV would help to ease his mind, and thankfully for once Blake didn’t even protest when Todd wanted to watch Naruto. Once again he wished he could have just had a Crunchy Roll subscription, where he could watch whenever he wanted and not have to wait for the DVR to pick up an episode it hadn’t got before.
Blake didn’t protest when Todd selected the episode and hit play. It always confounded Todd that even though Blake liked Naruto too, he would normally want to watch his show first, just to get his own way. Even Blake was being nice to him, either as a result of being scolded this morning or maybe just feeling sorry for Todd, it didn’t really matter, as either reason was not a good sign was it?
After the show he and Blake played a little Xbox, Todd finally managing to stop worrying about bedtime while he and his brother become engrossed in playing Cuphead. It seemed like they had only been playing a minute when his father popped his head in the Room, bringing reality crashing back down on Todd.
“Blake, Mom wants you to help her unload the dishwasher.”
“Can we finish this ?” Blake asked, but he was already pausing the game and getting up.
“It’s already after nine, so go help her and then brush your teeth okay?” his father told Blake, before setting a closed cardboard box on Todd’s bed.
Closing the door behind Blake, Todd’s father sat down on the bed.
“Your mom and I know this isn’t easy, but please work with us on this okay? It won’t be that bad I promise. I’ve told you before how I wore diapers until I was fifteen, but what I’ve never told anyone, not even your mom, was that as much as I hated wearing them as I got older, that I really missed them when they were gone. Now, I’m not saying you’ll like them too, it’s just that sometimes the things that we view as obstacles really make our lives better, but it’s taken me all my life to realize that.”
His Dad was smoking crack Todd thought, what did he mean he missed them. That was absolutely insane.
“I know that probably doesn’t mean much to you sitting there right now, so I tell you what, if you work with your mom and I on this we can see about getting you your own gaming laptop for christmas. Deal?”
Todd had been wanting his own computer, and since his parents were going to get their own way he might as well go along with it, diapers and a laptop were better than just diapers after all.
“Deal” Todd said, feeling as if he had just compromised his sixth grade dignity for a new toy.
His father’s expression brightened slightly, “Good deal sport. I’m going to show you how to do this yourself okay, that way it’s not that much different than a goodnight okay?”
Todd didn’t really agree but he nodded anyway, as that was obviously the expected response.
Todd’s father opened the flap on the box and took the contents out on the bed. “Your aunt sent these things for you to try.”
His father frowned a little at the assortment of diapers, and then Todd understood why. They all seemed to be printed in some fashion, the only one Todd could make out though was the one on top which had little cartoon animals on them, a fox or cat or something appeared to be playing soccer, while another animal was chasing after wearing a diaper. Todd could only imagine what one of his friends would think if they saw this. As if reading his mind Todd’s father forced a smile at Todd that looked about as genuine as a politician’s.
“There are obviously diapers here, they didn’t make them with the neat pictures on them when I was a kid, just boring white. These are stuffers to make them more absorbent if you need that, and these look like some waterproof pants your cousin outgrew before he ever wore them. Now your mom and I will be counting on you to keep up with what works best for you and helping us to know what to order and when. Looks like we have a couple of each brand, but I’m sure there are others we can try if these don’t work well for you, but your aunt said these are what Toby likes best, so that is where we are starting.”
Todd felt kind of foggy, like he was an outsider observer where he was unable to do anything but watch events unfold before him. Looking at the pile of diapers sitting next to his dad on his bed, Todd could make out the ‘crinklez’ written across the top one as if somehow the ‘z’ made them cool. He watched as his dad picked up the diaper and unfolded it.
“Okay buddy why don’t you go ahead and get undressed okay?” His dad asked
Todd pulled his shirt over his head and then dropped his jeans before stepping out of them. He stood there in only his boxers and socks as his dad fanned out the diaper.
“Now when you unfold it, you’ve got to make sure these leg cuffs stand up, you just run your finger under them like this to make sure they are not stuck to the inside of the diaper.” His father showed him as he pulled a finger under each leak guard before handing him the diaper.
Todd just stood there holding the diaper in one hand, he stared at it for what seemed an eternity. This diaper wasn’t at all what he expected, in addition to the juvenile print (at least goodnights tried to look like they were for big kids), this thing was plasticy, thick and like its namesake it crinckled when he moved it. This was nothing like his goodnights or even what he remembered his little brother wearing when he was a baby.
“The tapes go in the back” His father prompted, Todd wondered if his dad had mistaken his staring for confusion. But prompted, he set the diaper down for a second and removed his undershorts.
The heat in his cheeks as he pushed his boxers down made Todd feel less numb and more present in the here and now. Doing his best to steady his hands he pulled the diaper between his legs and with a small amount of fumbling he managed to get the tapes done.
His dad had him sprinkle some powder down the front of the diaper before having Todd check the seal made at his legs by the lower tapes. “If it is not tight at the legs they can leak, so getting the fit right is important”
Todd nodded, he didn’t trust himself to say anything, this was perhaps the most embarrassed he had ever been in all his life.
“That’s it buddy you’re all set. Now just put these on and then your PJ’s and you’ll be good to go” his father explained, handing Todd a brown envelope with ‘waterproof pants size youth’ printed on the outside. “I love you bear” he finished before closing the bedroom door behind him.
Unexpectedly Todd found himself smiling despite his current situation, his dad seldom used his nickname from when he was little, before Blake was sharing his room and being a pain. Still Todd wondered if he shouldn’t be at least a little bit insulted that his dad dusted off his toddler nickname while Todd was being relegated back to diapers. His grin made him feel even more self conscious, which brought back in some small part his righteous anger and how bad life was screwing him over right now. 12 and in diapers.
Well there’s just these, Todd thought as he opened the flap of the envelope, and pulled out the plastic pants. At first glance he felt his anger elevate even higher. These were snap on baby pants, like from the forever ago like the 1970s or something. Like his diapers, these pants had some kind of print on them. Well that might work for ‘special Toby’, but no way in hell am I wearing snap on baby pants too he told himself firmly. It’s not like a tape on baby diaper wasn’t bad enough, but these too? That is a bridge too far. Screw that.
Todd crumpled the pants and was ready to shove them back into the envelope when he got a real good look at the print. The pants were covered in dinosaurs, and while not quite the same as the dinosaurs on his old sheets, these were still rather cool. Todd’s emotional roller coaster hit another hill as he almost laughed at himself for calling a pair of baby pants cool, but he couldn’t help but smile all the same. Be careful what you wish for he told himself as the irony of his situation sat in.
Maybe these won’t be so bad? He rationalized as he snapped them on. Besides, who will see them under my PJs?
Another part of his mind screamed “what are you doing, you idiot, don’t put those on. What if someone DOES see them? There is no coming back from that, your life would be over.” A different part of his psyche, a louder and more assertive part asked “So what if someone did? Who cares? I mean everyone knows dinosaurs are cool, right?”