It was a rainy Friday afternoon when Karen Matthews found herself pouring out her soul to her new neighbor. It seemed inappropriate, she'd invited this woman over to get to know her and introduce her to the neighborhood. But the baby pictures, the ones of John, had finally triggered something deep inside her. Why had she chosen so long ago to work from home if she wasn't going to be needed? She felt like a cook, a chauffeur, a maid. She didn't feel like a mom.
Prof. Joan Moullier listened to all of this attentively. Finally she asked, "Have you ever considered that you feel an urge to take care of your son because he needs to cared for?"
Karen stared for a second at this odd woman. She'd heard her stories of living with tribal people all over the world. She'd heard of their about their customs, their rituals, and now this women who came to her door adorned in pendants and charms no longer seemed like a flake but a deeply wise women. And now she'd said something that had lurked in Karen's mind for months, something she knew but couldn't bring her self to acknowledge. John was edging up on 13. She'd dismissed her maternal instincts as selfish. The boy rejected every attempt to mother him. But there something about his rejections rang untrue.
She began to tell her visitor that she may just be right, but Joan interrupted. "I have a feeling that if you just follow your instincts everything will turn out right." An odd twinkle danced in her eyes. Prof. Moullier excused herself and tentative plans for another lunch together were made.
When John came home a plate of cookies and a mug off milk were waiting for him. This had been a familiar ritual until he was 9. He hesitated to take them, but he was hungry, and it somehow seemed right. He shouted a thank-you up the stairs and settled down in front of the TV with his snack.
He went to bed earlier than usual for a Friday night. His mother insisted on, explaining that they had a lot to do tomorrow. He didn't argue, he felt tired anyway, and he fell asleep quickly. He dreamed he was standing in a river, as the water flowed around him he felt content as if it were washing away all his worries.
He awoke cold and wet. This was not something that had ever happened before. He had no idea what would happen if mother discovered he'd wet his bed, and he was far too embarrassed to find out. He made up his mind to hide the evidence. He could stuff the sheets in the closet and wash them later when he was alone. This plan was doomed to failure.
Karen opened the door to her son's room and found a boy standing by the side of his bed in very wet pajamas. "I spilled some water," the boy stammered. But the truth was all too apparent. Tears came to his eyes. There were just no words that could explain away the shame. She hugged him and tried to reassure him that one little accident didn't mean anything. But this child, who had once been at the threshold of the teen years, ready for independence, was now a little boy in wet bedclothes who needed his mommy to brush away the tears, clean up his bed, and make him feel better. As it would turn out this was glimpse of the future as much as it was a look back at the past.
At that moment John felt weak. All he could do was hold his head on his mother's shoulder and cry. "Everything's going to be alright, let's just get you out these wet things," she cooed softly. He allowed her to strip off his wet clothes. It had been years since she'd seen him naked, but his privacy had already been shattered by his accident. So he stood still while his mother slid down his soaked pajama bottoms. "Raise your arms, honey." He meekly complied as she pulled off his shirt.
The thought of giving her son a bath crossed Karen's mind but she immediately let go of it. She didn't even quite know why she'd undressed him, he just seemed so small and helpless, even cute. She felt the power to make everything right again and did what she felt her boy needed.
"Now go ahead and take a shower, I'll clean all this up. Don't worry about anything, no one needs to know about one little accident."
Neither one of them spoke of John's bedwetting again that day. And when John went to bed he was worried but was confident the incident would not be repeated. In his dream he was at home when he felt the need to pee. But the bathroom door was locked. As he struggled with it his bladder began to dribble, finally he could control himself no longer and could do nothing as watched the dark spot grow across his pants. He looked up to see his mother who took him by the hand and led him down the hall to his room. Only this room was furnished with a crib, a rocking chair, and a changing table stocked with baby powder, baby wipes and fresh diapers. When he woke up he once again felt cold and wet. He'd wet his bed again, and this time he'd soaked himself thoroughly.
Karen knew to check on John that morning. She found exactly what she suspected, there was John sitting in his soaking wet bed trying not to cry. She sat down next to him and rubbed his back.
"Are you feeling OK?"
"Yeah, I don't know why this is happening. I didn't do it on purpose."
"I know, baby, but we're going to have to go to the doctor, I'll try to see if we can get in today. Now stand up."
John stood and once again allowed his mother to undress him and went to take his shower.
Karen stripped down his bed and went to the hall closet. She dug into the back and retrieved what she'd been looking for, John's plastic sheets from when he was only a toddler. It was all she could do to protect the mattress she thought. She only hoped he wouldn't mind the teddy-bear print too much.
John sat glumly in the pediatrician's waiting room. He was embarrassed to have his mom know about his little night-time problem, he certainly didn't want to talk to the doctor about it. He hoped that somehow he'd be forgotten and he'd be able to go home and keep his secret.
But his name was called and he was led with his mother into an examination room. He was weighed and measured. At barely 4 and a half feet and 65 pounds he was the smallest kid in his class. The nurse, trying to cheer him up, noted that he'd grown quite a bit since his last visit. But he knew he was a little kid with a little kid's problem.
The nurse left the room asking John to strip to his underwear for his examination. He did as his mom took his clothes and folded them into a nice pile on the chair next to her. The doctor came in and for what seemed like an eternity he and his mother discussed each of his recent accidents. He turned increasingly red as his mother recounted his potty training. She even told about the accident he'd had on a 2nd grade field trip.
Dr. McDade ordered some tests and when everything was finished John's mother handed him back his clothes and he left feeling like everyone knew what a baby he was.
John was determined not to wet that night. He made sure not drink after 6:00 and went to the bathroom right before going to bed. He climbed into bed and heard his shameful bedsheet rustle beneath him. Every time he turned over he was reminded that he was sleeping on a teddy-bear printed sheet designed to lessen the effects of a toddler's toilet training mishaps.
"Honey wake up."
John came drowsily back awake to find his mother gently stroking his head. "You've had another accident." He was wet down to his knees and almost up to his chest. His efforts had been futile. He was doomed, it seemed, to wet himself at night.
John went to school with the almost certain knowledge that he was the only student at his middle school who was stripped out of his pee-pee soaked PJs by his mom. Meanwhile, back at home Karen got the call from Dr. McDade.
"You said he only began wetting Friday night?" the doctor asked incredulously.
"Yes. It was the first time since he was in pre-school. Why?"
"The neurological development of John's bladder is only a little more developed than that of a very young child. There's no way he could stay dry through the night. I suppose his bladder could have regressed, but I've never heard of any such thing. I'll have to do some research, just handle the problem as you see fit."
Karen knew what she'd have to do. It was necessary to cut back and laundry and make sure John got a good night's sleep. She felt badly for John, she knew he was already embarrassed. But she also felt this was needed for other reasons, for the good of both of them.
It seemed like yesterday that he was still a baby. He was cute then. And now, despite his age he still was. A mother of one of John's friends had commented how much younger John looked than his peers, and how despite being in Jr. High he still something about him that was as cute as any small child.
His seemingly perpetual baby-like quality would make it easier for her to take care of him in the way he needed it. In fact she looked forward to it. She hoped he would see why this step had to be taken. She hoped even more that maybe he'd appreciate it.
John came home to find his mother waiting for him on the couch. "Come here honey, we have to talk." John had some idea what she was going to say, but he sat down next to her any way.
Karen hugged her son and began to explain the situation "The doctor called back with the test results today. They can't tell what's wrong but he says that it's not your fault. You bladder just can't make it through the night. So for right now you'll wet your bed almost every night."
Tears came to John's eyes as it dawned on him what was happening, Karen drew him closer. "Now honey, we can't have you waking up in wet PJs every night. So I've decided to put you back in diapers."
"Please don't. I'll try. I'm not a baby," John protested.
"Look I decided when to let you out of diapers I can decide when to put you back in them. You need a good night's sleep and I can't do laundry all day. Now do you understand why you need diapers."
John began to stop crying. He understood that this best for him, and while he was embarrassed he also felt oddly comforted. He nodded "Yes."
"And will you let me diaper you until we can solve this problem?"
"OK, that's a good boy. Now let's go to the store."
Her little boy needed her and Karen was happy to take of care of him. She worried that his problem was a sign of something else. But for right now her son need her to diaper him. She looked forward to it actually. She felt a bit guilty about it, but she just wanted her baby back.
John was just happy the supermarket wasn't busy. The last thing that he wanted his anyone seeing his mom buying his diapers. He stood in the parking lot and hesitated. "Maybe" he thought "if I just don't go in. She won't buy them."
But his mom was more persistent than that. "Now come on, honey," she said, taking his hand. And so he was led to the diaper aisle by the hand. There in aisle 12 was a wall of diapers, colorful packages intended for small children who hadn't mastered potty-training. And one of those packages was meant for John.
He just watched as his mother browsed the selection. And then it occurred to him, "Nothing would fit." "There couldn't possibly be a diaper big enough for me," he thought, "these are baby diapers, and I'm not a baby."
"Here, these will be perfect!" His mother interrupted his thoughts. "Pampers size 7, no more wet PJs honey these will keep you dry."
John was flabbergasted. He glanced up and down the aisle to make sure they were still alone. Why was his mom being so indiscrete?
"Oh I'm sorry. You probably don't want anyone to know these are for you. You can go wait in the car while I pay for them."
Finally there was some way out of the embarrassment. John walked swiftly, restraining the urge to run so as not to draw attention, back to the car and waited. He'd actually found his mother's words strangely comforting. He hated waking up in a cold wet bed. And, if he was honest with himself, he enjoyed the extra attention he'd been getting. Growing up was stressful. Maybe it would be nice to take a break from it.
Karen put two packages of diapers in her cart along with some baby powder and diaper-rash cream, and wheeled her cart to the check-out stand. " So is your little one at home?" Inquired the clerk as she scanned the items.
"No actually he's in the car," Karen replied. She noticed the clerk was rather taken a back by the idea of leaving a small child in the car.
"Oh, he's twelve-years old. He'd hate to have me go around blabbing, but he started wetting the bed recently. I thought these might keep him comfortable and cut back on the laundry."
"You know I used to wish mine were bedwetters. They grow up so fast and sometimes you just want to baby them."
"I know how you feel. I know its hard for him, but these diapers are just so cute I can't wait to get them on him."
The clerk handed her the change. "Well, I'd try to make the most of it if I were you," she said.
Back at home John sat and watched TV. The rain roared outside. Snow would was in the near future according to the weatherman. Karen made two cups of hot cocoa. When John was younger she used to sit with on nights like this and drink hot cocoa with him while they watched TV. She thought that reverting to some of these old habits might make the notion of going back to diapers more comfortable to John. It was her way of giving him permission to be little again.
She handed him his mug. "Here, you've been really brave about this. I thought I'd do something special for you."
"Thanks." John sipped his cocoa and chatted with his mother as they watched TV. It all felt very cozy and familiar. His resistance to the idea of wearing diapers was beginning to crack. Deep down inside he knew he needed it.
At nine Karen checked her watch. "Its time to get you ready for bed, honey," she said.
She picked up the bag from the store and led John up the stairs and into his room.
"Just sit down," she said, patting the foot of John's bed. John complied. She began untying his shoelaces.
"Mom! I can undress myself," John said with more than a hint of indignation.
"Oh, just relax. You take so long to get undressed, I just don't want to wait for you." She continued about her business, removing each of John's shoes, then his socks.
"Now lift your arms." She took off his shirt, folded it and set it neatly on the dresser.
"Now lie back." John saw no reason to resist at this point and did as he was told. He could only watch as his mother undid his button, unzipped his pants and slid them down to his ankles. They were quickly removed, folded, and set on top of his shirt. Then he was stripped of his underwear. He lay there vulnerable as can be while his mother prepared to diaper him.
Out from the bag came a tube of diaper-rash cream. "I noticed some red spots. I'd better take care of those before they become a rash," his mother said as she rubbed the cream into his skin. It was a shock to go from being nearly a teenager to having his mom apply cream to his butt. But it was calming to, he knew he was in caring, loving hands.
The came the baby powder which was applied liberally to his entire diaper area. The smell set off a wave of sensations in John's mind. His embarrassment was coupled with an overwhelming sense of well-being.
Finally a bag of Pampers came out of the bag. John watched as his mother opened it and pulled a perfectly folded white diaper from the package. "Lift up your behind, baby," his mother cooed.
John did as he was told and the diaper was slid underneath him. She pulled it up snuggly between his legs, and expertly taped both sides firmly in place. She smiled down at her son. His last bit of resistance had crumbled, he felt good being his mommy's baby. He couldn't help but smile back.
"There now, that wasn't so bad, was it?" Karen said as she pulled a pair of PJs from the dresser. John just shook his head. She helped him into his pajamas, pulling them up the bottoms and fastening the buttons on the top. She pulled back the covers and patted John's butt as he climbed in.
"I think you're cute in diapers."
John blushed. She leant over and kissed him on the forehead.
She turned off the lights and closed the door behind her.
The diaper crinkled with every move John made. If anyone from school knew about his he'd die of embarrassment, but this was the most relaxed he'd felt in days. Secure in the knowledge that he'd wake up in a nice clean bed no matter what, that in the morning his mom would come in to change him, he drifted off to sleep.
In the dim light of morning John slowly came awake. Remembering the past few mornings he felt his sheets. "They're dry!" he thought to himself "Its finally over." Then he remembered that he'd been well diapered the night before.
His mom walked into the room humming contentedly to herself. "Good morning, let's see how that diaper did." She reached under the covers and touched a hand to his backside.
"All dry." She reached underneath his PJs and stuck a finger into his waistband. "My, you really did wet last night. Let's get you out of that soaked thing."
She gently pulled down his bottoms and untaped his diaper. She disposed of it in a pail next to the bed. She took a baby wipe and wiped down his diaper area. "There we go, all nice and clean. We can't have any rashes developing. Now go ahead and shower."
John felt almost out of line taking care of his own hygiene at this point. But he wanted scrub off the slightest hint of baby smell. He got out of the shower and went into his room. On his bed his mom had laid out his clothes. They had a certain juvenile quality to them but he knew that he going to have to wear them.
The routine of the school day faded into the background as John contemplated the events of the last few days. There was some hope. As long as no one found out he could live with this slightly unusual arrangement. Lunch drew near as he felt his bladder begin to beg for emptying.
"I can hold it for 15 minutes" he told himself. But the urge became stronger. He was ready to burst. He began to raise his hand when the trickle began. He panicked at the wet warmth and the trickle became a stream. He had no control over it, he tried to stop it, but the huge wet spot grew across his pants as a puddle gathered at his feet. His pants, his shirt, his socks, everything was soaked.
Mrs. Clark noticed the look of distress on John's face.
"John, is there something you find shocking about Algebra."
"Did you... Did you wet your pants?"
John could only offer a mortified nod as laughter rose from the rest of the class.
Mrs. Clark sighed softly. "Go to the front office. They'll have someone pick you up."
John walked out of the class room trying to ignore everyone else. John wondered what would happen at the office. Would he have to confess that was a bedwetter as well? Would he have to tell them that he wore baby diapers at night?
He approached the front desk. The secretary, Ms. Johnson, was going some paperwork. "What do you need?" She asked his without looking up.
"I..." The words caught in his throat. He would have to admit his childish act. "I wet my pants," he stammered. "Could you call my mom and ask her to pick me up?"
Ms. Johnson looked up "Oh," she said taking a tone one would take with a much younger child "Yes, of course, just sit down and we'll see what we can do."
John gave her the phone number as she dialed.
"Hello, Mrs. Matthews, this is John's school. It seems that John had an accident... No he's fine what I mean is he wet pants. Yes, we don't really have a policy for this but we'd allow you to just pick him up. So you'll be over? Great, he'll be waiting right here in the office."
"She says she'll be right over."
A towel was placed over a seat and John sat and waited. His wet clothes clung to his skin and provided a constant reminder that he'd done something one might expect of a Kindergartner. And right now he wanted his mom the way a five year-old might. He just wanted to go home, whatever decision she made for him would be fine by him.
Karen made her way to John's school. She'd thought this might happen and she was prepared to take her boy home. She entertained the idea that Jr. High wasn't the place for him. Maybe, for just a little while, it would be best if he stayed at home where she could look after him.
She signed him out of school and ushered him into the car. "I know its not your fault, honey. I'm just going to take you home and let you clean up. But you need to understand that you may have to start wearing diapers during the day, too."
At home John showered and once again dressed in clothes his mother had picked out for him. He went into the living room and watched TV. His mother joined him and shortly afterwards an ad for Pampers came on.
John blushed slightly at the ad. The leak guards, the absorbency, these were things that now kept his PJs dry at night. It caught Karen's eye as well. She was once again among the mothers who purchased diapers. This ad was aimed at her, a concerned parent who wanted to keep her baby dry and comfortable.
Later, just before six, Karen interrupted John's video game. "How about going out pizza?"
John loved the idea. He put on his shoes and coat.
On the way out the door Karen paused and turned to John "Why don't you go potty before we leave. I don't want any problem while we're out."
John was a bit embarrassed to have his mother regulate his trips to the bathroom. But he knew it was a good idea.
At the pizza parlor they ate their pizza and talked. Karen paid the bill and left a tip on the table.
"Honey, why don't you try going potty again. You really drank a lot of soda."
John nearly died at the thought that somebody may have heard that. But no one seemed to notice so he walked into the bathroom. He was certain he didn't need to go, but he wasn't going to argue with his mother.
But he did need to go, and badly. He worried about he hadn't been able to feel it. Was he really becoming a baby? He didn't tell his mother about it hoping it would all just go away.
Later that evening John was watching TV with his mother. Once again he felt the urge to pee. This time it was strong and sudden. Knowing he was in dire straits he started to get up. But it was already too late. He had no control over the flow of pee. He was soon sitting in a puddle.
Karen came into the living-room with two mugs of hot cocoa in her hands. The first thing she noticed was the look of horror on her son's face. Then she saw his wet pants. Her first thought was that he needed her more than she ever imagined.
She walked over to him and knelt down. He rose to his knees and hugged her, crying on her shoulder.
"There, there, honey. It's not your fault."
She patted his back. Suddenly she knew that she had to follow her instinct. "Honey, do you want me to take care of this?"
The words were somewhat cryptic but John grasped their subtle meaning. He nodded. She took his hand and led him upstairs into the bathroom. She put the plug into the tubs drain and began running warm water.
"Just sit down, baby," she said, removing his shoes and socks after he complied. She then had him stand up and removed his wet pants and underwear. Soon he was completely undressed. "Now get in the tub."
John got in the tub still sniffing and gulping. His mother wet a washcloth and began gently rubbing his back.
"There now, everything is going to be just fine. Just sit there and you'll be all clean and feel much better."
Soon he began to calm down. His despair began to melt as he listened to his mother's soft word they grew into an indistinct lull.
After he got out of the bath she wrapped a towel around him and dried him off. "Its pretty late so I think I'll get I'll just get you ready for bed now."
John followed her into his room with only a towel to cover him. As she gathered his diaper supplies he laid down on his bed. She applied diaper cream, powdered him and taped him up in a diaper. She selected the cutest PJs she could find and helped him into them.
"Now lets go watch some TV before bed, OK?"
It was odd walking with a diaper on for the first time he could remember, but there was also a feeling of contentment that came from being freshly scrubbed and diapered The PJs he was wearing were rather thin though and on this chilly night he soon grew cold.
Karen noticed his shivering. She went to the closet and took out a blanket. "John, honey, are you cold?"
"Well, come over here."
She wrapped him tightly in the blanket and pulled him across her lap. After a moment of surprise, John simply smiled and rested his head on her shoulder. After a while a thought occurred to him. He knew it was odd but it somehow made sense.
"Mom?" he said.
"Would it be alright if I called you 'mommy' again?"
"Of course it would," she grinned. She was a mommy again.
"OK mommy," John said. He settled his head back down on his mommy's shoulder and closed his eyes. Before long he drifted off to sleep.