“Yes, mom, can I go to bed now?”
“How do your old pajamas fit? Are they snug? Too loose?”
“Mom, please. The pajamas fit fine, I am fine. I am also tired. please let me get some sleep.”
With that Bobby climbed up on the top bunk and made himself comfortable.
“Maybe you should sleep on the bottom bunk tonight?” Joan asked.
“Ok, ok. Goodnight. Sleep well.”
Joan and Theresa adjourned to their separate rooms. Joan did not sleep very well that night. Theresa didn’t either. Joan was worried that Bobby might be getting sick. Theresa was worried about something else entirely. Either way Bobby’s accident had changed the mood of the reunion visit.
The next morning, Joan and Theresa greeted each other in the kitchen. Joan was in a better mood, enjoying her coffee. Theresa, more of a tea drinker, had a cup of Earl Grey.
“Good morning, sis.” Joan said.
“Good morning,” Theresa sipped her tea, “Did you sleep well?”
“Yes. All things considered, the ranch always makes me feel relaxed. I’m sorry about getting so upset yesterday. I was just worried about Bobby. He has never had that problem before. I hope he is going to be ok.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m sure he was just distracted by everything there is to see.” Theresa said, trying to make her sister forget what had happened.
A call from the top of the stairs startled the two women.
“Aunt Theresa?” Bobby said.
“Can you come upstairs for a minute?”
“I’ll be right up.” Theresa responded. Looking at Joan, she reassured her, “I’ve got this, be right back.”
Theresa made her way up the stairs. As she approached the top, she saw Bobby standing just outside Sarah’s bedroom. His pajamas were soaking wet, and it looked like Bobby was starting to cry.
“Auntie, can you help me clean up? I don’t want my mom to see.”
“Absolutely, take your clothes off and run into the shower. I will take care of everything.”
Bobby dropped his soaked pajamas on the ground and jumped in the shower. As Theresa was gathering the soiled clothes, Joan walked in.
“What’s happened?” Joan said looking at the pile in Theresa’s hands. “Why is Bobby taking another shower?”
“Oh sis, you startled me. He, uh, he just felt the need to freshen up. I’m going to wash these pjs, just to keep on top of things,” Theresa said nervously.
As Theresa was saying that, Joan made her way over to the bunk bed. She ran her hands over the top sheet and was floored by what she felt.
“Did he…did Bobby wet the bed?!” she yelled. “What the hell is going on here? I think we need to take him to the doctors.”
“Joan, stop.” Theresa pleaded. “This is not a big deal. These things happen. Bobby hasn’t been here in a while. Maybe he is just disoriented. Also, he might be stressed because of the lost luggage. I’m sure this is just nerves.”
While Theresa was talking, Joan’s hand moved across the sodden sheet. She could hear the vinyl protection underneath.
“Why is the waterproof sheet still on the bed, Theresa? Did you know he was going to wet the bed?” Joan accused. “You knew it didn’t you?”
“What, how…no…uh, well” Theresa began to stammer.
“You said you would remove the vinyl sheet yesterday, why didn’t you do that?”
“I think I just forgot. In all of the excitement of you being here plus the laundry we had to do yesterday, it must have slipped my mind.”
“Theresa, is there something you know about this? When Bobby was here before, did he have these problems? I really think you are keeping something from me.”
Theresa let out a big sigh. “He is going to hear you. Please come downstairs with me and I will attempt to explain.”
Joan, unhappy with the situation agreed and they both made their way to the laundry room.
“Well?” Joan using an annoyed tone her sister hadn’t heard in a while.
“Yes, Bobby had ‘accidents’ while he was staying here.”
“What do you mean ‘accidents’?”
“A day or two after Bobby arrived on his first visit, he came back from a walk with Bear and, just like yesterday, he had wet himself. He didn’t seem to notice until I pointed it out to him, then he seemed very upset. I had no idea what to do, so I cleaned him up and tried to forget about it. The following night he wet the bed. He was more upset at this. I calmed him down and let him go outside to get his mind off of it.”
“Why didn’t you call and tell me about this?” Joan asked.
“You were working non-stop and in the middle of a divorce. Ultimately, that’s why Bobby was here. You needed the time to get your life in order. I just assumed that Bobby’s wet pants were something you forgot to mention.”
“He never wet his pants at home.”
“I know that now, but back then I didn’t want to add stress to your life.”
“Was that all that happened?”
“Not exactly.” Theresa said.
“What do you mean, ‘not exactly’?”
“That same day, he came back from playing outside and his pants were wet again. Once again, I cleaned him up. The thing that made it weird was he seemed to be unaware that he had wet himself. I asked him if he realized it and he said ‘no’. As a precaution, I took one of the vinyl sheets we had for Sarah and placed it on the upper bunk bed where he slept. The next morning he woke up wet. He got very upset and began to cry.”
“You should have told me about this, why didn’t you?” Joan asked.
“I didn’t because I was afraid that the solution I came up with would upset you.”
“What did you do?”
“During Bobby’s first stay, we were still dealing with Sarah’s slower development and her inability to stay dry. She was wearing light protection during the day, disposable pull-ups mostly, but at night we were putting on thicker tape up diaper. Bobby had seen us doing this on his first night and was understandably curious. It occurred to me that, if he wanted to, he could also wear one of Sarah’s nighttime diapers until he got control again. So, I asked him.”
“You asked Bobby if he wanted to start wearing diapers again? What did he say?”
“He said, yes. He was nervous, but he also seemed interested. For the rest of the day, he seemed preoccupied, but he stayed dry. That night while getting ready for bed, he was tense. Noticing this, I asked him again if he wanted to try wearing on of the nighttime disposable diapers. He blushed heavily, but nodded his head, yes. I decided that in order to not make too much of a deal about it, I would diaper Sarah, first while he watched. Then, I diapered him. Sarah was so excited to not be the only one wearing, and this made Bobby very happy. In fact, she removed her pajamas bottoms so she could see the two of them in the mirror together. Bobby was beet red at this point, but he seemed happy. They both played for another hour that night in only their pajama tops and diapers. It was difficult to get them both to sleep.”
Joan sat in stunned silence.
“Sis, are you ok?” Theresa asked.
“Uh yeah, I guess. I just don’t know how to react to hearing that my 9 year-old potty trained son wanted to wear diapers again. Was this the only night?”
“Not at all. The next morning when he woke up he ran in to my room and told me that he had not wet the bed. I was initially excited to hear that, but quickly realized that I hadn’t checked his diaper, yet. Unfortunately, it was wet. I realized that he would be wearing protection at night for the time being. I asked him if he wanted to change out of the wet diaper and he asked me if Sarah would be changed. Usually I wouldn’t change her nighttime diaper until after breakfast, or even later. Bobby shrugged his shoulders and said that he would change when I changed Sarah.”
“It almost sounds like he was enjoying himself,” Joan interjected.
“It did seem that way. I wish I could tell you that that was the end of it, but things did get a little more complicated.”
“After breakfast, I changed both of them out of their nighttime diapers. Bobby put on a clean pair of his normal underwear, Sarah put on her pull-up. They both immediately went outside to play. A couple of hours later, they came back for lunch. When Sarah came in to the house, I asked her if she needed a change. She had been getting better holding it in, so I liked to give her the benefit of the doubt. She said she needed a change, then she happily informed me that Bobby needed a change too. When Bobby walked through the door, I saw what she meant. Bobby’s pants were soaking wet from his crotch all the way to his ankles. The most upsetting part was that he once again didn’t seem to notice.”
“I asked him what had happened and he gave me a puzzled look. I took him inside and cleaned him and Sarah. As I handed Sarah her new pull-up, I decided that since Bobby had wet himself two days in a row, I should take some action. So I handed him a pull-up too. He asked me what to do with it, and Sarah volunteered to show him what to do. None of this seemed to upset him at all. When they came downstairs, it seemed as if nothing had happened, and they ate lunch and carried on with their day. The only thing I can add is that Bobby seemed so happy playing with Sarah. His bed and pants wetting didn’t effect him at all. Because of that, I just let them continue as if none of this was a problem.”
“All of this is happening and you never thought to call me? Why did you keep this from me?” Joan said, angrily.
“I did try and call you. Most phone calls went to voicemail. When you did actually answer, your stress and anger about work and the divorce were obvious. At the time, the wetting seemed trivial, and to be honest it made sense. A lot of children manifest their stress in things like bed and pants wetting. In my defense, he seemed so happy. Sarah and I did our best to take his mind off of the stress from home. I don’t want to blame, but I was doing the best I could considering you gave me no choice in taking him in. All of this was done with love. As the summer drew on, the diaper changes became a time to express tenderness and care, not to scold. In fact, Sarah and Bobby looked forward to getting ready for bed, in particular putting on their diapers. I also began to really enjoy the bonding of the experience.”
“You put them on him?”
“Of course. The nighttime diapers were to bulky to put them on themselves. They could handle the pull-ups, but I did the changing of the full diapers. I even taught Sarah to put on Bobby’s daytime diapers, in order to lighten the load.”
“Daytime diapers? I thought you said he wore pull-ups?” Joan’s concern was growing now.
“Yeah, the pull-ups only lasted the first week. I ended up ordering some regular diapers to wear during the day. Since he needed a change at least twice a day, sometimes more, I usually just let him run around in whatever shirt he was wearing and his diaper. To be honest, it created far less laundry, which was nice.”
“How many weeks did this go on?”
“It lasted the whole summer.”
“He wore diapers that whole first summer he was with you?”
“With the exception of the first day he was here, he wore them every day and night, every summer. For five years,” confessed Theresa.
“Oh my god,” Joan whispered as the reality set in. “I really feel I should go talk to him. I want to figure this out. There has to be a solution.”
“Joan, don’t do that. The one thing you must understand is that I made a promise to him. After that first day, I promised to never make him feel bad for what was happening. I promised to love him, no matter what. I promised to support him through that troubling time and to not question why it was happening. His trust in me got him through that first summer. His ability to live free without guilt or shame at this ranch is the promise I made to him. I know it sounds deep, but he needed this when he was here then. It would seem he needs it here now as well.”
“It almost sounds like you are suggesting that we diaper a 17 year old boy, so that we don’t hurt his feelings.”
“All I can say is that when he returned to you at the end of each summer, he was able to live a full year as your happy, optimistic son. Obviously his wetting accidents were not a problem at home. You have been saying that the last few years have been hard for the both of you. It’s possible that his regression while being here helped him cope all of those years. If we give him the opportunity again, maybe it will help. What could be the harm?”
“I don’t know. This is a lot to process. I really wish you had told me years ago. Also, what do you mean by regression? How far did this go?”
“Let’s not think about that now, it’s not important.”
”Fine, how do we even go about this?”
“I know just what to do. Follow my lead and just treat him like the special little boy he is.”