From Diaper to Quesadilla

September 14, 2022 | Jim Angehr

Not all milestones related to one’s children are to be savored and celebrated.

Case in point: diaper changing. There are many people who have changed more diapers than I, but many also that have changed less. Given that I have four kids and served as an active (if not eager) participant in diaper duty with them all, I’d estimate that I’m probably in the top third of total number of diapers changed among Human Beings That Have Ever Lived.

Which isn’t to say, however, that my memories of diapers smell like roses. Midway through Angehr child #3’s diaper days, I became deeply tired of the process. It was still over a year or two away from confidently continent living for #3, and then #4 unexpectedly came along. More diapers!

Somewhat miraculously, the Angehr diaper pail persisted through the early years of all four of our kids. I treated this occurrence as a mixed blessing at best, since despite my best efforts regularly to clean said pail, it would tenaciously cling to the decade of grime that had sludged up its crevices. I judiciously deployed disinfectant spray as if I were Robert McNamara with Agent Orange.

One night at a dinner party as I was excitedly discussing the anticipation of my diaper watch finally ending, I mentioned to the group that we had a diaper pail of stubborn staying power. I went on to relate the sheer relish and remorselessness with which I was planning on kicking the diaper pail to the curb, only for a table guest to come back to me with, “Oh Jim, you’ll be sad when you finally throw away your diaper pail. Your babies will be all grown up!” With a seriousness more fervid than the occasion warranted, I replied by way of observing, “I assure you that when I dispose of our diaper pail, I’ll curse it into the ground and utter imprecations upon the landfill to which it goes.” I didn’t intend it as a joke, and it wasn’t taken as one, which meant that an awkward silence then ensued.

At long last when the great day of diaper pail removal arrived, a celebration was had by all. Nowhere to be seen were any wistful tears about the passage of time, no speeches about how kids “grow up so fast” were spoken. I merely ran the diaper pail out of the house and into the trash can as quickly as possible, and as I was closing the lid on that unpleasant chapter of childrearing, I whispered to the diaper pail, “I hate you.”

The number of diapers I’ve changed since Clara was potty trained: zero.

On the other hand, other milestones catch you off guard. For Collingswood public schools, this week featured the return of full (i.e., not half) school days, which entailed that this dad was back on lunch making detail. In the past, I’d always take the first shift of taking care of my boys’ lunches, while Emily, who would sleep a bit later, would tackle as a second shift lunch for our girls, whose first bell struck later. Only now, I’m preparing food only for Micah and not his brother Josiah, who’s now starting his first year of college.

Micah is a pretty basic lunch order. Most days are peanut butter and jelly. Josiah, by contrast, would ask for whatever level of culinary bandwidth I could devote on a particular morning. Quesadillas were his go-to, with the caveat that he disliked the “boring” versions. He’d ask for whatever more exotic cheese we’d have on hand, a tasty meat left over from a recent dinner, and any combination of new ingredients (spices, fried onions, chopped peppers, aiolis, hot sauces, cilantros, chili powders, Himalayan sea salts, and anything else that came in small packages from Trader Joe’s) to tie everything together.

None of the rest of my kids much like quesadillas, nor do I, really. I may never make one again, I realized this week, and it registered as a sad milestone.

Assuming/hoping that the others of my children will leave the nest on schedule, I’ll soon enough only generate lunches for myself. I won’t miss the lunchmaking per se, but as my kids age up, I recognize that the ways in which I can give tangible value to them on a daily basis are dwindling. I loved hearing the occasional comment from Josiah, “Dad, that was a good quesadilla today.”

I’ve written previously in these spaces about my mother’s decline into the late stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s a condition without mercy. About a year ago, Mommy managed to speak one of her last complete sentences that she’d be able to say to me: “I’m sorry there’s not more I can do to help you.” I’ve only grown in understanding how deeply painful it must have been for her to grapple with that reality.

Even as a follower of Jesus, I have trouble believing that God delights in his children. Delights in me. Nevertheless, one of the enduring beauties of the Christian story is that while plenty of faith traditions call men and women to labor on behalf of the divine, only the Christian gospel holds the opposite, that our Lord has labored on our behalf, all the way through crucifixion and resurrection.

As of this week, quesadillas will remind me Jesus has, in fact, delighted in doing so.



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