I don’t know why people think motherhood isn’t intellectually challenging. I have a problem that I just can’t figure out and I can’t tell you how nuts that makes me. I’ve spent a good amount of my life in school, working out problem after problem. Like you, I feel like a fairly capable, well-trained adult person, ready to handle most everyday concerns.

Oh, the naiveté.

Here’s my dilemma: lately, I can’t get my daughter to take the naps she needs. I’ve read all the books, and I’ve learned to watch for signs of sleepiness such as rubbing the eyes, yawning and, my personal favorite, laying on the carpet and saying, “Mama, I tiiire.” So I spring into action, entering the sleepytime routine and sending my baby girl gently to her crib, lovey in arms.

At this point, I’m usually doing well. My daughter doesn’t protest, but instead begins a little chirping ritual that my husband and I have decided is her bidding goodnight to various stuffed friends. She then goes through a series of ups and downs in her crib, ultimately ending up someway on her tummy, tushy aimed toward the ceiling.

As I am putting my feet up, satisfied with my ultimate mommy abilities, that’s when it happens: she’s up, and it’s almost always for the same smelly reason.

That’s right, it’s the diaper dilemma. My daughter demands a pristine posterior (who can blame her?) and this messy little problem continually interrupts her sleep routine. You’d think this wouldn’t be such a problem but oh! you’d be wrong. Garnering all the skills from my professional life, I decide to attack this problem scientifically, establishing several hypotheses and conducting the appropriate experiments. I can figure this out with a rational, step-by-step approach, I decide. I begin with such supreme optimism. . . here’re my notes:

Hypothesis one: If I wait long enough to know for sure that it’s the diaper that’s keeping the baby awake, then I can successfully change it and put her back down. Result: Ha. After my daughter has been in bed for 20 minutes and sees an out in sight, she’s not about to go down happily a second time.

Hypothesis two: If I go to her immediately when I first suspect the stinky situation, then she will more readily return to her crib. Result: Ha ha. A good two out of three times that I test this hypothesis, my baby girl’s bum is completely clean. And when I attempt to put her back down, well, see results of hypothesis one. What a stinker.

Hypothesis three: If I wait until she has completed her business before putting her to bed, then the child will sleep peacefully. Result: Yeah, right. After keeping my child up until she is bleary-eyed, giggling madly, and still with a clean bum, I learn that there is a relationship between the falling asleep and the dirtying of the diaper.

It is now that I realize that I am living a true, philosophical paradox: my baby won’t sleep with a dirty diaper, but she won’t dirty her diaper until she’s falling asleep.

Of course my scientific approach failed miserably; what in motherhood is scientific? But I had to give it a try. . . I suppose I have to chalk this up to another marvel of nature. You veteran mothers may know the solution to this dilemma. If you do, please tell me.