“Sounds like you have been knee deep in actual puke lately!!” was the way my friend delicately summed up my last few weeks in a text message. And it’s hardly an exaggeration. This winter, we’ve been bombarded with more than our seasonal share of colds, allergies and stomach bugs.
It got me thinking, as I sprayed down my son’s sheets yet another time in a pre-wash ritual that’s become a little too familiar: How do we do it? How do we parents and caregivers deal with all the puke, all the poop, all the pee-pee?
Before I had kids, these were the things that I dreaded most when I imagined parenthood. How could anyone, I wondered, deal with all of that… YUCK?
Let’s start with the basics. Picture it: six years ago this month, our new baby arrives and the nurse helps us put on a diaper…once. After that, it’s up to us. I’m so desperately afraid I’ll break the baby, that he’ll squirm right off the changing table, that I don’t even know where to begin.
I look back now and wonder when did it start to become natural?
How did I go from freaking out about soiled baby clothes – choosing rapid disposal over the repulsive prospect of washing them – to the mama who can play it cool in even the most challenging of situations? Like the time I sprinted from the breakfast buffet to a casino bathroom with a child whose four-day potty strike had abruptly ended, only to discover a baseball sized wad of caca had already emerged at the bottom of his pant leg.
Nothing prepares you for that!
This is simply life with kids, my friends, and probably why that catch phrase “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” sounds a lot different to me now.
There must be something that transforms us, allowing us to rise to the occasion and face the utterly disgusting. Could it be instinct?
No different from the cat that meticulously licks her kittens clean or the bird that teaches her young to aim carefully for the large grey Mazda below, we find ourselves trying to sweet talk a 2-year-old into peeing in a cup at the doctor’s office when he still hasn’t made up his mind about this whole potty training business. It’s a tall order but we do our best to make it happen, as doubtful as the outcome may be.
Attempting the impossible: that’s part of the job description whether or not we knew it when we signed up for this parenting gig.
But then I think about the other moments – those that are much cleaner – and easier to delight in:
– that huge smile from my preschooler when he leaps into my arms for a hug
– the touch of those soft, little palms when one of my boys holds my hand
– the way my kindergartener runs into school with his backpack bopping up and down
– how they stretch on their tip toes to see themselves in the bathroom mirror while brushing their teeth
– their efforts to one-up each other with absurd knock-knock jokes
– their total lack of self-consciousness, one wearing a Spiderman costume to go shopping and the other coming home from school with his shoes on the wrong feet
– their ingenuity when they “skateboard” into the room on a toy cutting board
– the pride I feel when they share willingly or say thank you without a prompt
These things may seem insignificant to others but they are exactly the kind of everyday moments that remind me why I can now handle all the other stuff.* Is it love? Is it maturity? Is it because if we don’t, who will?
I think the truth is that day by day, we grow into our roles as parents. For my kids, I can be brave. I can try to find a solution and I can deal with the poop.
*Insert scatological word of your choice. [Ok,I admit it. I was dying to use the word “scatological” somewhere…]