“There are horrors that you cannot unsee and must be shared.”
That was the first word of the first parenting discussion I can recall having with my fabulous sister-in-law.
If you are a parent of a child who eats solid food, you know what I am talking about. If you don’t, this Glad-Lock commercial does a good job reminding you about the effects of combining wavelengths of the visible light spectrum.1
Talking about feces with my brother’s wife never entered my mind as a possibility, but after having children it came so naturally. Poop is so central to your life with children for their first years that if you get a bunch of parents in a room, once the poop ice is broken, you will be flooded2 with poop war stories.
There is the alien-like meconium of a newborn. There are poosplosions. There are foods you should not have given to your child. There are horrors that you cannot unsee and must be shared.
You start out your child’s life responsible for their literal crap, and gradually transition to dealing with their metaphorical crap. While the kid’s in diapers, there is a constant, near unconscious, awareness of the state of your child’s bowel movements. Have they had one yet? Will I have to change a diaper in a parking lot? Can we risk going to the pool?3 One of the most freeing moments as a parent is when you no longer have to worry about your child pooping in his or her pants. An anxiety you had almost forgotten you had is suddenly lifted, and you can shift your constant worry to other, less smelly things.
As a group of mammals living in very close proximity, privacy is a rare commodity. Doing your biological duty4 is one of the few times of guaranteed privacy. As a grownup, I try not to abuse the privilege like Paul Rudd in This is 40 where he spends hours on the weekend playing Scrabble on his iPad while sitting on the toilet. As a parent, I find myself saying things I can remember my mother saying to me, like “Are you okay in there?” When I say it now, I don’t have actual concern that someone is not okay; I use it as a gentle reminder that all good poops must come to an end.
Younger kids often have the opposite problem: refusing to poop when everyone in the house knows they have to. When your child is refusing to eat, is super cranky, and smells like farts, there is a magical solution, a solution a four-year-old refuses to hear. I have been known to resort to bribery5 or shenanigans6 to get a tiny human to sit on a toilet or potty for 30 seconds.
As I complete my transition from the Biological Age of Parenting to the Emotional Age of Parenting, I can’t say I miss much or even any of it. I have zero nostalgia for changing diapers and wiping bottoms. It’s great that my girls are more and more self-sufficient with their basic needs.7 The memories I have of the Great Poop War are now just memories, not trauma. Poop is funny, so I’ll never stop talking about it, but I no longer feel compelled to bring it up at social occasions.8
Photo by: artotem
- It’s been a long time since high school physics. I don’t know if combining wavelengths is how this actually works, I just wanted to sound fancy. ↩
- Intentional imagery. ↩
- A swim diaper is best described as a poop-containment unit. ↩
- Pun absolutely intended. ↩
- “I’ll read you a book.” ↩
- “I have fallen into a magical sleep and the only thing that can wake me up is the sound of poop and pee hitting water.” ↩
- If the Zombie Apocalypse happened today, my girls would still probably go feral, but not permanently so. ↩
- Just publicly on the Internet. ↩