Parenting Is Not a Desk Job
While I was in the shower, Noodle, age three, ran in and grabbed a wad of toilet paper. I asked him what was wrong as he was running out the door. His pants were off. When his pants are off, something has definitely gone awry. He returned with soiled paper and threw it in the toilet, got some more and bounded back out the door. He didn’t pause to answer my pleadings to find out what was going on. But I knew. To be honest with myself, I knew. And I thought, well, it can’t get much worse, so I’ll just stand here another minute and enjoy the —
What was I thinking??!! Of course it can get worse! When my constantly-in-motion spilling machine tries to clean anything, it always ends in an unfathomably bigger disaster. Considering the urgency in his toilet paper acquisition and his uncannily focused dashing back and forth, the mess was most assuredly of a fecal variety.
I did a quick rinse, shut off the water, wrapped up quickly in my towel and walked cautiously — scanning for poo — oh, there’s a little bit already stepped in right there — to the living room where I found Noodle trying to cover the pile with bubble wrap.
My first reaction was: When did he eat corn? I don’t remember corn. Maybe that isn’t corn. What is it then? Certainly not cheese or squash or pizza or peanut butter or banana or Brussels sprouts or round beans par boiled then flash fried in a delicate olive oil and garlic sauce, served cold as a side for seared duck with a fig-infused port demi-glace. He pretty much just eats cookies.
Collecting my thoughts, I got down to business. I grabbed a spray bottle and started dousing the poop while I scraped it up with paper towels. Yes scraped. You have to get your fingers under it to scoop it off the rug. If you try to pinch and lift, you’ll just squish it, causing it to fall back to the rug and potentially splatter, which results in a cleaning process far worse than a quick scrape. (You’re bound to miss a droplet here or there in unfortunate event of a splash.) It takes some dexterity and some skill to master the art of the quick and dirty poop scrape. If you want to practice at home, try picking up minced hot dogs soaked in canola oil, warmed to roughly body temperature. It’s not as easy as it appears, especially in a chaotic panic, such as the moment under scrutiny here, while loosely wrapped in a beach towel, and still mostly soaking wet.
To my surprise, I didn’t even have a faint urge to vomit; I’m so deep into this dad thing I could have been chewing a fried egg sandwich and not flinched. In fact, one time I was chewing a fried egg sandwich when the boy ran out of the bathroom with a smear of poo on his inner thigh. He was about to touch it — again. That’s how it got smeared in the first place. So when I say the poo was on his inner thigh, I really mean that it was on his inner thigh and his hands, which is a far more dire strait than the simple poop-slips that inspire the summoning of his personal wiping assistant, namely me, while still chewing breakfast. But I’m fading off topic here.
Spray spray spray, blot blot blot. Repeat. Then it occurred to me that I smelled bleach. Oh. No. I hadn’t, had I? I couldn’t have? Yes. Yes I did. I had grabbed a bottle of diluted bleach, and I had now sprayed bleach all over the slightly-ground-in poo on the carpet of our little rental flat in Narrow Neck, New Zealand, where we have agreed to pay to have the carpets cleaned — not replaced! — upon our departure. More chaos.
I grabbed a pint glass of water, spilled it intentionally — do as I say, not as I do, alright kid — and started blotting. Blot, don’t rub. Blot, don’t rub.
As I was pressing my hand into the cut pile carpet, trying to get the bleach (and liquified poo) to leach back into a paper towel, it occurred to me, and you, gentle reader have probably already realized the same — nobody had wiped the boy’s ass.
Quick quick quick! Run into the bathroom. Go go go!! He took his bubble wrap with him and set it up in front of the toilet so that he could stomp on it; this kid knows fun when he sees it. I grabbed a wad of paper, moistened it as he crouched down unintentionally conveniently, and I wiped.
Just as I started wiping, my finger slipped through the moistened paper (amateur move on my part) and he stood up because, in his mind, there was a finger in his ass and it was time to start jumping. The top of his head hit the bottom of my chin and smashed my lip into my teeth. Numbness. Bleeding. Various words that children shouldn’t hear. Check in the mirror. Yes, there’s blood. It felt worse than it looked though; I continued to inspect the wound as I trudged forward with a general tidying up of the bathroom.
Of course, having your hands near your mouth after wiping the bottom of a person with suspiciously soft stool, which you have recently scraped furiously and flusteredly with little or no safety gear, is generally regarded as an unwise move. It’s not for nothing, I thought to myself, that an otherwise well-trained potty-pro missed the mark by half a house length. Something must be digestively afoul in that little boy, and, though I had showered within the last 90 seconds, I should definitely resume washing up at least enough to get any straggling poo out from under my fingernails, before I go poking and prodding my busted lip. But the sink was occupied.
Noodle now stood at the sink, twisting the knobs of the water taps, starting to fill the sink because, as he loudly declared — and does he really think that things are going well enough to warrant shouting — he needed to brush his teeth. Immediately. No, you don’t understand: right now!
How one develops such a misdirected sense of urgency by age three, I don’t know. Well, he must get it from me, mustn’t he? It makes sense: we spend more time with each other than with anyone else, so much so that we’re becoming the average of one another. For his sake more than my own, I fear this, because for however scandalously damaged my sense of propriety might be, I’d like to think that my sense of priority is still sufficiently intact to—
Then I realized, as you have probably also realized, that on the living room carpet is still a pile of bleach-soaked poo that ain’t gonna clean itself up.
Sometimes I miss my old desk job, when shit was just a metaphor.