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what to do when your child poops in the museum

Warning: this story contains poop. And profanity. If either offends you, look away. But if you like laughing at the follies of others (me), read on…

I was feeling indestructible. We just returned from vacation—a nice break from the everyday grind—and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for being able to have this stay-at-home-mom gig. I chose this, I thought, and how lucky am I to be able to spend every day with these two little angels? They poop unicorns and lilies and their urine smells of cupcakes.

So instead of spending our first day back from vacation catching up on laundry and grocery shopping, I decided to take my darling cherubs to the Children’s Museum. To hell with being sensible! I announced. We might not have a fruit or vegetable in the house, but today we’ll have FUN! 

The day was going swimmingly. Charlie (15 months) was toddling around with glee and her older sister Lucy (3) had found a slide that fascinated her more than the iPad. But all at once my tranquility was broken when Lucy asked from atop the slide,

“Mom, did you bring any extra panties?”

“No. No I didn’t, you little shit.”

But what I really said was, “Yes I did, sweetie. Did you poop?” Because she was making the squeezey face. (If you’re a parent you know exactly what the squeezey face is).

I felt her bottom (sidebar: at what point in parenting, I wonder, is it no longer appropriate to squeeze your child’s butt to check for fecal matter?). Inside her panties was a quarry of rock-hard turds the size of dimes. Shit. She’s dehydrated.

Just kidding. Because right at that moment I didn’t give a lick about her hydration. It was more like Shit. She has panties full of tiny turds. Now I have to clean this crap up, goddamit.

“Okay, Lu. Let’s take you to the bathroom and change your panties.”

I lifted her off the slide and tore Charlie away from the fish tank. In all her toddler glory she threw a tantrum the size of Texas and pulled the Gumby trick, and I nearly dropped her to the floor.

As we made our way out of the exhibit and toward the restroom, Lucy exclaims,

“Mom, it tickles!”

I look down. “What tickles?”

She’s squirming and giggling and grabbing her ankles.

“It’s on my leg!”

Mother fucking fuck fuck fucking fucker, I say in my head, because I know exactly what is on her leg, and I have packed everything in the diaper bag but my flask of vodka.

I lean down and, from the outside of her pants, locate the rock-hard-size-of-a-dime turd that has jumped ship from her panties and attempted to make its way down to her socks. I squish it to the inside of her pants so it doesn’t fall to the floor, which in retrospect I think is a pretty cool MacGyver-type move and I should receive some sort of awesome mom award for. The trophy would look like a pile of rock-hard turds.

Tiny paleontologist

Ten yards later, we’re almost to the restroom. Lucy feels a tickle again, and turns her tiny blonde head back in the direction from which we’ve come. There—sitting in the middle of the museum—is a lone turd. My hands are full with Gumby Baby, and I have no way to get the wipes out of my purse to pick up the lone turd that is sitting in the middle of the packed Children’s Museum.

I can see the family restroom: the sign says vacant. In a panic I stuff the girls inside, tell them to stay put, and dash back to the turd, which is miraculously still there and hasn’t been mistaken for a hunk of Baby Ruth by some unsuspecting kid. I pick up the turd with a sanitizing wipe, scrub down the floor with another, and then run back to the restroom.

Tinier paleontologist

Once inside, I discover that the “family” restroom is not your standard run-of-the-mill deal. It has two stalls, a changing table, three sinks, and three urinals about a foot off the ground. Apparently it’s built for the Brady Bunch.

Charlie, in the ten seconds I’ve been gone, has removed all three urinal cakes and is making a game of sticking her arm as far into the pipes as far as she can reach (little boys don’t flush urinals, by the way—I suspected this all along). I stare at her in amazement as she looks up at me, smiles, picks up a urinal cake off the floor, sticks the rim of its plastic cagey thing in her mouth, and walks into a stall. I run after her, yank the nasty urinal cake out of her gross little paws, and resolve that we are all taking 27 baths in rubbing alcohol when we get home.

Meanwhile, Lucy is running around in circles, leaving a trail of turds in her wake. I decide to corral her first, since Urinal Cake-Eater will only go for the gusto again if she’s not in my arms. I get Rabbit-Turd Pooper (do you like how my little angels have less charming names by this point in the story?) clean and in fresh clothes. I get Urinal Cake-Eater clean and in fresh clothes. I pick up the restroom, wash my hands 98 times, wash their hands 345 times, and douse us in hand sanitizer until we’re high from the fumes.

When we emerge from the bathroom I was off my high horse and back to (gross, putrid, stinky) reality. Being a mom can be completely gross. And just when you think you’re doing everything right, they’re leaving a Hansel & Gretel trail of turds through your favorite play area and trying to hold hands with China through urinal plumbing.

In the future I’ll think of that day and laugh. Just not today. Or tomorrow. But maybe in a few months, after several glasses of wine with my girlfriends. But for now, I just need another vacation.

i don’t know what I’m doing

Children come into this world stamped with their own distinct trademark moves: looks they make when they’re pooping, ear-piercing screams they howl when nothing in particular is wrong (meant only, I think, to invite unwanted parenting advice from old biddies at the grocery store), and, one of my all-time favorites: sleeping with their middle fingers cocked just so when they are teeny tiny newborns (choice photo captions abound).

When Lucy, my darling daughter of three, is doing something that makes me want to call CPS on myself she shouts, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!” It’s not a phrase that’s meant to deter me. It’s not an angel-voiced “Nothing Mother! I’m not doing anything in here!” It’s a loud, demanding, “I’M ONLY THREE AND I HAVE POOR IMPULSE CONTROL! I NEED YOU TO PULL ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE! PLUS I WANT YOU TO SEE WHAT I’M DESTROYING IT’S FREAKING AWESOME!”

A short list of things that Lucy has done when she hasn’t known what she’s been doing:

1. Painted the hair of her Princess Tiana doll pink, slathered her face in makeup, filed her (plastic) fingernails down to nubs with an emery board and then tried to cut off her hands with a cuticle nipper. (Do you have a cuticle nipper? They’re like mini gardening shears. To poor Princess Tiana they were like a freaking hand guillotine). When I walked in on her in the bathroom and found the magnetic lock to the drawer that held all these magical gadgets broken, she assured me that Princess Tiana was itchy so she was just trying to make her more comfortable by filing and cutting off her hands. I felt much better.

2. Pushed her changing table into the middle of her room (which is on wheels but still enormously heavy. I sense that we may have a Spiderman situation on our hands.), threw its contents onto the floor, and was using a golf club to paddle her way through pirate-infested waters.

Lucy: “I don’t know what I’m doing!”

Me: “You’re rowing to Cuba. Bring me back a mojito. Quiet time is over in thirty minutes.”

3. Before she reached Cuba she pulled over to have an accident in her panties. She took off said panties and decided that the poop (lots of people piss and moan when mommy bloggers talk about poop so let’s just call it hot dogs) would be better in the ocean. All. Over. The. Ocean. (Where I say “ocean” please insert “white area rug.”) So Lucy decided that the hot dogs needed to be smeared and smashed and stomped on all over the white area rug.

Lucy: “I don’t know what I’m doing!”

Me: “Me neither. Where’s my goddamn mojito?”*

4. Lucy has one of those twisty-door-handle-cover-thingies on the inside of her room that’s supposed to keep her in her room during quiet time so she doesn’t do things like try to behead Princess Tiana. But somehow, tiny Houdini that she is, she managed to press the button lock on the door handle while the cover was on, probably while she was trying to break out of her room and go kill Princess Tiana once and for all. She was locked in her room. I slipped a heavy metal salad spoon under the door and told her to smash the twisty-door-handle-cover-thingie until it fell off. With one scream and an “I don’t know what I’m doing!” she broke the cover off and was free. If she ever finds herself in prison I have a feeling it won’t be for long.

Here I am getting my “makeup” done by the little gal. She said that the eyeliner on my forehead was “a hat, like a man’s top hat.” She didn’t mention the motivation behind the Hitler-esque lipstick mustache. Is she trying to tell me something?
*I don’t really say things like “goddamn” in front of my children and ask them to give me alcohol. I do what normal parents do: sneak a bottle of chardonnay into the closet, shut the door and cry until they come looking for me.

a wonderful mother

It was a makeshift scarf, made by my mother from a piece of fleece from the fabric store. Lucy felt warm and cozy and grown up wearing it, so I let her. She wrapped it around her neck and we drove to the mall for some playtime before dinner at her favorite restaurant on her third birthday.

As I strapped the baby in the carrier I thought I was doing everything right: I told Lucy we weren’t bringing the stroller because she didn’t like riding in it. I told her I wouldn’t be able to carry her because I was already carrying Charlie in the Ergo. I had prepared for every conceivable need: diapers, a change of clothes, hand wipes, water, snacks. But what I didn’t prepare for was that scarf, being slowly pulled tighter and tighter around Lucy’s neck by her tiny three year-old hands. Twelve feet into the department store, she was beginning to choke herself.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rockin’ the 3D glasses

 

“Lucy, sweetie, we need to loosen the scarf. You’re pulling it too tight and I’m afraid you’re going to hurt yourself.”

“Nooooooo! I want it like this!” I pried one finger between the pink fleece and her skin, which was also turning pink. A few more moments like this and her face would be blue.

“You have a choice: we can make it looser or I can take it away and put it in my purse.”

“No! No! No!” She collapsed in a tearful fit under a rack of men’s Bermuda shorts. “I want it tight!” I could feel every eye in menswear on us. She let out a scream.

“Let’s go. We need to talk somewhere quiet.” I scooped her up—no easy feat with a 22 pound baby strapped to my side. We walked as quickly as possible to a women’s dressing room and shut the door. I set her down, unwrapped the scarf, and stashed it in my purse out of sight. Then the fit really began.

Charlie Belle, 11 months

 

“I. Want. My. Scaaaaaarrfffff! Moooooommmmmm! I want my SCARF! NOW!” She hit me. Kicked me. Nearly kicked her sister. Threw herself on the floor. Spit. Wiped snot in her hair. Screamed some more.

“Lucy, you have a choice. We can stay in the dressing room and cry, or we can go play and then have dinner. You decide.”

“I. WANT. MY. SCARF. NOOOOOWWWWW!”

“The scarf is not an option. Your choices are to stay here and scream, or to go play and then have dinner. Those are your choices.” She slumped down. Her eyes softened a bit. The worst was over.

“I want you to carry me to the play area.” Shit. The restaurant and its wine were looking very, very far away.

“Sweetie, we talked about this in the car. I didn’t bring the stroller because you don’t like to ride in it. I told you I wouldn’t be able to carry you because I was going to carry your sister. If you want to go to the play area you have to walk.”

“NOOOOOOOO! I. WANT. YOU. TO. CARRY. ME. NOOOOOWWWW!” The poor women in this fitting room—they only wanted to try on some clothes. Little did they know their afternoon shopping would come with a very loud soundtrack as well.

She’s 3…going on 13.

 

“Tell you what. I’ll carry you until I get very tired. And then I’ll hold your hand. There are posters of The Lorax on the way and we can stop and look at them.”

“The Lorax?” Bingo. I scooped her up as promised and we made a swift exit. I thought we were free and clear when I heard another fitting room door—the shopper who had been next-door—open behind us.

“Ma’am, I have to tell you something.” Here it comes. Sorry, lady, that you had to hear my child scream for 15 minutes. She was in her underwear, half covered by a dress still on the hanger. “You are a wonderful mother.”

That…I was not expecting. I was speechless.

“I heard the whole thing, and I just had to say that you are doing a wonderful job.”

The day had been so long and the last twenty minutes so stressful that I felt tears begin to well up. “Thank you—I’m so sorry you had to hear all that. It’s her birthday and I think she’s just a little overwhelmed.” She was complimenting me and all I could do was make excuses for Lucy’s behavior; I had been so prepared for an attack.

“Not at all. You handled it all very well.”

“Thank you. That means a lot. It really does.”

And it did. It meant everything. Because the truth is, I never hear that from anyone, not even people who know me very well. And yet a half-naked stranger who listened to one conversation for 15 minutes told me I was a wonderful mother and those words echoed in my ears for days. I was a wonderful mother. I am a wonderful mother.

Play Doh with Mom’s kitchen gadgets

 

No one wrote a how-to book for this job. There are no performance reviews. No bonuses and no report cards. And yet we are so quick to judge each other’s performances: Ian hits (Mimi must be a bad mother). Rebecca is 3 and doesn’t know her ABC’s! (Sophie must let her watch way too much TV). Alexander isn’t potty trained yet! (What the hell are Michelle and Sam thinking?).

Do we ever tell each other what a good, fantastic, unbelievable, jaw-dropping, ass-kicking job we’re doing? Nope. So we doubt ourselves. We try to do every little thing right. We compare ourselves to others and tear each other down and act all Mother Superior (pun intended). From someone who has heard those words, let me tell you: it felt like relief. Like, all this work, everything I do, everything I strive for, it’s all worth it. Because I’m good at this. Maybe my children will not grow up to be ungrateful, egotistical heroin addicts who make their living working in a traveling pet zoo. Maybe.

My little girl turned three that day and a year from now what I’ll remember most is not her birthday meal but those words from a stranger: you are a wonderful mother.

Wherever she is, I hope she knows that she is a wonderful woman who gave this mother encouragement when she needed it most.

 

raising little bear

It’s been about a billion years since I last gave you an update on my mini-me, a.k.a. Lucy, a.k.a. Little Bear. She’s grown so much and developed so much personality that I fear we’ll be sending her off to either Harvard or clown school next fall.

As she approaches the big 0-2 I’m more amazed than ever that a) we haven’t irreversibly screwed her up yet, b) all of her digits seem to be intact, and c) how much more I love her every single day.

You hear the parenting cliche all the time, but it’s true: there is no love like the love you have for your children, and it only gets bigger and more unimaginable day by day.

Of course there are days when you’d rather jump out the window than hear a Caspar Babypants song one more time. And there are times when you must accept that they have inherited your more charming qualities (or those of your husband…see above).

But when then they emerge from underneath the Christmas tree with a shit-eating grin and proclaim, “Mommy give Lucy tacos for Christmas!” all is quickly forgiven. Especially since all she asked for was tacos. And a Chapstick.

She’s so independent, so stubborn (like me), so curious (like her dad), so fierce, and so funny. She knows how to crack a joke, command the attention of a room, get exactly what she wants by outsmarting her opponent (me), bribe, bargain, and push every button in the book.

But she is also incredibly kind and sensitive. Every stuffed animal must be kissed and tucked in at bedtime. She shares toys with her friends (most of the time). She adores me (unless I’m walking her past Trophy Cupcake, instead of inside). She needs her dad like she needs oxygen. She has buckets of love for her grandparents (in the pic above she’s “helping” Papa put together a storage system for her room).

A friend asked us the other day what we think she’ll be when she grows up. Dave and I were a bit puzzled—we hadn’t really thought about it.

I answered, “anything she wants to be.” And that’s the truth. I know that wherever her life takes her she will be successful. Whatever she chooses to do, she will do it because it makes her happy. And when she’s not happy I’ll stand by her and hold her hand until she is.

And whoever she turns out to be—gay or straight, democrat or republican, astrophysicist or barista—I will be so incredibly proud of my little girl. And I will continue to love her more every single day, not just for who she is but for all of the joy and love and laughter that she brings to my life.

As she continues to grow and change she’ll only burn brighter, bringing that joy and love and laughter to other lives as she breezes through this world with that contagious grin. And I hope that every Christmas, no matter what else is on her list, she will always ask me for tacos.

-RDG