The Humiliations of Motherhood: Enough to Scare the Crap Out of Anyone (Quite Literally)
Last week I was at the library (yes, yes, Nerd Alert and all that), and met with a most horrific mother-and-child scene in the Ladies restroom. [Warning: The following story is not for the faint of heart.]
I can’t say for certain what actually occurred just prior to my arrival, but I can say this: The mother was at the sink wiping her legs from top to bottom and her dress was soaked. The child was in a similar state of disaster on her backside. The floor was covered in “debris” that somehow managed to span two of the three stalls. The smell was like nothing I’d ever encountered in this world. (And this is coming from a woman who once managed to melt a plastic cup in a malfunctioning dishwasher.)
The mother was saying something along the lines of, “You’re old enough to know when you have to go! Now I’m a mess!” *Sigh* “But I suppose all that matters is that your tummy feels better now.” She was wiping down the counters with the industriousness of a career janitor and profusely apologizing for subjecting me to their little horror show. Putting on my amateur sleuth’s hat, I deduced that this poor couple must have been enjoying a little reading time in the Children’s room when the girl promptly let fly with a substantial “accident” on her mother’s lap. (Please, call me Nancy Drew henceforth.)
This, I’m certain, is only one of many such stories in this woman’s repertoire of bathroom debacles. Not because her child is a monster. But because that’s what kids do. They’re ticking time bombs of bodily functions they haven’t yet learned to control. In fact, I imagine every parent has a Rolodex of bathroom related traumas that still stick out in their memory twenty, thirty years later.
When questioned on this subject, my own mom had this to report: “Do you not remember when Matt threw up a pile of moo shoo pork in the back of the station wagon the day we bought it?” Good grief, no! ‘Tis a blessing I have a terrible long-term memory, evidently. But while I’m sure it was a nightmare to clean puke out of station wagon upholstery, at least that could be dealt with in the privacy of our garage. My friend from the library? Not so lucky.
To be clear, it’s not the act of having to deal with bathroom…material that terrifies me. I can handle a lot of truly disgusting stuff. There are things I won’t even mention that I have to do for the cats and I do it without blinking an eye because they’re my babies. I know this is how parents feel, and I know I wouldn’t have a problem with that kind of stuff at home with kids. I’ve never balked at a diaper (unlike Drew, who staunchly refuses to go anywhere near them when we co-babysit).
But dealing with these things out in public? That’s a whole other realm. One I’m not sure I’m capable of sailing through with a cavalier “Oops, oh well! That happened I guess!” attitude. I would have been MORTIFIED if I were in that mother’s shoes in the bathroom. And it would have taken me twenty minutes and several shots of gin (because I’d no doubt have to start carrying a flask if this was the kind of bedlam I’d be encountering) to get up the nerve to tell someone at the front desk about the complete disaster that is now their bathroom and ask for a mop.
I know this post will be read by parents who say things like, “Oh, you learn to get over that kind of stuff real fast.” Okay, maybe most people do. But there’s a whole spectrum in terms of comfort levels with regards to how people are perceived in public. I’m someone who’s hyper-aware of not inconveniencing others, being loud, or generally being a menace to a peace-and-quiet loving society. Drew is the same way – he came home a bit wild-eyed after dinner with his two small nephews earlier this year because he’d never experienced being “the loud table” in the restaurant. Even the most well-behaved kids act out every now and then, and every time our child would accidentally pee on a chair, scream their head off, knock over a shelf of books or pull down a librarian’s skirt, we’d die a little bit inside. I know we would. And yes, I know kids aren’t capable of this kind of chaos for the entire 18 years they’re under your roof, but it is a pretty substantial number of years where you’re dealing with it. Particularly if you have multiples.
This, amongst many other things, scares the crap out of me. What event have you witnessed that’s scared the crap out of you with regards to parenting?