Parenthood has a way of numbing you to body fluids. From runny noses to midnight vomit, offspring will share with no sense of propriety. Even elimination, once handled behind closed doors with a loud fan to stifle the evidence, sometimes enters the public domain when you fail to notice the your baby outpaced their diaper’s capacity on your sleeve, the lack of a changing table in the public restroom reduces you to making the swap in the restaurant booth, or your preschooler escapes the restroom, pre-cleaning, to demand assistance from the other parent.
Two kids into motherhood, I have no lack of good poop stories. There’s the time my older daughter, all of ten days old, projected a stream of mustard colored poo onto her daddy’s chest. Her timing was perfect; he was just going in face first with her feet in one hand and a wipe in the other, and I was at the exact 90 degree angle to see the perfection of her arch, as it narrowly dodged his face and landed squarely below his chin. I laughed until I peed and got the scissors to cut him out of his ruined clothes. She was also the newly potty-trained flower girl, who confronted the stress of a highly formal rehearsal dinner by going into the dark corner next to the table and relieving herself on the four star restaurant’s carpet.
But, unlike some young mothers, I didn’t come into parenthood a poop-novice. My job, at least to some degree, had prepared me for the journey. It’s my best church poop story.
I had only been on staff a short time, and had no children of my own yet. There were a dozen kids in children’s church, and I was alone with them. An older couple had brought their grandson to visit. They were well-respected church leaders, and generally carried themselves with extreme dignity and decorum. Their grandson was the best dressed kid in church that Sunday, and I thought little of it when he asked to use the restroom. “Of course, it’s right next door. Just come back when you are finished.”
I couldn’t leave the other kids to show him, but he was about five years old, I thought, and came from good stock. Surely, he knew what he needed to know.
He was gone for some time, and I realized he didn’t just need to take a quick pee. But finally, he came around the corner, and I breathed a sigh of relief that he’d been able to take care of his needs independently. He first words, however, stirred my concern, “There wasn’t any soap, so I just got my hands wet.” No soap?
Going quickly into the restroom, I was confronted with the latest incarnation of the territory dispute between the church and the daycare that leased the space during the week; the daycare had locked up their soap for the weekend.
Knowing how long he’d been in there, I couldn’t ignore the situation. I told him to wait there, and, leaving the other children to their own potential demise, I scoured the church for a spare tub of soap. Finding it, I returned and oversaw his thorough hand washing. When we turned to the paper towel, I was dismayed to see that it, too, was left empty. Ready to compromise, I told him to shake his hands off, that they would dry OK on their own.
It was a moment of utter dismay when he replied, “There wasn’t any of that other paper, either.”
“That other paper?”
“You know, the stuff you use to clean your butt.”
I rushed into the stall and with great relief, saw that there was, indeed, toilet paper there. I showed him and he was thrilled, “Oh, good! I didn’t see it!” I suggested that perhaps he should make use of it. He agreed, and said he might need a minute, because he might have more poops.
Relieved to think my poop story was resolved, I returned to the classroom and proceeded with the lesson. As time stretched out again, I knew something was wrong, so I cautiously returned to the outside of his stall door and asked if everything was OK. I could hear the indications of a struggle as he replied, “Mom says to make sure I get my butt cleaned all the way, so I check it twice with my hand when I think I’m ready.”
I didn’t ask him what he does with his hand when he realizes he is wrong, but I’m pretty sure he’d already been wrong a few times, and that was why the smells in that stall were so overwhelming. I tried not to look in when he declared himself finished; I couldn’t face the possibility. Whoever locked up the soap and paper towels on Friday could handle it on Monday, because I still had a dozen unsupervised kids waiting for me next door, a poop-smeared bathroom stall was definitely not in my job description, and I didn’t have so much as a paper towel to attack it with.
He had looked like such a little dignitary in that suit, but I knew what that little boy was really capable of.
Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. Deuteronomy 23:12