My husband and I took our three kids to the mall the other day. We needed to buy a birthday present for a friend, so we thought we’d have some lunch, buy the gift and grab some groceries. After lunch, my husband wanted to go ogle in the Nespresso shop, so I said I’d take the kids to go get the birthday present and we’d meet there.
Along the way, we passed a brand new enormous American Girl store. My kids, six, three and three, don’t know American Girl but they certainly can recognize a toy store. So, we wandered in and I did a lot of, “Don’t touch that!” and “We’re just looking!” and “Yes, that’s lovely, now let’s move along.” We spent about 10 minutes wandering around when I started to try to herd them toward the door. At this point, my three-year-old son looked at me with *that* look and said, “Poop.”
I immediately jumped into gear and hollered for the girls knowing that we’d have to run to the closest bathroom. In the three seconds I was trying to corral the girls, I grabbed my son’s hand and started to race-walk out only to find him tugging on me and pointing behind him. I looked back to see a fresh steaming turd sitting in the middle of the beautiful shiny American Girl store. Apparently it had just rolled down his pant leg and landed with a plop.
In one of those millisecond moments that moves so slowly in playback, as my son was pointing at it, and I was turning and recognizing what had happened, the saleslady saw it as well and took two steps forward and began to reach down to pick up this odd little brown ball. A guttural scream ripped through me and I leapt forward to save her from her own curiosity yelling, “Noooo!”
I physically blocked her from the steaming turd, whipped out some wipes and reached down and scooped it up before she could register what was happening. I didn’t tell her what it was. I didn’t apologize. I just walked out with my head high carrying the warm little mass in my hand knowing I could never ever return.
Twenty minutes later, after a clean-up, we met my husband in the toy store and bought the birthday gift. I regaled him with the latest story of our children’s antics, much to his great delight. As we wandered off to the grocery store, we found ourselves waiting at the elevator still snickering at the ridiculousness of our lives.
A young couple walked up pushing a stroller that cost more than my first car. They were cooing over their precious little baby who was perched on a white pillow with a bow attached to her almost-bald head. Despite the fact that it was two o’clock on a Saturday afternoon at the mall, the woman was in a stunning little black dress with diamond earrings and a diamond necklace, high heels that made my feet ache just to look at them, and her hair and makeup were magazine-ready. I know I was staring.
In my entire life I’ve never looked that good; and it certainly never happened when I had a newborn. They all looked so perfect, they must have just come from their “Prettiest Family” photo shoot. They were so undeniably happy. Some might look at them and want to puke, or wipe those happy little smiles off their faces, or regale them with what’s to come down the parenting road. But I didn’t feel that. I found that as I watched this perfect little couple with their perfect little baby, I felt great happiness.
But, I also couldn’t help but compare their shiny perfectness with my motley crew – I’m in crazy leggings with a long tunic top and bedazzled Crocs, my daughters refuse to brush their curls, so they stick out like dandelions, my six-year-old likes to wear her dresses backwards with wild leggings underneath, my three-year-old likes to wear princess dresses regardless of practicality, and I kept expecting my other three-year-old to roll another turd out of his pants like a magician’s rabbit.
I didn’t want to burst their happy little parenting bubble. Maybe that ruffled little white pillow would forever remain pristine. Maybe their child would never drop a load in the middle of a toy store. Maybe they’ll never have a three-year-old yell out in a public bathroom, “My bottom is pooping!” Maybe they’d never be catching projectile vomit in their hands. And maybe they’d never discover poop under their fingernails and merely think, “I wonder how long that’s been there?”
For me, parenthood has been messy. And I don’t foresee an end in sight. Maybe one day I’ll go to the mall in a little black dress with diamonds and heels. But I can guarantee you I’ll still have wipes and a wet bag in my little matching clutch. Because I have come to realize that it’s far better to expect the steaming turd, than be surprised by it. So next time, just scoop it up, walk away with great pride, and then write it up to share with the world (or at least at your child’s wedding rehearsal).