Thursday, September 4, 2014

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Sometimes Parenting Means Cleaning Up Crap: Physical and Metaphorical



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“Clint.” Mel said. “Aspen pooped on the sofa.” It was a Saturday morning. Mel just finished feeding the baby.

Our sofa wasn’t nice. We got it for free from another couple we knew in Minnesota. And they got it for free from some doctor’s office in California. Now it was in Oregon, with stains all over it from our kids, and the previous owners’ kids, who knows what else. And it isn’t a full size sofa, more of a love seat.

But it was the only sofa we had.

We’ve refused to get a new sofa because our kids don’t give a damn about our furniture, or our car, or our carpet. They are destroyers of all things nice. They wipe poop, boogers, pee, muddy hands, drool, grape soda, Silly Putty, really anything into everything we own. And somehow our new baby had managed to get poop on the sofa. It was baby poop, which is much better than regular adult poop, or dreaded dog poop, but the fact of the matter was that poop was on it, and someone was going to have to handle it. And somehow, before Mel even asked, I knew I would be the one to clean up this mess.

Earlier that week, Norah, our five-year-old, pooped in the tub. I got home moments after the incident, and the first thing Mel said once I got home was, “Norah pooped in the tub. Can you please handle it?" She didn’t say it with a sweet, “you are going to get something for doing this” kind of voice. And she didn’t say it in a “do it or else” kind of voice. But rather a, “When you are home, this is what’s expected” voice.

I didn’t know how to feel about that. I wanted to get mad at Norah because she was far too old to be doing something like that. But when I asked her why she did it, she said, “I thought it was a fart.” I really couldn’t get mad at such tried and true logic. I wanted to get mad at Mel for assuming that I would jump at the chance to fish a turd out of the tub, or be mad at the fact that she assumed that because I was home, that any icky poop business was suddenly my business. Honestly, I felt picked on by her assumption. And I know, Mel is a stay-at-home mom. She has to deal with poop all day. She changes far more diapers than I do, and deals with far more blowouts. But when faced with a turd in a bathtub, it’s difficult to not feel a little picked on. To not wonder why you are in this whole parenting and marriage thing in the first place. That morning, when Aspen pooped on the sofa, I felt those same picked-on feelings, and desperately wanted to pass this obligation on to my wife.

It took me a while to find the poop on the sofa. I had to lift up a flap along the arm, and there it was, a pool of yellow green baby poop.

Aspen had somehow managed to shoot poop up her back, onto Mel’s pajama pants, and into a deep crevice in our sofa. And yet, Aspen was, out side of a small smudge on her shirt, mostly clean.

 “Oh!” I said. “This is terrible. How could she do this? What the…How is this possible?” I kept asking the same question. For some reason I felt the need to say something, but I didn’t really have anything new to add to all if it, so I kept repeating the same lines.

It really was a remarkable amount of poop. I’m a father of three kids. Aspen is our youngest. Up to this point, I have seen some blowouts (or code browns as we like to call them) but this was both extensive and mysterious. Extensive for obvious reasons. But mysterious for the simple fact that Aspen was wearing a diaper and jeans, and yet she managed to get through both, soil her mother and the sofa, and yet remain, for the most part, un-tarnished.

 “How can a 12 pound baby poop that much?” I asked.

Mel shrugged.

I wanted to be impressed, but most likely this was just forced optimism.

“You’re going to have to handle the sofa,” Mel said.

I gave her a straight-faced, flat-mouthed look, and she responded with, “Really? Really? Did you get poop on your pants? Are you the one handling this messy baby? I have to deal with poop all day while you are at work. When you are home, poop on the couch is your problem.”

“Fine,” I said. “Fine.” I threw up my hands.

Then I went and got a bottle of upholstery cleaner and a rag from under the sink, and started scrubbing. As I did, I felt like a push over. I felt like I was Mel’s bitch. I wished I were more assertive. I wished I were the kind of man that didn’t put up with this kind of crap from his wife.

But as I scrubbed, I started to think of all the times I’d seen my beautiful wife handle a mess. All the times I’d seen her spray a poopy onesie, or scrub kid puke out of the carpet. And then I started to think about how much of marriage, family, parenting, is about cleaning up shit (physical and metaphorical). So much of it comes down to humbling yourself. And in the moment, when I am faced with a situation like this, it is easy to feel picked on. To wonder why this gross job was my job. Why can’t my wife do it? And I realized that this is marriage. This is pitching in. This is the thankless job of parenting. This is partnership. 

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter



S.b.k.v.S. said...

This made me cry with laughter. Funny how every family seems to have a handful of legendary poop accidents.

Erin Hoffman said...

Our fifth child is now 3 months. Whenever I wonder what my husband is thinking I read one of your stories. They make me understand, and laugh