So many nights I feel like I’ve had the crap kicked out of me. Some nights I feel like that because I’m so physically exhausted that even the thought of getting up off the couch to get myself too bed is just too much. Sometimes I feel like that because I have actually been kicked, hit, elbowed and/or body-slammed, intentionally or not by my kids. And sometimes my mental (and physical) exhaustion is actually about getting crap out, just not out of me.
The other night it was the double whammy of kiddie constipation plus kiddie ninja warrior injuries. As my mouth filled with blood, I thought I smelled poop. I smiled, looking like a sated extra from True Blood, and then laughed quietly thinking about what my life had become. I also thought: Man, I am a damn good parent.
I’ll let that image linger while I backtrack a bit…
There are so many things that surprise new parents. Everyone says that your life will completely change. They say things will never be the same. That you will place their needs–their existence–ahead of your own. (We can debate the appropriate reaches of this concept another time.) Despite all of the advice and words of prospective caution, the reality is full of surprises. So many surprises. There’s the lack of sleep, lack of sleeping in on weekends, lack of money in the checking account, and lack of time for friends, and work, and books, and exercise, and prime-time television (watched on its original air date), and personal hygiene, and lawn maintenance (of the real and colloquial variety).
For me, however, the biggest surprise was all the poop. There is so much poop. Poop everywhere, in inconvenient locations like a restaurant, or a highway going 70 mph when you just took a pit stop 4 minutes ago, or on your suit sleeve 6 hours after you left the house that you only notice as you go to shake the hand of a new client. Poop all day, every day, in all its pooptastic poopertinence.
But sometimes there is no poop, and that’s a problem too. The other night was about a lack of poop. My toddler hadn’t pooped in days. They say a kid can go up to a week without pooping, but I picture their little insides clogged up like a–well, let’s just say clogged. The longer it lasts, the worse it gets. It’s a vicious cycle. Poop hurts, followed by a reluctance to poop, leads to holding in poop, results in poop hurts. It’s sad and uncomfortable–for them and for us. People of Starbucks: Nevermind my kid pressing his hand against his rear and screaming at his poop not to come out. Nothing to see here. Move along.
Anyway, my kid hadn’t pooped in a couple days. He was exceedingly uncomfortable, he couldn’t sleep because he kept being awoken by the pressing issue. He was weepy, and all-around the saddest sack of a kid I’d seen a while. It was 2 am and I was rocking him in his darkened room, waiting for the adult dose of laxative to kick in, and I was exhausted. He would fall asleep and then wake up to complain and clench, then fall asleep again. The kid was putting up a valiant fight but I knew (and he knew) he’d lose eventually. At one point he sat up and looked me straight in the eye and said, “No poopy, not now. I busy.” Let’s forget the implication that he’s heard any adult say “not now, I’m busy” and focus on the kid’s will power here.
This kid is a marvel of mind over digestion. He is a champion poop fighter. He said those words, fell back asleep while sitting straight up and then collapsed forward, striking his marvelous mind (surrounded by hard skull) directly into my mouth. My tooth sliced in to my lip and I immediately tasted blood. I thought about getting up, but he was asleep. And he needed sleep. If I got up, he’d be awake and sad and angry all over again.
So I waited.
A few minutes later, I spelled poop.
The poop was coming and he was too tired to wake up and fight it, so I rocked some more until the deed was done. I laughed at myself. I laughed and marveled at the person I had become. I was exhausted, but proud. I’d put his needs ahead of my own. He needed sleep and elimination. I needed sleep, a boxer’s spit bucket and some frozen peas. I let him snooze for a while longer while we rocked in the chair before moving him to change his diaper and put him back to bed. He slept through it all.
This parenting thing is hard. Your body takes a beating, along with your psychological well-being. You think you’re not doing enough, or doing it well enough–then, you have these moments. The moments when your dark circles and fat lip are big, swollen proof that you are able and willing to put their needs ahead of your own. Proof that you are a good parent…no matter what the people at Starbucks think.
For the sake of the children, I add the following blanket disclaimer to all Goodbye Chicken posts: Any story about poop and any other gross or weird stuff done/said/experienced by any child referenced therein is entirely made up–so future friends, employers, lovers and voters shall not use said story against them. Of course, any story, or part thereof, about children who are awesome, smart, beautiful and kind or otherwise good is entirely true.