On a night not unlike this one your mommy and daddy decided to have a baby. It started, as many things do, with a conversation. “I have an idea,” said your daddy. “How about you” he began, indicating mommy, “start eating a few extra burritos, yogurts, and Eggo Homestyle Waffles.” He held up a finger, cutting mommy off before she could interrupt. “Ah but… and stay with me now… instead of converting that energy into an impromptu redecoration of the house you use it to grow a baby in your belly and then push it out through your vagina.”
These were the thoughts that went through my head while I looked at my fat little daughter squirming on her changing table. It’s hardly naivete that convinces children that babies come through the majesty of wonder and the unknown, borne by flying storks or sprouted behind cabbage leaves. The truth is just as unlikely, a great deal more weird and, to be wholly objective, kind of gross.
As though hearing my thought process my daughter lifted her fat little knees to her belly, lifting her bare bottom from the protective pad that covered the table. She smiled at me, permuted the expression to a slight grimace (as though pondering a sneeze), and finally arced a continuous, massive stream of shit through the air, off the changing table, and into the unknown void to the right of my peripheral vision.
My reaction was to freeze, every muscle clenched and trembling with the effort, as though this minor disaster were a carnivorous dinosaur attracted by sudden movement. This gave my wife the opportunity to descend on the scene with a fist-full of baby wipes, lending her trademark impetuousness to the scene. She darted around my useless form, accidentally dipping her sleeves and various baby implements in a quickly cooling puddle of shit, much like a feather pen in a murky ink well. She whirled at each of these missteps, consequently jotting smears of shit on everything in her wake, all the while chiming curses in a rising crescendo.
“Shit… Shit… SHIT… SHIT!”
Indeed. Shit. Shit had happened, hit the fan, and was everywhere. It goes without saying that my daughter’s heels were lacerating the air with furious kicking. It also goes without saying that they were now coated in shit, as were the backs of her legs, her butt, and her back like odorous “feety” pajamas. My immobility had now bypassed the trembling, terrified stage and had entered a zen-like state of acceptance. I embraced the shit. I was one with the shit. I viewed the scene with the detached serenity that comes from knowing that I need never again turn my head to the right revealing the horrors that lay beyond.
This seemed like an appropriate time to reflect on my station in life.
I have a friend that once asked me “why is it that people with kids suddenly think it’s OK to start talking about shit like it’s cute or something?” Seeing as I hadn’t (before now) chosen the topic of shit as a soapbox for public discourse, I couldn’t really add anything useful. However, in my current state a thought certainly occurred.
Much like the baby-making myth, both the fiction and reality of child rearing seem equally unlikely. Seeing as how I was a child once I was aware that raising a brat like me is probably a lot of work. Thankfully the romantic notion of “unconditional parental love” lulled me through those early days of planning a family. The fear that this was too good to be true was fiercely suppressed. Imagine my surprise when I found that it is, in fact, completely true and essentially effortless. You just love and take care of your baby. It’s just that when they were writing the story books they artfully left out all the shit.
Life is surprisingly full of shit of all kinds, more so than you could possibly conceive in your youth. It’s getting peed on; it’s trips to the hospital; it’s everything from petty slights to deep emotional wounds. It’s basically senseless, unending bullshit. The good news? It’s kind of no big deal. Don’t get me wrong: it’s pretty awful, infuriating, and, quite often disgusting. But as unlikely as it sounds, parenthood magically causes a shift in perspective that makes you roll up your sleeves, grumble a bit, and then just start mopping that shit up.
This startled me out of my trance, still hovering over my daughter’s kicking form. I reluctantly looked to the side. The shit had blasted the side of her crib a few feet away leaving neat mustard yellow stripes in the shape of the wooden bars beyond. As I started cleaning up with my wife we instinctively began laughing. I can’t blame the story tellers for leaving shit out of the tale of parenthood any more than I can feign shock that naked tumbling didn’t make its way into the myth of the cabbage patch.
To answer my friend though, I think parents can’t help telling it like it is because it’s genuinely a much better story. The fact that you can suddenly, without reason, find the strength to pull yourself out of mountains and mountains of shit: that’s an achievement worth sharing. But in all fairness to the uninitiated, if someone told you such a tall tale would you believe it, or would you simply go with storks, or cabbage leaves, or something else slightly less covered in…
…well you know.