My son is just over a year old, and over the past 370-some days, I’ve encountered a number of situations that seemed pretty gold-star-parenting worthy. When he was just a couple weeks old, I nailed the sorta-single parenting thing while my husband spent his waking hours on a combine and his not-waking hours, well, sleeping. At four months, I survived sleep training and was rewarded with a more independent sleeper. At seven months, I singlehandedly painted the little squirm’s feet and stamped a couple of canvases for his grandmas (note to readers: everyone should be naked for this process). When he hit nine months and decided he hated baths, I found a way to get his hiney into the tub long enough to douse the bugger in suds. Hell, just last week, I taught the boy to accurately answer the question, “Henry, what’s the elephant say?”
I’d even — sort of — found a way for the tyke to cope during the four-hour car rides that constitute visits to Grandma and Papa Simon’s house on the other side of the state. Just a couple short months ago, I actually prided myself on discovering a healthy recipe for 75% scream-free roadtrips:
- leave by 8:30 a.m.
- hang a blanket from the window instead of a shade — instant fascination
- keep a bucket o’ toys within reaching distance (and toss a new one back there every thirty minutes or so)
- don’t ever stop — not even for cops (I kid, I kid . . . kinda . . . )
- avoid talking too much (Hank gets angry when he’s tired and can hear Mom but not climb all over her)
These tricks, coupled with Henry’s recent discovery of the miraculous snack trap have made those lengthy drives a bit easier to manage, especially since we make the trip home solo most of the time.
Today, though — oh, Lordamercy, today was a game. changer.
Henry woke up crabby. He ran a high fever a couple days this week and only returned to his usual plucky self yesterday afternoon. I expected fussiness. I plopped his little rump down in the highchair at 8:00, played some nursery rhyme videos on YouTube, and shoveled some breakfast down the hatch. (We don’t normally watch videos while we eat, but did I mention he was a screechy demon this morning?)
He settled into the car just fine and we found ourselves on our merry way after a pitstop for gas. In fact, hubris hit hard about 60 minutes into the drive when Henry conked out, thumb in mouth. Like an out-of-body experience, I remember thinking, Gee, I make cute babies. Note to self: convince husband it’s time to add to the nest tonight. Wink, wink.
ELL. OH. ELL.
Forty-five minutes later, nearly halfway into the journey, we hit a stoplight. Henry woke up. I cursed my misfortune (a lot, really; look, nobody’s perfect, okay?) and waited for things to reach Threat Level Midnight. Again, I thought: Wow! He’s been awake for 20 minutes and hasn’t even cried, really. What a little blessing.
Ten minutes later, things started to escalate and it was clear he wouldn’t be falling asleep again any time soon, so I reached for my failsafe: the snack trap. As I began to reach back with the chalice of treats, I noticed he seemed to be playing with something in his seat. I arranged myself for a better look. (He’s rear-facing still, so if I want a good look, I have to push myself up from the seat a bit and twist back real quick.)
Y’all. THERE WERE BLACK THINGS ALL OVER HIS LEGS. (Forgive me, but this is where we enter a caps-are-necessary zone.)
For a hot minute, I honestly thought some sort of evil bug had somehow gotten in the car and hatched a bunch of tiny evil bug babies all over my baby. My sweet, innocent, rosy-cheeked baby.
I dry-heaved for a moment before I went back for another glimpse: I needed to assess the damage. (Would I need to call an exterminator? Was I being punk’d? Would I have to trade my kid out for a newer model?) And that’s when shit got ugly.
Henry had lots of dark spots all over his legs, it’s true. He also had spots on his hands . . . and his arms . . . and his precious little face.
And the spots weren’t black. They were brown. Greenish-brown.
And they were wet. Or sticky. Or something.
Wait a minute. I asked my reflection, Does it smell funny in here to you?
One more quick look confirmed my worst nightmare — no, wait; that’s not right. I could’ve never dreamed this up: MY KID WAS COVERED IN SHIT, GUYS.
From this point on, I blacked out a little bit and entered a world of being that was really just full of cursing (amazingly, not aloud) and bewilderment and just this sort of blind rage that really defies all description. We were on a four-lane, divided highway with twenty miles to rest stops in either direction, and my kid was covered in poop of his own making.
And alone. Did I say that already? I was alone. In the car. With my poop-bedazzled offspring. ALONE.
At this point, I was still driving and sort of deliriously hoping he wouldn’t do the unthinkable. And then, because #MurphysLaw, he did. While I watched the road with one eye and his seatback mirror with the other, my darling boy looked at me, looked at his poop-covered fist, and brought the damn thing to his mouth.
This. Is. SPARTA.
I had one hand on the wheel and my rump was hovering over the seat while I reached behind me with my other arm and started frantically half-shouting HENRY DON’T PUT YOUR FINGERS IN YOUR MOUTH! NO — HEN — HENRY, STOP IT! DON’T YOU DARE PUT THAT POOP IN YOUR — HENRY FREAKING CHARLES SCHAFFER!
At which point, he started wailing tremendously and I came to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be able to swerve single-handedly across fifteen more miles while simultaneously goaltending my child’s poop-mouth.
I was going to have to stop. On the side of the highway. Alone. And then? God knows what.
True to millenial form, I had the presence of mind to snap a quick photo of the little feller; although, to be quite honest, this was more of a stalling tactic at the moment. We were entering uncharted territory and I hadn’t a clue where to begin.
He screamed the entire time I wiped down his extremities, all the while finding more feces to rub all over the beloved Mama he kept yelling for so pitifully. (Hello? Right here, buddy. Maybe you can’t see me through the poop smears on my face . . . )
Somehow, I removed his onesie (on its first wear, of course) and swapped the worthless sonofabitchin’ diaper out for a clean one. Cars were zooming by and I have no idea how much they witnessed, but I hope at least a few of them were like, Gee, that poor poop-covered mommy. She deserves a massage.
Post-bath boy. He’s obviously pretty pleased with himself.
The expunging process depleted my wipes stash (diaper and all-purpose) and rendered my travel-sized bottle of antibacterial hand sanitizer worthless. Against my better judgment, I nestled the little scoundrel back into his seat (on top of a blanket, RIP) sans-clothing, snack trap in hand. Given the vast amount of poop I’d just cleaned out of the car — and the two hours remaining ahead of us — I reasoned the boy couldn’t possibly lay another egg of such extreme proportions. So I gave him snacks, because positive reinforcement. Right? Way to poop! Wanna yogurt drop?
Two hours later, by the grace of God and Henry’s obedient bowels, we were home, with nary a toot between the two of us. Into the tub he went, a twinkle in his eyes, and I could’ve sworn the little sprite winked at me when his cheeks hit the water. Still in disbelief, I tore apart the carseat and threw its washable bits in the laundry before piling two packages of wipes, one industrial-sized bottle of Germ-X, and three washcloths into the Jeep.
I’m still recovering from the trauma, but Henry’s just finished a two-hour nap and I don’t think he’s got the slightest memory of the Great Poop Problem of 2018. Meanwhile, I’m scheming up an actual line of mom-badges for those many moments we survive with at least an ounce of dignity (if not a bit of grace). Today’s badge? It definitely looks a bit like this: 💩