Mom Badge, #32

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.

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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.

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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: 💩

The Mom Admission Nobody Wants to Make

I’ve been in the heart of baby season for a year now — my own firstborn arrived last June, and the calendar has been peppered with the arrivals of various friends’ own first children since that date. I don’t want to say that Zack and I “started something,” but, it’s possible, right? . . . (I kid, I kid. Pun intended.)

The year has brought an onslaught of firsts and in the early months, I found myself bombarding two of my longtime gal pals (and seasoned moms) with daily texts about poop, nursing, rice cereal, poop, fevers, poop, bath time shenanigans, travel solutions, poop, and more poop. (Side note: there aren’t enough resources in the world about the weird stuff that comes out of babies’ bums.) Time and again, I thought: Damn. I’ve got a great mom tribe. I am so lucky.

Before I knew it, I was the one getting texts from new moms, desperate for advice (despite my clear lack of what one might call “expertise”). I guess, at least, there’s something to be said for having gone through the same experiences just months previously, rather than decades earlier like our own moms. So I tried helping the best I could.

Travel during nap times.

Use Aveeno bath products for sensitive skin.

Try Selsen Blue for cradle cap, if it’s really bad. But be careful! That stuff will burn through their eyeballs like acid.

Make your husband go with you to get your child’s vaccines.

Don’t apologize for not letting everyone and their mother hold your child in the heart of flu season.

And then I got a text, a few weeks ago, that was filled with remorse and pleading and probably a bit of shame: Do you sometimes resent your child?

Oh. Oh. This text made me stop in my tracks for a few moments before I fired back —

YES.

Plus some other stuff, meant to reassure my friend that she isn’t a garbage mom (because she’s not) and that she isn’t a weirdo (because she’s not, at least not in this particular sense) and that she isn’t alone (because, let’s get real — she’s definitely not). This was a question I hadn’t been brave enough to ask my own girlfriends in the frustrating, tiresome early months of my own motherhood; in truth, it wasn’t a realization I could even admit to myself. So I knew the courage it took to ask and I knew it was something I wanted to write about later, at the risk of being mom-bashed on social media by friends who don’tevenhavekids and moms who won’t admit the truth to themselves.

Hi. My name’s Renee, and sometimes I resent my kid.

There. I said it.

I find myself experiencing bitterness when I’m run ragged, firing on a few measly hours of sleep and in a state of self loathing because #mombodprobs (which, of course, never keeps me from eating more chocolate . . . ). The resentment grows when he wakes up every night for weeks to cry inconsolably, even though I know the appropriate emotional response should be only compassion. It doubles when my husband lifts weights in the evenings — just steps out of the shop, gets in his car, drives to the weight room, lifts for a couple hours — while I have to fight guilt to ask my mother-in-law to watch Henry for another hour this week so that I can go for a run or meet the girls for a workout. The resentment deepens when I can’t drive three hours to meet a friend who’s passing through Kansas because Henry hates the car and it wouldn’t be fair to drag him all that way and I can’t ask Cindy to watch him again this week. It grows exponentially when we travel to my parents’ house and he screams three of the four hours in the car. It sneaks up on me when we’re with family for the holidays, and everyone wants to go to a movie or out to eat or stay up till 3 playing games and I’ve got to wreck their plans — I’m staying in with Henry — or go to bed at ten, because he’ll be up at midnight, anyway.

I don’t remember the first time I was hit with a wave of nauseating resentment toward Henry, but I know I haven’t experienced the last — and I’m forgiving myself for each of those times and the moments to come, without hesitation. Here’s why:

  • Momming is friggin’ hard work. It’s often thankless, and the constant state of being needed but not appreciated can wear away at a girl.
  • It doesn’t mean I don’t want my kid. I just don’t want him to cry all night, dammit.
  • I’m human, too. I’m selfish, even when I don’t want to be. I can try to repress the feelings as much as I want, but being a mom is a transition and it’s ridiculous to expect my own selfish desires about how I want to spend my time to just fade or disappear — poof! — overnight.
  • The resentment always, always melts away. Usually just as quickly as it’s come.

And here’s the big one: for every moment of bittnerness or childish resentment I feel toward my little guy, there are a thousand moments of boundless adoration, overwhelming love, and sheer joy.

It’s a challenge, admitting this sort of truth to yourself; especially when you tried for so long to become pregnant or when you acknowledge that these feelings are directed toward a helpless, ten-pound squish. These rare moments of bitterness overwhelm me with shame. They make me feel lesser, even though I know I am a good mama. They make me feel embarrassed and unnatural and cruel — and human.

In the past year, I’ve grown to appreciate just how much struggle, devotion, and sacrifice it takes to be a good mother. I’ve seen old friends with new eyes, regretted my years of teenage jackass-ery (sorry, Ma & Dad), and generally come to accept that motherhood demands nothing short of superhero status on a daily basis.

I’ve watched Batman, though, and I know that sometimes, even the best heroes have moments of darkly humiliating weakness.

It’s what makes them human.