The events you are about to read happened a year ago this week. Mind you, it was weeks after publishing my essay about how my spirited middle child has taught me not to judge other moms (To My Mom Friends….I Don’t Judge You). Knowing I wouldn’t want to completely forget later on, I typed it all out the day following its occurrence. All a little too fresh, however, it got tucked safely away in my computer files and hadn’t been opened since. Seeing as a full year has passed, I’d like to think I’ve had sufficient time to heal from its effects. Hopefully the following will brighten your day as you enjoy my misery. God bless.
The Adventures of Playland: An Epic Tale of Parenthood
“Mommy said I can’t go on the play place naked,” my preschooler announces to his dad at dinner. True fact. I most certainly did. I probably said a lot of things in that moment. I’d like to say I was calm, cool, and collected. But instead I was a hot mess and left Playland crying.
When the morning started off, I was in great spirits. The big kids had the day off from school so we were going to head to Playland, a free indoor play place in our town. Between the swings of snow, frigid temperatures, and mid-winter warm-ups creating soggy yards and pop-up ponds, our energetic preschooler was getting restless from being stuck inside. (I can always tell when he starts tackling his sister and using the couch as a jungle gym.) But this was going to be a great day! They’d run around Playland and wear themselves out, making for an afternoon of cuddles, movies, and quiet play– just how Mommy likes it.
It all started well. We were the first ones there. The kids were so excited. I sat at a nearby table bouncing the baby on my knee and reading a book. Every few minutes I’d look up as my daughter said, “Look at me Mom!” or when my son hollered, “I’m going down the big slide Mom,” making sure to give an approving smile.
I soon found myself thinking I should come here more often. How easy this has been! How rewarding for all parties involved! Moments later my preschool son runs up to me and says “I pooped my pants!” Ugh…it had to be dealt with. It happens. “No big deal,” I tell myself. “Just a part of parenthood.”
I take him into the bathroom and clean him up but realize I haven’t brought any extra clothes in from the van– just the diaper bag for the baby. Thankfully it was a small accident. I throw his underwear away because it’s just not worth it and put his clean pants back on. Then I utter these words to him: “This is your last chance. You can’t poop your pants again. Run to the potty if you need to go. If you poop your pants again, we’ll have to go home because you won’t have anything to wear.” I’m thinking this is a clever warning. Obviously he doesn’t want to go home from the land of play and delight.
I should have known those words would come back to haunt me.
The kids go off and play again and all seems well. I get into the next chapter of my book and smile at my infant, who’s happily taking in the scenery. Next thing I know my son comes out of the playscape naked from the waist down, carrying his pants. “I JUST CAN”T STOP POOPING!” he declares to the entire crowd of moms and kids.
I’m pretty sure my face turns all sorts of colors as I ignore mothers’ stares and sympathetic giggles. But I stay relatively calm. Telling him he can’t run around naked, we rush to the bathroom to assess the issue. “Sit on the potty and I’ll clean you up,” I tell him. His rear end didn’t seem too bad so I thought maybe his pants were still okay. I take a look. Drat. There’s poo smeared all over them.
My mind becomes more frantic as I realize I now have to find someone to watch my kids while I run back to the van to find spare clothes. Surely I can’t carry my kid back to the van naked!
I return to helping my son finish using the potty only to spot brown stuff smeared across his fingers, embedded into his fingernails. “Colin Thomas!” I shout. “Did you touch your poop?!” “Yes,” he answers plainly. Suddenly, memories of this same child smearing poop across his room quite regularly at 18 months old came flooding to the surface. I had to ask: “Did you wipe it on the play place?!” “Umm…yep,” he replied.
I started feeling hot and tears began to well up in my eyes as I now realized I’d have to tell someone. I’d have to find it. How would I find it? What was I going to do?! My 3-month-old baby was crying at this point, both hungry and tired. I had a half-naked child in the bathroom with no extra clothes. I had come alone. No reinforcements. What was I going to do?
Thankfully my daughter remembered where her brother was when she initially found him. She leads me there. Sure enough, there are a few small nuggets. Baby wipes in hand, I clean them up and let out a sigh that it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Making one last assessment, I look up only to see above on the mesh netting: brown finger smears all the way across. As my mind swirls with the embarrassment, kids push by me, running right through the area of contamination. I think I might lose my stomach and want to yell a warning to any passersby. Do they have any caution tape around here?!
I know what I have to do. I take the walk of shame to the attendant up front. Trying to hold back the tears welling up, I explain the situation. She so kindly offers to watch my kids while I fetch clothes from the van and assures me the facilities crew will take care of the mess immediately.
Despite the kindness she showed me, by the time I gather my children back together, my infant now wailing and the preschooler crying because he doesn’t want to leave (at least now sporting a pair of shorts left in the van from summer), tears are steadily streaming down my face at the embarrassment and disappointment of the morning.
“But I wanted to play!” my son protests after we get back to the van. “Well so did I!” I respond through tears. “But what was I supposed to do?! You can’t play in the play place naked! And you won’t stop pooping!”
After that, the van became silent for the duration of the drive home. All I wanted was a fun morning with my kids and instead got this. I was emotionally drained and pretty sure I’d never show my face in Playland again.
Despite everything, before I knew it we were home, everyone was fed and fully clothed, and the afternoon was still filled with cuddles, movies, and quiet play—just how Mommy likes it.
Sometimes parenthood is hard. Sometimes you get fun, joy-filled mornings. And sometimes you get poop smeared walls. If you’re having a rough day with your kids, hopefully my horrible, terrible, no-good day can make you feel not so alone. The fact that I’m writing about this a year later is proof that we can survive it, friends. In the famous words of my husband after a stressful day: “well, you got through it.” Always the encourager, that one.
I have no spiritual lesson for you today, folks. I threw around a few things but they all seemed too cliché. I could have analyzed every little thing I did right and did wrong as a mother in those moments, but sometimes it’s better to just move on. It just is what it is and I survived it, as much of parenthood is all about.
So my lesson of the day: keep extra underwear in the diaper bag so you don’t end up with a naked child. You’re welcome.