I posted this story on Facebook almost three years ago. I reread it once every now and, and I always laugh. Always. It also leaves me feeling so, so lucky to be a parent. Weird, but true.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
So Sunday night after church Mr. Right and I went to Culver’s with our three youngest, two of their friends, and several adult friends. We put all of the kids in a corner booth and made a “grownup” table nearby. Halfway through the meal, Mr. Right noticed that Bee had left the kids’ table. Bee is our youngest child, barely 4. She’s the mini-me; round face, wispy blonde hair, peculiar imagination (she once sorted my perfume bottles into families and played house with them). Mr. Right spotted Bee standing across the restaurant, next to a trash can, very still. He nudged me and pointed, “What is she doing?” I went to find out.
“Bee, what’s up?”
“I had to go potty, but now I don’t, because I pooped in my underwear.” Fantastic. So I took Bee into the ladies’ room, into a stall, only to discover that this was no minor accident. The poor girl had massive diarrhea. In the process of trying to remove her underwear I managed to get poop all over her, the toilet, the floor, her sock… I sat her on the toilet and began trying to clean up the mess with a combination of toilet paper and wet paper towels. Bee plaintively wailed, “Oh, Mommy, what have I done? I am so, so, so sorry!” The underwear was a total loss, so I made the decision that Bee would have to go commando for the rest of our time at Culver’s. She was alarmed by this, but I tried to explain that this would be okay.
“You are wearing a nice, long dress. Just sit still, keep your dress down, and DON’T TELL ANYONE what happened. Don’t tell anyone that you went potty in your underwear or that we had to throw it away. We’ll go home as soon as we can.” Finally, after about 10 minutes of scrubbing Bee and the restroom (I hope Culver’s appreciates people like me), we returned to our tables. I quietly told Mr. Right that we were going to have to leave sooner than planned, just as quickly as the other kids could finish. Up to this point I was pretty cool.
A few minutes later I was gathering children to leave and noticed that Cheesy, our 7-year-old, had slipped away. I went to the ladies room to see if she was there, and met she and Bee coming out. Cheesy’s expression was…not good…and she blurted out, “I puked!” Sure enough, I looked down to see her dessert all over the front of her clothes. I led her back into the bathroom only to see that she had thrown up all over the floor, the toilet and herself. It was at this point, as I began wetting down more paper towels, that I began to think,
“WHAT THE HECK! What does the universe have against me? I am 43 years old! I went to college! I had dreams, plans and ambitions! Is this what my life has come to – cleaning up fecal matter and vomit in a public restroom?” After further scrubbing, I came out of the bathroom with Cheesy and told Mr. Right, who’d been waiting, “Cheesy threw up.”
“Oh. Is that what’s on Bee’s sweater?” I looked down at Bee and saw that, sure enough, Cheesy had managed to vomit not only on herself, but on her younger sister. More wiping.
Mr. Right took the kids’ friends home in his car while I left with B.Lake, Cheesy and Bee. The van was pungent from both earlier episodes, and I was very anxious to get home. Unfortunately, I forgot that I’d given my house key to a friend who had agreed to babysit our guinea pigs while we were out of town. So we were forced to sit in the car and wait until Mr. Right got home. Earlier in the day we’d all been singing along to Christmas music in the car. Now it was just plucky me, singing away. Cheesy and Bee were both slumped listlessly in their seats, and B.Lake was complaining bitterly about the odor. Finally we were able to go inside. Baths were taken, beds were made, and instructions were given as to what to do if tummies started hurting in the night. (Basically, go straight to the bathroom. Do not pass go. Do NOT wait for Mommy.)
Here’s the punchline to my meltdown in the bathroom. Minus the gory details, this WAS my dream, my plan, my ambition. Yes, I always wanted to be a famous writer (which hasn’t happened), but even more importantly, I wanted to be a famous writer with 6 kids. I very nearly reached that number. But back in high school when I was day dreaming about my houseful of beautiful children, my Mustang, my handsome husband, and my English Tudor-style home, poop and vomit never came up.
Upon reflection, here’s the upside. Yes, Virginia, there is an upside. Recently, one of my children was complaining about being bored. I remember boredom. I remember complaining to my own parents about being bored. But honestly, I don’t think I’ve been bored since I had children. Partly, that’s because, when do I have time to be bored? But also, my children make my life as unpredictable as my evening at Culver’s turned out to be. They have done many things to surprise me: such as my oldest leading a dog down the center aisle during a church service – while I was on the platform singing a solo. Or my pretty princess of a daughter telling an older boy that she was going to “Kick his a*&”. They have said many things to me that I have been unprepared for, like, “When I grow up I want to be a horse.” And they have caused me to say some things that I couldn’t have anticipated, like,
“Stop licking that golfcart!” and “No, you can’t marry a guinea pig.” I have been confused, frustrated, angry, overwhelmed, amused, mortified, horrified, and exhausted. But not bored. For that matter, I wasn’t bored while I was scrubbing the bathroom at Culver’s.
And that’s something, right?
So thanks, kids, for always keeping things lively. May God grant me the strength for whatever is next.