A Little Help, Please

My friend Elizabeth sent a message to her girlfriends last night, after midnight, and it pinged to my box while I was laying in bed listening to the snoring husband and the snoring children and the snoring dog, all of whom were in my bedroom, maliciously keeping me from sleep, and I knew immediately you needed to see this message, too. Because Elizabeth reminded me we’re not alone in  the crap. Even when we think we are. And also, Elizabeth needs us, friends. STAT. She needs us terribly, as you’ll soon see.
 
Here’s her story.
 
I need the kind of succor only a large group of non-judgy people who know things about children can offer. There is discussion of bodily function and human waste in this story, just FYI, because it’s a story about small children doing something terrible.
 
Today we were at the park.  The GOOD park.  Seriously, folks, come out to where I live and I will show it to you, it is AMAZING.
 
My kids were playing happily and I was tracking where they were.  And then, in a horrible epiphany, I recognized the look on my 4.5 year old’s face. The poop look.
 

“Honey, let’s go to the toilet!” I said. I called the 3.5 year old over and we all headed off to the mercifully-close bath house (I told you, this was the GOOD park). We take over the handicapped stall (I know, I know, but two kids and mama in a regular stall is NOT happening), 4.5 pulls down his pants and hops onto the toilet and something is horribly wrong.

Poop in his pants.  Absolutely.  Poop on the toilet seat, probably unavoidable.  But this was poop everywhere.

The child, bless his heart, looks up at me in a mixture of horror and bafflement and says “Mommy, why my feces are all over?”

And I say “Oh honey– I think maybe you should have gone to the toilet sooner.”

And only then do I remember that I don’t have the diaper bag.

I have nothing.

It’s literally just me, the children, the clothes on our backs, and my drink and sunglasses.

No back-up pants.  No back-up undies.  No WIPES.  No oh-so-useful cloth diapers.  No wet naps.  No paper napkins.  No wet bag.  No plastic shopping bag.  NOTHING.

So, because I am a PROFESSIONAL, I flush the toilet and use the water running into the bowl to wet several wads of the cheap toilet paper available in the stall and wipe and wipe and wipe.  We talk about the ways he can tell his body might need the toilet.  I leave 4.5 on the toilet, basically clean but holding up his shirt just in case because Murphy’s Law, to take 3.5 into the OTHER stall to use the toilet.  I take the soiled clothes and wash them out in the sink, which is a trial unto itself because it’s a motion-sensor sink so I have to keep moving them in order to get enough water and the soap dispenser is broken.  I wring out the pants.  I roll the pants in some paper towels to squeeze out as much water as possible because the pants are, of course, WHITE, and will absolutely show poor little 4.5’s junk to the ENTIRE world if he wears them wet.  

Then I dress him and we all wash our hands furiously (again, broken soap dispenser, and then the dragging of the small children away from the motion sensor faucet WHY DO PEOPLE THINK THESE SAVE ANYONE ANY TIME).

We leave the bathroom.  I send 3.5 back to play and station 4.5 next to me on the bench until my husband comes back with the car and the diaper bag to save our lives.

We are in the clear.

Except.

Except that there is a small but obvious piece of renegade toddler poop on the walkway leading out of the playground.

Again, because I am a PRO, I told 4.5 to stay put and nonchalantly meandered over in the direction of the leash-your-dog sign, snagged a doggy duty bag, scooped up the poop, dumped my drink out over the spot on the walkway, and tossed the bag into the garbage.

So.

Somebody tell me that they can top this.

Somebody tell me that I did okay in this crisis.

And please, somebody tell me that I can take my kids back to this park.  Because it’s the GOOD park.  And I don’t want to be exiled from the good park.

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
50 comments
  1. Just have to respond, a few years too late.

    I think I’d still be on the floor of the next stall over, crying.

    If you see me there, please save my kid and ignore me saying that I have it under control. Bodily wastes sans baby wipes is a true nightmare in my book, and a Lot Of Kids later, I haven’t changed any.

  2. You did a GREAT job Mom!!! And DEFINITELY go back to the park! Any decent parent would applaud your efforts! And, may I just add, my 2.5 told me she had to go potty while we were playing at the elementary school park recently (thankfully no one else was there). Since with 2.5 there’s no time to drive back home we tried to tactfully squat her behind a tree. I thought she was done and was getting ready to move her when she said, “no Mommy, I have to poop, too”. I have neglected to add that we were in the front of the school, yes, the front. It’s set far back off the road and no neighbors could see her and she was by a tree, but still, the FRONT of the school. Anyway, she proceeds to poop one big poop (thankfully not messy). I grabbed a plastic bag from my car and scooped it up like it was dog poop and threw it in the garbage can. All ended well. I just have the nagging worry that 5 will think its necessary to do a show & tell with her Kindergarten class this fall about the time her little sister pooped in front of the school.

  3. Dear Elizabeth,

    Your story is SO what I needed to hear today. Thank you! You DID do amazingly!(Seriously, I can’t imagine having stayed as calm as you did!)But on top of that, you reassure me that dealing with poop is a normal part of raising a toddler. Your kid’s poop incident coincided with my own kids’.
    Lately, after being put to bed, my 2yo daughter stages a ‘poop rebellion’. She will stand at the gated bedroom door calling me. And if I refuse to come? She disrobes, takes off her cloth diaper and poops in her room. At first she was polite about it and pooped in her diaper before removing it. But yesterday? She poops ALL OVER the floor. And not solid little piles. The sick variety. UGH!
    Then today on a family hike, my 3.5 year old son also got the ‘poop look’, pulled down his pants and went. No walking off the trail. No squatting. He just went. (Again, the sick variety.) In the pants, down the legs, on the socks and shoes. UGGGHHHH!
    Have I mentioned how much I dislike poop? So I stand with you in poop solidarity and proclaim the old adage ‘Sh*t Happens’. Way to keep calm and carry on good woman!

  4. […] confess I get this one. It’s a strange world inside my head, because I love to tell you our gross poop stories, and I’m happy to write about humiliating myself in public, and I love so much – SO […]

  5. A couple of months ago I was playing with my 7.5 year old at a park in another neighbourhood, so we had our car (thankfully). He suddenly had to use a toilet but the washrooms were locked, since that makes sense to have public washrooms that aren’t available, so I told him to use a tree. Unfortunately he needed to more than pee and he absolutely couldn’t hold it. He looked at me with desperation, so I took charge. I looked around, found an old plastic bag lying around, and without touching it much, laid it out under the tree. I had him crouch down and poo on the bag while I tried to hide him as well as I could. Then I went to my car, found no wipes but did find a bag of clothes we were about to donate. I grabbed a ratty tshirt, tried to rip it into a rag, then decided it would be faster to just use the whole thing. The poor kid was crouching over his poo with his pants around his ankles. After wiping him with this giant piece of cloth I gingerly wrapped the cloth in the plastic bag and deposited everything in a nearby trash can. Followed by lots of Purell!

  6. You did VERY good, Elizabeth! I don’t know that I’d have handled it as calmly and gracefully as you did. Way to go! 🙂

  7. Poop is a fact of parenting. And coming into contact with kid poop is a fact of life.
    I have had many many gross poopocolips’ in my 14 years of parenting . I think you handled it with amazement.

  8. Oh my gosh, somehting very like this happened to me, except it was in
    a tiny local eyeglass shop just before closing time.

    I was stopping in very quickly to get my crooked glasses bent back
    into shape (probably some kid sat on them). The nice lady said she
    would do for me free and right away even though she was about to close
    up.

    My son played at the kidly provided little kid play table while I
    wandered and looked at the glasses, waiting.

    And then… “I have to go poooop!”.

    Now, my son has never been prone to constipation. Rather the
    opposite, in fact.

    I hurried over and saw…poop trickling down his little chubby ankle.
    Ack!

    I asked if we could use the bathroom – yes – and it was very small.
    Just enough room for toilet and sink, let along mommy and toddler.

    I took off his pants, and of course, poop was smeared everywhere. All
    down the inside of both pant legs. Underwear? Coated. Legs?
    Coated. And like you, even though my son was potty training, I had no supplies at all.

    Oh and did I mention? It was February in Massachusetts, freezing and
    snowing outside.

    I spent the next 10 minutes at least trying to clean and rinse
    everything possible in the toilet and sink, which required getting
    everything wet.

    At long last there seemed to be less poop. I finished up with a final
    wipe-down of my son and the bathroom walls with paper towel wetted
    with water and hand soap.

    Leaving my son in there, I accepted my now-fixed glasses, trying not
    to meet the nice lady’s eyes, went back, put the poopy stuff in the
    shopping bag I now had, and whisked my son out the door, naked from
    the waist down, walking awkwardly sideways to keep his junk away from
    the poor eyeglass lady’s view. Thankfully it was dark and my car was
    right outside the door in an empty lot.

    It has been a few years, and only now do I think I’d feel comfortable
    going back to that particular shop!

    1. As I look back on my story I realize it did not come off as the encouragement I had intended. Let me say this: you totally rocked it at the park with your mama ingenuity. Absolutely 100% go back there, head high! Of course!

  9. Anyone who can do anything with wet public potty tp is a magician. Extra points for picking up the poop and not pretending it wasn’t your kid’s.

  10. Oh, I have so been there! My little guy struggled with terrible allergies as a toddler. He had diarrhea ALL THE TIME. Once we went to the beach, and he filled his swimsuit….while sitting in another kid’s sand castle moat. And what can you do with diarrhea in a sand castle moat?! I grabbed a bucket and tried to flush it out, which looked like I was intentionally wrecking a little kid’s sand creation. I then tried to wash out his swimsuit in the sink, only to find out that the sink was clogged and I was left with a sink full of crap and a line of ladies waiting their turn to wash their hands. Worst beach day ever!

  11. Oh, you rockstar. We’ve all been there, and it is horrifying. I can’t remember any out-in-public stories at the moment, but we’re still struggling to train our 5.5-year-old boy and for MONTHS, every time we went to my sister’s house he managed to clog up her toilet–once so badly that we had to wait for her husband to come home from work to fix it! And on a slightly different tack, when he was 1.5 years old we had to go on a 5-hour car trip. On the freeway going through Olympia, WA in RUSH HOUR he vomited all over his car seat and the back seat of our car. We had to stop in a hurry and actually buy a new car seat. He did it on the way home, too.

  12. No, Elizabeth. You had me waiting for the worst part, because you handled everything so beautifully. I kept thinking what I would do–most likely, I would have grabbed the kids and bolted. So, I think you are awesome and definitely the friend to have in an emergency!

  13. Are you kidding me?! You’re a freakin’ mommy warrior! While I know necessity is the mother of invention, that was one amazing invention of how to use what’s available in ways I don’t know I would have figured out. (I trend toward the “flight” end of the fight/flight spectrum.)

    My only comparable story involved going to an ice cream shop with my (then) 4-year old. Went to the bathroom, and while he likes to sit to pee, in this case he forgot to “tuck in down”, so his underwear, his shorts, the seat, the floor — everything ended up with pee on it — except, for perhaps the actual toilet bowl. My only solution was to wipe up as best as possible, strip underwear and shorts off of him, wrap his light jacket around his waist and then carry him like a bat out of hell to the car. I’m sure it was obvious what the problem was because the jacket didn’t — ahem — cover the important parts completely, but whaddya gonna do?

    Given that your situation involved poop (soooo much worse than simple, transparent pee) and no diaper bag, you definitely win.

  14. I think you were a total rock star in how you handled this! 🙂

  15. I see nothing wrong with how you handled it, and don’t think I could have done any better! (I have 6 kids; I have definitely Been There, and Done That.)

    *As*I*was*reading* this blog post, the forlorn voice of my pantless 2 and 3/4 year old came to me from the dining room: “Jason stole my poop! He came by and stole my poop with his butt!” He had pooped, on the wooden bench, at the dining room table, sitting on his socked feet. Now, he *thought* some had reached the floor and been stolen by his baby brother, but really it was more like a wet fart, and ended up on his tush and his socks. The took me 15 minutes to sort out. Then I came back and read the rest of your story.

    Ladies: Shit Happens.

  16. I read this and thought, Oh you poor love. Nobody with kids (and a heart and any empathy) is going to judge you. Your child’s body just had A Moment, maybe a bit of a stomach upset and normal signals were not sent to say, Time to find the toilet. Hey, after baby #2 and the collateral damage, I couldn’t go to the park for a few months either.
    Hold your head up high, go back to the park. You did an amazing job in a nightmare situation (who carries spare stuff for such big kids? – this was not something you should have to be prepared for). People will assume your child was ill (quite likely), not that you haven’t bothered toilet training your preschoolers. Think of how it will make you wiser, less judgemental and kinder to other people.

  17. Been there, similar story. We met friends at the zoo. An hour into our visit, my oldest (6 years old at the time) says he has to poop urgently. By the time we get the toilet, there is poop everywhere. We had wipes but no spare clothes for him so my husband (bless him) took off his boxer underpants to given him to wear. In the meantime, our baby (a year old) develops diarhoea but seriously. She just keeps pooping and it ran out her clothes, onto the stroller, onto the stuff that was in the stroller basket… I had to wash her in the sink of the washroom (she pooped here too) and after 3 changes of clothes, we ran out of stuff for her and had to wrap her in a spit up clothe..,, we have never been back to the zoo since, 2 years later..,,I feel your horror

  18. You my dear woman are my hero. You rocked it. But please know that if I had been there you could have run up the bat signal. I would have shared wipes, towels, whatever I had along. I bet it was a better secret than you thought because I like to think most mom as would have jumped in to offer support. We’re all in this together is better than every woman for herself. Don’t worry about being the mom with perfect kids. Worry about being the mom with the most love to share. The rest comes when needed.

  19. Points to you for the toilet dunking, that’s impressive emergency mama skills right there!
    But I believe I win the embarrassment award. Amazingly, I have shown my face again in the Apple store.
    http://thebarberswife.blogspot.com/2011/12/nightmare-that-was-my-friday.html

  20. You, friend, are much better than me. I took my kids to the park last week, and in my eight months of pregnancy bliss (read: ignorance from preggo brain) I totally missed the available porta potty and told my 3.5 he could just pee in the grass… only he had to poop too. .. and lucky me no one noticed him squat and drop in the grass, except me. I rushed him to the car where changed clothes and wiped. But the poop? I was so embarrassed I left it there.

    Here is hoping no one’s kid stepped in it later that day. …

    1. Please, Ladies, do NOT do this! Human wast is a biohazard and needs to be disposed of properly: in a toilet. Not in the garbage, and certainly not left on the ground where anyone can come into contact with it. It can pollute the ground water, spread disease, make the people with autoimmune disorders terribly sick/threaten their lives. Embarrassment/laziness is no excuse for not taking proper care of human waste.

      1. I think considering all of the animal waste people leave around, Mandy’s son’s singular turd isn’t going to kill anyone. Support, here. Support.

      2. Then why when camping are all the scouts taught to dig a hole poop in said hole then cover it?? Yes in massive quantities humam feces could cause a problem but none of these people are saying they in courage or regularly allow there children to just poop any were. And quite honestly i can list a number of things that people do regularly throw in garbages that are equaly or even more hazards.

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