I had been in the shower for only a few seconds when thirty pounds of fury began beating on the door. I opened it, cross because this was supposed to be my uninterrupted shower time, with said thirty pounds of fury being watched by my husband.
“Where the shit IS he?!” I exclaimed, as Jack stepped first one chunky toddler leg, then the other over the side of the tub and plopped down. The drain was badly in need of some sort of drain opener, so Jack was now splashing around at my feet in a couple of inches of dirty, soapy standing water. By the time G. got there, Jack had dipped his face in it and was rubbing the soap bubbles in his hair.
“This,” I said, pointing down at Jack, “is what happens when you’re supposed to be watching the baby and you let him watch cartoons while you go outside to smoke!”
“I’m a terrible father,” he intoned, reaching for Jack and trying to pull him out of the tub. Jack screamed in refusal, so G. was left to peel off his wet clothes and saturated diaper and let him splash around naked while I finished showering.
Once we all got dressed, we embarked on a clearly ill-fated family trip to Lowe’s. We were almost there when from the back seat came a prolonged grunting sound, followed by an innocent “Uh-oh.”
It was a shit-splosion, which we discovered when we laid Jack in the open hatch and took his pants down. And it would have been fine if the pack of wipes in the diaper bag hadn’t been nearly empty. G. and I attempted to clean the explosion with the three mostly-dried-out wipes left in the pack, which were obviously insufficient for the job. “Fold them over!” G. said. “You have to maximize the surface area!”
“I’m trying!” I protested, with the hysteria of someone who just got a smear of another person’s feces on her hand. “What the hell are we gonna do? Do we have anything else in the car? Don’t you have extra wipes?”
He didn’t, so we decided the best option was to put a clean diaper on Jack’s still-shit-covered butt, put him back in his car seat and drive over to the nearby Target to buy wipes. I realized it was stupid of me to be annoyed at my husband for not having extra wipes. Why should he? I didn’t have any in my car. Plus, it was sort of my fault for not having enough wipes in the bag in the first place.
Still, I wanted to blame him somehow. I’ve realized that whenever I feel out of control of a situation, I reflexively start blaming the nearest person. “He’s already shit twice today,” I said. “Why did you give him those greasy pizza rolls?”
“I only gave him a few pizza rolls,” he clarified. “And how about the black beans you gave him? And the bran flakes? I may have planted the explosives, but you lit the powder keg.”
We both started laughing, which is how we knew we weren’t really mad at each other.
As soon as you have kids—correction: as soon as you start even trying to have kids—you need to be prepared to give up control. A new life at any stage is an unknown variable. The first time I was pregnant, I began an ordinary January work week only to find out that I was carrying a ten-week-old embryo that had stopped developing a month prior. The OB told us to schedule a D&C for the following week. In tears, we called our parents and friends. My friend N. started to make the five-hour drive to see us that Friday and crashed her car on the way. That’s how I ended up driving to a Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania McDonalds at midnight, in a blizzard, carrying a dead baby. It wasn’t how I thought my week would end.
As hopeless and harrowing as that drive was, some good came of it: it resulted in a one a.m. cheeseburger, for one thing. And for another, it taught me the wisdom of surrendering to life’s vagaries. We can fight, or we can flow—and while we’re flowing, marvel with bemusement at the absurdity of it all.
I’ve always been someone who plans, who tries to determine her own future down to the small detail—mostly because I fear the unknown. For people like me, parenthood presents the ultimate challenge—and the ultimate possible reward. The family trip would have gone more smoothly if my son hadn’t taken a massive dump in the car, or if I’d been more prepared, to be sure. But it wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting. As all parents know, the real stuff of life lies in the unexpected, and you never feel more alive than when you’re frantically driving to Target with someone else’s shit on your hands.