It was one of those events that we as parents do not like to talk about. Those rare (okay, sometimes often) occurrences that leave us feeling as though we may as well throw in the towel, because we've obviously failed at this game of childrearing. There was the time that my daughter swallowed some lotion, which was made all the more troubling by the fact that I was forced to name said lotion for the Poison Control operator (Boob Tube). And then there was the time that she fell off the bed. She hadn't been able to roll over at the time -- or so I thought-- so you can imagine my surprise when she spun clear off the side of our California-King-sized bed -- a bed that she had been nestled safely into the center of less than a minute prior. And now? Now there was this.
I was attempting to do work, while Brooke wreaked havoc on her playroom. We had childproofed the entire downstairs, so it was one of the few times that I felt as though I didn't have to watch her like a hawk. I was happily typing away at my computer, when Brooke waddled out from behind the Radio Flyer wagon and staggered in my direction. I was deep in thought, admiring just how precious my daughter looks when she stumbles around like her drunk Uncle Larry, so it took me a second before I was able to properly survey the scene before me.
And that's when I saw it.
She was carrying a milky green substance in her hand and was in the process of inserting it into her mouth. And I'm not sure whether it was the sleep deprivation, the illness, or the fact that my brain operates at half-mast these days, but the wheels in my head were definitely turning in slow motion, as I attempted to discern exactly what I was seeing. Creamed spinach? Why on earth was there creamed spinach on or around the wagon? And if not spinach, what could that green substance on the wagon's wheels possibly...
I popped up off of the rocker. I mean jumped; as if I were a die and this were a game of Trouble. Ready to spring into action. But then I froze, wide-eyed, like a deer in headlights. Now, you'd like to believe that, in times of peril, your thoughts would be with your child and no one else. But years of conditioning and Darwinism had led me to at least consider my own survival first. Natural selection and all that. I mean, after all, should cabin pressure change, you're to first secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others. So when I realized that the worst was happening -- that my child was eating duck feces -- my thoughts initially jumped to the fact that I was about to have to touch it. And what was I supposed to clean first? If I tackled the mouth area first, she'd just put her poop-covered hands right back in. But if I were to clean her hands first, there'd be duck poop lingering in my child's mouth. A petri dish of bacteria, multiplying by the second! And the longer I took to contemplate my actions, the surer I was that my daughter was contracting Bird Flu. And yeah, maybe that's not how this works, but I never claimed to be a medical genius. This all seemed like a logistical nightmare, nonetheless.
So after trying to get my daughter to take a few gulps of water from her sippy cup (and failing), I finally thrust her towards the sink, where I proceeded to engage in an action that could only be described as waterboarding. She was thoroughly traumatized, and I briefly worried that she may never forgive me. But seeing as how she's a regular Mensa candidate and has all the memory of a gnat, she was kissing me mere moments later. Still, I was traumatized and unsure whether I could ever forgive myself.
But that's parenting. With any job, there's a learning curve, and this is the most complicated of trades. So when my friend's child fell down the stairs, because she had forgotten to close the gate, I reassured her that this type of failure was characteristic of this parenting fraternity, and that she was just receiving her introductory hazing. After all, parenthood is the only seminar where you can -- and will-- fail multiple times, but still pass the final exam with flying colors. Because for every mishap, there are countless more victories, though they're often less pronounced in our minds. It's human nature. But as our children mature and expand upon their ever-growing list of capabilities, they'll test their newfound autonomy in ways that are sometimes impossible to predict. So when your child falls off the bed, because she's newly acquired the skill of rolling, try not to punish yourself for too long in the aftermath, but rather celebrate in the progress she's making in gross motor development. And when you're cursing yourself under your breath as you clean bird feces from out of her mouth, understand that it's simply a sign of her blossoming independence and further proof that you're succeeding in giving her the confidence she needs to find her wings, as she learns to engage with the world around her and explore new and uncharted territory. As a parent, it's easy to fall victim to the oft-unattainable quest for perfection, but we must remind ourselves that for every perceived "failure," there's a monumental leap occurring that should be acknowledged and celebrated, and that parents are still mere mortals who are not immune to mistake.
So yes, my daughter ate duck poop yesterday.
And I couldn't be more proud.