There are times when the forces of the universe of parenting swirl around and come together with a strength, converging at just the right time and trajectory to shoot forward in one swoop, smack you in the face, and scream, “Stop being an a-hole!”
In December of 2012, my precious daughter had recently turned two. I had this parenting thing down to a tee. I was patient, loving, made my own baby food, successfully had her sleeping in a crib and through the night at three months, and at two years old had just transitioned her to a big girl bed on her second birthday…and, might I add, she never got out of her bed. I had also birthed her little brother while she was at the ripe age of 19 months. If you asked me in my own “humble” opinion, I was pretty much Super Mom, very much deserving of some kind of small token of recognition like a billboard to display in my front yard for the neighborhood to be aware they lived amongst such greatness. I wrote a personal blog that I dreamed would one day turn into a book, the kind that new moms give to each other at baby showers as THE go-to baby book for how to parent—correction: how to parent RIGHT.
I had determined that it was time for my brilliant child—because of course, the perfect mother can only have a brilliant child—to be potty trained. I planned it perfectly, as only a perfect mother does. We would accomplish this simple task with the three-day method. Now, for those that aren’t familiar with the three-day method, the short version is that it’s basically potty training boot camp. Day One: ditch the diapers, go pantless, and introduce the potty with a rewards system. Day Two: Continue potty practice and reaffirm what was learned on Day One. Day Three: Get them into panties, practice some more, have an outing, and voila! You have a perfectly trained toddler! Perfect!
In my perfect pre-planning, I took my little Harvard-bound toddler to the store where we picked out the perfect panties, the perfect potty seat, the perfect rewards system, and plenty of games to keep us entertained over the simple three-day process. I owned this potty-training business.
Two days after Christmas, I woke up with exuberance and determination. A high that is probably only known by coaches leading their team onto the football field for the state championship, I was en fuego and ready to roll. Let’s do this!
I explained to the child genius in simple terms what would be taking place over the next three days, grabbed her diapers, walked over to the trash can where I ceremoniously threw them away, and looked down to see a two-year-old looking up at me with eyes that can only be described as “WTF, Mom?”
Day One: We ditched the diapers and went pantless—and by “we,” I mean the child. “We” kind of implies me and my husband did too, and that would have just been weird. We sang “pee pee in the pot-tay, pee pee in the pot-tay!” We played tea party. We did puzzles. We colored. We actually did the three days worth of activities that I had planned in about two hours, but that’s OK! We would do more!
Day Two: Hooray! The kid woke up and had a successful pee in the potty! And then peed on the couch…and then on the rug…and then her bed…and then the chair. That’s OK! We regrouped! We sang the song louder!! “PEE-PEE IN THE POT-TAY!!” We’ve got this! Only one more day!
Day Three: The two-year-old peed everywhere in the house BUT the potty. There was some yelling. There was pleading. There were some tears—all from me. I was starting to completely understand what Jack and Wendy Torrance in The Shining felt when cabin fever set in. She still hadn’t pooped, but that was all right. It was only causing me a slight nervous tic. The books said they can go up to a week without a bowel movement. So it was no biggie! And you know what? This was perfect. I was creating a new method. The Four-Day Method! I could see it now: My picture on the back of the advice book. It would sell millions of copies.
Day Four: Still no poop. My whole house smelled like urine. I was seriously considering crawling into my closet with a bottle of red wine and a log of salami and never coming out. But wait! I was Super Mom! I can’t do it…YES, YOU CAN! Pull yourself together! You have got this. That potty is yours!
Day Five: Desperation began to set in. I had to get out of the house. I threw the kid into a pair of skinny jeans and dragged her outside to play. The perfect little potty came along with us with a reminder to the Harvard-bound child (maybe she was more of an Aggie?) that the little potty was just on the patio, there for her to use. Distracted by the pure thrill of the fresh, non-urine smelling air, I closed my eyes, inhaled, and let my breath out slowly. When I opened my eyes, there was no child in sight.
That quick moment of panic set in as I started scanning the yard and suddenly spied her hiding behind a bush, pants on, and that all-too-familiar look of relief flooding over her face. Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no! I ran over to my child, the stench hit me, and I realized I now had a pair of toddler skinny jeans and a onesie to peel off of my child that was covered in poop. Have you ever tried to peel poop-smeared skinny jeans off on anyone? It sucks. Seriously. Gagging as I went, I peeled, and off they came, leaving traces of their remnants just about everywhere. I walked into the bathroom with the clothes pinched between my forefinger and thumb, set them in the sink, looked up and into the mirror, and that’s when it hit me.
I had poop in my hair. I HAD POOP IN MY HAIR!! And there it was: My smack in the face. My very own “stop being an a-hole” moment. And that poop in my hair was just…absolutely perfect. It was the perfect beginning of my humble journey through motherhood, into realizing that there is no such thing as perfect. And you know what? It was when I dropped the “perfect” that I finally began to understand what this motherhood thing was all about—that it is SO MUCH MORE than being perfect. It’s about screwing up and learning from your mistakes. It’s about knowing your own faults and embracing them. It’s about enjoying the imperfections, like poop in your hair, because that’s what’s makes the journey so much fun. When I dropped the perfect, I became a better mom, a happier mom, and that is what it’s all about.