The following story is not for the squeamish.
You may have noticed that I haven’t written much this week. This is mainly because I, and several members of my family, have been hit hard with a bug that is taking its sweet time meandering its way through our intestines. In short, we have turned into incredible pooping machines. I seriously didn’t know it was possible to poop this much and still function, but there you go. The baby, of course, has it too, which means that I’ve been spending most of my waking moments racing back and forth between the bathroom and the diaper box. (No, she’s not getting dehydrated.)
Friends, it is all shit, all the time.
Then, a few days ago, one of the little guys messed with the dog’s electric fence transmitter, and the poor dummy got zapped just for coming out of his crate. So he got all shell shocked, and refused to go outside. This went on for a little too long, and the inevitable just happened: he crapped all over the house, and his crate, and his giant spongy cushion, and everything.
So, like the reasonable adult I am, I hollered and screamed at him, threw him outside, and cleaned up the mess. Picked up the shrieking baby, sat down to nurse her, and what do you know? She pooped all over my lap.
At this point, I did what any pious housewife would do. I yelled at God, “YOU GOT SOMETHING TO SAY TO ME?”
And He said, “Yeah, go to confession, dummy.”
FINE. Some people need to be drowned in poop before they even start looking for a shovel.
Any normal person, when faced with a heap of excrement like this, would go get the shovel and clean it up. Maybe they wouldn’t be happy about it, but they would clean it up, because it is a pile of dog poop in the middle of the yard. Instead, I started listing all the things I had already gotten done that day, all the things I was still going to do, and I said, “No! It’s not my job! I had enough things that are my job. Not gonna do it. Not. My. Job.”
The other day, this appeared on the bathroom door:
It was written by my 12-year-old son, who is both very twelve, and very much my son.
Can’t quite make it out? You can either walk away in blissful ignorance, or you can read on, and prepare yourself for the next generation of Fishers. Here is what it says:
RULES FOR POOPING IN A STAIN-FREE MANNER
1. Open bathroom door and (using feet) walk in.
2. Close and lock bathroom door.
3. Walk to sink, reach across and turn on light.
4. Walk to toilet.
5. Open lid of toilet.
6. Pull down pants and underwear.
7. Place butt on toilet seat (commonly known as sitting).
8. Concentrate the muscles in the lower region (butt) until [redacted]. Repeat as many times as necessary.
9. Get wad of toilet paper and wipe away remaining poo. Repeat.
10. Reach for silver thingy on side and pull down (commonly known as “flushing”)
11. Walk to sink and turn on.
12. Rub hands with soap and put under sink until clean.
13. Wipe wet hands on pants.
14. Walk to door and open.
15. Walk out.
Congratulations, YOU POOPED!
TAKE ONE CERTIFICATE
IF YOU HAVE COMPLETED ALL ACTIONS
[I POOPED AND I’M PROUD]
I am not sure what, in particular, brought this on. But I noticed that no one has taken a certificate yet.
Oh, it feels good to be on the cutting edge.
The other day, I read about a new sort of free-form playground in Wales, where kids apparently play with garbage and light fires, with adult approval. It’s meant to correct modern parents’ tendencies to shelter their children from every possible bump, bruise, and tumble, and to teach them to assess risk on their own. It’s called “The Land.” According to an article in The Atlantic:
The ground is muddy in spots and, at one end, slopes down steeply to a creek where a big, faded plastic boat that most people would have thrown away is wedged into the bank. The center of the playground is dominated by a high pile of tires that is growing ever smaller as a redheaded girl and her friend roll them down the hill and into the creek …
It’s still morning, but someone has already started a fire in the tin drum in the corner, perhaps because it’s late fall and wet-cold, or more likely because the kids here love to start fires. Three boys lounge in the only unbroken chairs around it; they are the oldest ones here, so no one complains … Nearby, a couple of boys are doing mad flips on a stack of filthy mattresses, which makes a fine trampoline. At the other end of the playground, a dozen or so of the younger kids dart in and out of large structures made up of wooden pallets stacked on top of one another.
Here’s a picture of The Land:
PIC The Land
Despite not being in Europe, we’ve been experimenting with something similar on our property. At the risk of appearing pretentious, we refer to it as “The Yard.” Here’s a recent photo, featuring one of my courageous and confident children:
I don’t tend to hover over her, suppressing her natural inquisitiveness, because I’m afraid she will stab me.
Speaking of cutting edge: seriously, give that kid some space. She will cut you.
The Yard isn’t the only area place where we allow children to naturally innoculate themselves against adult phobias. Most modern bathrooms. monitored by paranoid, over-anxious helicopter parents, are unnaturally sterile and barren places, where cleaning happens daily and natural playthings such as toilet paper, wet toilet paper, and turds, are discarded, rather than cherished as the instruments of adventure. But our bathroom — “The Crapper,” we’ve dubbed it — was shaped by the children who attend it. Which is why I hold it in all day and use the gas station bathroom whenever I can.
One popular feature in The Crapper is a set of three broad planes (some refer to them as “walls,” but we think of them as “canvases”) where children can express their creativity in tactile and olfactory ways. The commercial colors of the toy aisle are banished in favor of the time-honored palate of yellow and brown. In The Crapper, our children also learn about physics: will the toilet flush when there is a copy of This Rock in the bowl? How about all the copies of This Rock? How about your little sister? Yes, here is a place of learning.
We also have an area called The Boys’ Room. I don’t want to talk about that, though.
The only drawback is that we are having a hard time keeping the professionally trained playworkers around. They show up all bright-eyed with their gum boots and their sweaters with wooden toggles on them, ready to let children be children; but within hours, they’re nowhere to be found, leaving only a small pool of blood behind them. I ask the kids what happened, and they say they didn’t know. One kid did hear a hoarse cry that sounded like “such a thing as bad kids after all,” but other than that, it’s a mystery.
Overall, we are pleased with the results. Our children show no sign of being hobbled by phobias about hygiene or safety. On nights when Daddy works late, they are hardly even appear human. And we have our philosophy of unstructured play and child-led inquisitiveness to thank. I can only hope that other American parents will follow our lead. Or at very least, drop some of those lawsuits.
1. Yay, Patheos tech team! They brought my archives over from my old blog. My pages, too, which I’ll be updating soon. Stay tuned for a list of top ten favorite posts, or at least top posts which seem entertaining without triggering any calls to child protective services.
3. In a recent bout of economizing, I told my husband I was ready to downgrade on gin. I am now the proud owner of a nice, big bottle of something called New Amsterdam, and for all I know it does taste exactly like New Amsterdam.
(My husband, being a gentleman, did tap on it before he bought it, to make sure the bottle was actually glass.) It’s not quite as smooth as my favorite Tanqueray, but it tastes fine. But the next day, I remembered something I used to know: when you buy liquor, what you’re really paying for is the next day.
(Sorry, I just realized this is the second time this week I’ve used an adorable animal to express my inner disposition. This stops now.)
4. Speaking of thrift, my son recently showed me his toes. He was wearing sneakers at the time. So I had a free moment and headed to the Salvation Army to look for some replacement shoes. They didn’t have anything for him, but they did have these for $5:
which I had no choice but to buy for my 7-year-old daughter. They have little disks built into the sole, so you can spin around like a beeeutiful spinning ballerina princess ballerina. Now obviously, a seven-year-old girl is capable of spinning around without the aid of a special shoes; but then you don’t get to be the greatest mother in the world for ten minutes until you say no to a third ice pop.
5. 100 years ago, Igor “Why You Do Me That Way” Stravinsky premiered his insane, herky jerky, dissonant Rite of Spring
It doesn’t get really nutso until about the 3:33 mark. People were so upset by what they heard and saw that there was a riot. A RIOT, because the music wasn’t beautiful, and people still wanted and expected art and music to be beautiful.
Now, I’m of two minds here. I like Stravinsky, and I’m not one of those people who insists on all harmony all the time. I’ve sat through John Cage concerts, and I listened hard. I went to Die Alte Pinakothek and did not skip the abstract expressionists, but lavished my eyeballs all over them all afternoon long. On the other hand, I want to give those concert rioters a medal, because first there was the Rite of Spring, and now there’s this. Where were the rioters when these folks
took the stage? To poop on stage? Because art, that’s why? I would make some puns about the heavy load that an artist bears, but I’m too busy weeping until I’m dead.
6. If you hear anything about whether or not print newspapers can survive, here’s something to keep in mind: my husband is a reporter, and the other night he emailed me to let me know that he was running late, and that he would be bringing home some cheese. He said that a cheesemaker owed the paper some money for advertising, and that they had persuaded the ad guy to let them pay their bill in cheese. So, there you are. Buy newspapers when you can, before the business acumen leads them to trade in the good camera for a sack full of magic beans and five shares of Enron.
7. And here is a common potoo:
You may think the photographer just caught him at a bad moment, but no — that’swhat the common potoo always looks like. This particular potoo is named Igor Stravinsky, and he looks like his week has been about as much fun as mine.
Hey, happy Friday! And happy summer, dammit! Finally.