The poop, prose, and poetry of parenting.
** These are missives from my past. Many of these posts were written about 2 years ago, when the realities and circumstances of my life were quite different. I am now a single parent to a toddler. The past is an uncomfortable and rich terrain. By occasionally delving in, without lingering too long, the past provides the needed perspective to step rightly into the future. **
There is this video my wife took of my daughter when she was a few weeks old. My wife is adoring our child with the camera. She’s recording all the minute changes of her facial expressions. How she so easily goes from a furrowed brow to a look of surprise. Her tiny coos. Her drool. My wife is wholly and obviously in love with her subject. And you can hear me in the background. While my wife is recording this adoring video, I am just down the hall in the bathroom cleaning a cloth diaper. You can hear me talking in the video, oblivious to the fact that my wife is recording. I sound excited and expressive. When you listen really closely you can make out that what I’m excitedly talking about: our daughter’s poop. I’m blathering on about how our daughter’s poop consistency is changing and how interesting that is. I’m happily using the word meconium. I’m practically gushing...about poop.
It’s a perfect portrait of parenthood: consistent adoration, marking milestones, and poop. A lot of people talk about the love of a parent. But, no one talks about the obsession. The gushing. The doting. The silly moon eyes. I know every moment isn’t like this, but the chance is high that you went through a crush phase in your parenting. Staring at your child in all their perfection. Yes, even their wee nail beds are god damn perfect. Talking to your spouse long after your child goes to bed about the cute concentration face your kid makes when they are playing. I mean, if you could hear my wife and I talk about our daughter, you’d think the most brilliant being has struck planet earth. And, I mean, that’s because it’s true. And you do it too. And it’s true for you too. Your kid is totally obsession-worthy. We’re all completely bonkers for our kids. It’s a thing that’s different than love. I love my wife. But, if she hid behind a rocking chair, squinted her eyes, puffed her cheeks, and grunted when she pooped in her diaper, I don’t think I’d be charmed.
When I became a parent, the strangest things got me jazzed. The shift from meconium to regular poop. A good cloth diaper fold. Baby gear. Talking about child development. I’ve become a total parent nerd. I read about it. I write about it. I’m all in and I’m wearing the fan club flare. I’m not putting on warrior paint and entering mommy groups on facebook to battle out volatile parenting topics. But, I’m in the groups enough to know what topics to avoid. I’m in the groups enough to know that what parents need most is a cheerleader who listens well.
I’m a nerd because I love what I do. I gush and dote because I see these little glimmers of what sort of person my kid might be. Having a kid involves the period of time before the kid actually arrives. The dreaming and imagining. It also involves time where you aren’t with your kid. Or you are with your kid, but your mind is having a different parenting experience. Part of parenting is flights of fancy. Imagining who your kid will be. Filling in the blanks we don’t see yet. We take these hints of who they might be and we spin a larger narrative of their lives. I think it is an important thing to do. It gives us a way to understand and relate to our kids when they are little. I also think it’s important to recognize it’s not the same thing as actually witnessing and loving your kid as they are. We aren’t seeing what’s real.
My work as a parent is two-sided. I need to see what’s real. This is where my parent nerd self can shine. Recognize when the meconium becomes regular poop. Witness my kid as they are in the moment and, using my knowledge, do what I can in response. This is the prose of parenting. The other part of my work is to see what isn’t real. I need to dream. Sense. Imagine. This is what allows me to see potential, budding passion, and personality. It’s tricky territory, because it’s easy and damaging to parent solely from this place of imaginings. But it’s also how I first saw something of my child that could only be described as a soul. This place is rich and full of possibility. This is the poetry of parenting.