It was the Saturday before Mother’s Day. David was visiting with some family back in Baltimore, and I was exhausted. It’d been a long day, I was tired, and I just couldn’t face the idea dishes and cooking and cleaning on this solo Saturday night. So I dug up a restaurant gift card my mom had kindly given us a while back, dragged the girls out of the house right before dinner time, and headed out to get take-out. Right before we got into the car, Quinn looked at me, grimaced, grabbed at her diaper, and said “Oh, potty, Mommy, poopy-potty.” I ran my hand over the back of her pants, but didn’t feel the telltale lump, and put her in her carseat anyway, figuring she’d be fine in a slightly wet diaper ’till we got home.
Don’t judge me. I know you’ve done it, too.
But what you probably have not done is forget all about that wet diaper, wait ten long minutes in a crowded restaurant for your dinner, bring the food and the children back in the house, feed them their meals, clean their faces, tidy up the kitchen, and wrangle them upstairs to get their baths, all the while wishing for the magical hour of bedtime. Theirs, I mean, not mine. Because while you adore your kids and can spend hours with them happily watching them play and answering the 30 “Mom?” questions a minute and teaching them how to put the hair clip in their own hair, not the dog’s, some days, well, you’re just trying to get through to bedtime. And sometimes the most precious moment of the day is when you close the door over to the last child’s bedroom, and take that deep breath that means peace, even if there’s a pile of dishes in the sink you still have to dismantle. Because then you can catch up on emails or finish paying the bills or fold the laundry or feed the animals on your time, as long as you can catch at least part of Access Hollywood at some point. You know, peace.
But not this Saturday night. No, not this one. This Saturday night, Saoirse and Quinn disappeared while I started to run the water in the tub for their baths. They were gone a beat or two longer than normal, but by the time I realized this, Saoirse was running back into the bathroom, stark naked, with a look on her face like she’d just come face-first with a bear with a fistful of her favorite candy. Not three seconds later, I hear some sort of garbled cry of horror emanate from my bedroom, and Quinn came staggering around the corner, into the bathroom, mouth open in horror, eyes wide and red and wet from crying. She held out her hands to me.
“Ohhhhh, Mommmmmy! Oh, oh!” And I fought the urge to stick my head in the bathtub.
Quinn’s hands were covered in what looked like mud. Not a spot of clear skin showed. They were brown up to her wrist, coated and stinking and covered with small globs and strings that stretched between her fingers like hell’s spiderwebs. She ran to me, and before I could catch her, I was covered in it. The brown specks all over my arms, the stuff flying into the bathtub, her diaper pulled up, askew, over her pants and her bright shirt covered with the smear of her own discomfort.
Oh, that’s right. Her diaper. Apparently she had pooped after all.
“Oh, no, oh, no, oh, no!” I kept saying. “What do I do? WHAT DO I DOOOOO??” I asked the bathtub. I asked the walls. Nothing could answer me. Saoirse was still standing in the doorway to the bathroom, naked. So I put Quinn in the bathtub, forgetting that the water was still running. She was desperate to clean the filth off her hands, and grateful, immediately sat down to stick her fingers under the water. I remembered that she was still in her filthy diaper, in her pants, and picked her up. Her bottom half was now soaked through.
“What do I DOOOO??” It was becoming a mantra, a prayer.
Eventually, I got her clean. It involved a very helpful naked preschooler who can fetch wipes, some clothing and a bathtub that desperately required disinfectant, and a cooperative, horrified toddler who let me clean her off in a massively uncomfortable position in the bottom of a slick tub because she just wanted to getitoff getitoff getitoff. By the end of it all I looked like I’d just left the gym. My back ached, my hair was frizzy and half coming out of its ponytail, arms soaked to the elbows from trying to scrub my own procrastination off of my skin, out of my memory.
An hour later, the girls were in bed. I shut the door over to Quinn’s room, watching her content, exhausted, sucking her thumb to sleep, and breathed that end-of-the-evening sigh. There were still dishes in the sink. I needed to clean off the dining table. The animals wanted their food.
But I sat down on the couch first. Because I could still smell it. Because I could still hear Quinn’s panicked yelp echoing in my brain. And because, just this night, this was the only procrastination that seemed justified.