Her Bad Mother

Saturday, December 2, 2006

The Gods Must Be Dadaists

Well, your responses to my rant about the mess and ick of family life made it clear - not that it wasn't already - that we’ve all got shit stories. And pee stories and snot stories and vomit stories and bum-wiping stories and all measure of grossness to recount. Our attachment to these stories is, I’m sure, what makes parents borderline-intolerable to people who do not have children and whose idea of pleasant social chit-chat doesn’t include casual tales of household mayhem involving fecal matter. But we can’t help ourselves, can we? Shit doesn’t just happen, when you’re a parent – it HAPPENS. Shit announces its arrival with a fanfare of farts and then runs and explodes and splatters itself onto the scene. It’s kind of hard to ignore. And so, yes, it figures prominently in our stories.

Shit - and its supporting players, Snot and Mess - were, as story-fodder, good to me this week. It was a low week; it has been a low/dark/gray couple of weeks. I’ve been struggling with some strain of existential influenza and it has darkened my mood and dampened my writing, kept me trapped in an undertow of gloomy thoughts and morose reflections. Until the other day, when the shit and snot and mess hit the proverbial fan and I realized, suddenly, that this parenting gig really is one great big fucked-up messy monkey festival – insanely stressful and demanding and, wouldn't you know it? really, really funny. Oh, epiphany! Oh, insight! Huzzah for Her Bad Mother, finally getting – really getting – what ancient dramatists and third-rate screenwriters and countless bloggers more enlightened than I have understood all along: this shit’s funny. Don’t take it too seriously.

I won’t say that the sun suddenly burst through the clouds and thawed my chilled spirit. It didn’t. I’m still feeling, inexplicably, tired and gloomy. But a laugh was wrung out of me, and – AND – I found something to write about that was not heavy with angst and anxiety and relentlessly moody introspection. Shit! Mess! Lopburi monkeys! Comedy is, after all, literally (reading it from its original Greek - komos - as we must, for we are nothing if not pedantic, even when speaking of shit) a revel, a chaotic frolic. There is comedy in the shitty, messy frolic that is the care and feeding of young children. Write about the shit!

So I did. And we all felt better for it, didn’t we? (Cue collective sigh of contentment.)

My only regret was that the shitty, messy, Lopburi monkey morning that inspired my entirely unremarkable insights was not, end of the day, all that remarkably shitty. It was messy and chaotic and frustrating, but there was nothing extraordinary about that particular mess, that particular chaos. It was mundane chaos. Ordinary shit. Oh well, thought I – it’s still funny. It’s still revelatory. Hit publish.

End of story, right? Ha. Would that it were. That story had one more chapter, and I now have evidence for what I have always suspected: that the gods are watching me and reading my thoughts and looking for any available opportunity to mock me. How else to explain the fact that this morning, mere days after my revelation about shit and my reflections concerning the mild corresponding disappointment that I didn’t have a better shit story to support that revelation, I would find myself on the receiving end of a projectile shit, round and firm and disgusting and approximately the size of a softball, launched from the diaper of a bucking WonderBaby and onto my forehead?

Let's see that again, in slo-mo: a poo - a great big spherical shit - launched from the unfortunately springy diaper 'neath my excessively bouncy child's rear end into the air and squarely onto my waiting forehead, where it rested for an interminable second before plopping, with a disturbingly gooshy thud, onto the floor.

I sincerely hope that you, dear readers, are laughing, because I - still recoiling from the shock of having had shit on my face and preoccupied with the task of disinfecting my head - have not yet been able to muster a laugh.

Somebody better find this shit funny. If you do, could you please remind me again that it is funny and that I will, someday, laugh at this myself? Because that shitball seems to have knocked that newly discovered appreciation for potty humour right out of me.

**Because you asked...

How It Happened: WonderBaby has to be changed on the floor, because her mobility and strength and resistance forbid balancing her on a table, even with multiple strapping devices. So, I was on the floor, squatting above her, my head MUCH too close to her bucking form, the bouncing of which caused the change pad, and my hand, and the diaper and shitball to fly upward INTO MY FACE. Which from now on will be held as far back from the fly-zone as possible, and will be protected by plastic goggles and a helmet.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


The hardest part of mothering an infant has been, for me, knowing what the heck is going on with my baby. She can’t tell me. She’s always been a relatively happy baby. So when she cries, I’m convinced something is very wrong.

I know. I’m green when it comes to this whole mothering thing. (But this is not where I’m going with this title.) The more experienced moms are thinking, “Good God. She’s freaking out about crying? How does she live?” And they would be right. I need to get over it.

But when it comes to health, how do we keep tabs on our infants? Since babies can frequently run high fevers after immunizations or spit up ridiculous amounts of milk with no apparent negative effects, how am I to know when my child is really sick?

Since I live far from any family I could turn to in order to get answers, I rely on the childhood illness and injury clichés I remember hearing as a child.

Spitting up is different than projectile vomiting.
No bruise + no bleeding = probably not a problem
Check her pupils. (Yes, I’ve had to. On more than one occasion.)
You know your baby best. (I love this one. Especially because, while it’s true, it’s frightening. I’m her best shot at survival, huh? Yikes.)
Green snot = infection

Alliclaus was throwing up all night last night, after a very difficult dinnertime. She usually loves eating. She had a bit of a fever, but nothing too serious. Since we were in the middle of an ice storm, I didn’t think it was a good idea to leave the house. So I went through my mothering clichés looking for some answers. I didn’t really find any.

She’s better this morning.

I guess sometimes, I get so worried about her health, I forget to think about my own. I coughed some phlegm out into a tissue on my way to work this morning.


Bethiclaus is a graduate school student and full-time mom. She smells like baby vomit this morning.

Check out other Blog Exchange posts by clicking on the above button. And, go check out what I had to say about the colour green over at Bethiclaus' place... (Kermit is not mentioned once. NOT ONCE. Behold my restraint, and rejoice.)


And, since this weekend will be all about cruising the 'hood, why not visit the Mother 'Hood, and the Basement while you're out and about?

WonderBaby will be hosting semi-naked public readings of selected works by Virginia Woolf around the 'hood tomorrow. Simultaneous translation in ASL and Froggish by Kermit.

(Couldn't help myself. Sorry.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

More Fun Than A Barrel Of...

Parenthood is a messy enterprise. A really messy enterprise. The spit, the shit, the snot, the generally cruddiness of it all - I knew this going in. It was gonna get ugly. I knew this. I was ready.

I was prepared for the meconium poo. I went to the prenatal classes, I gasped out loud with everyone else when showed the video and it flashed past that picture of a newborn's diaper filled with a black, tar-like paste. I was ready for it when it came to a diaper near me.

I was ready for the breastmilk shits that looked liked runny spoiled condiments of the seedy Grey Poupon variety (must. resist. pun.) I'd read about them. I'd seen pictures. I was ready.

I was ready for the dribbly spit-up and the upchuck spit-up and the projectile spit-up and I laughed, laughed, whenever anyone commented on the spit-up with words to the effect of my, that was a big spit-up because ha ha ha they had never really seen serious spit-up, the kind that ends up down the front of your tattered nursing bra and the back of your stretched-out yoga pants, all in one go. I'd seen and felt the worst of the spit-up. I was ready for it.

I was ready for the ever-running rivers of snot.

I was ready for the transformation of the poo that occurred when solids were introduced. I was ready for the increase in volume, and for the substantial intensification of pungency of odour.

I was even ready for the tub dump, even though I didn't have to deal with that myself. (OK, so maybe that one doesn't count. Still, I would have been ready, if it had been me attending to that particular bath. I might have gagged a little, but I knew that babies pooped in the tub sometimes. I would have been ready for it.)

Hope is not the only thing that floats.

The interesting thing about that new-parent condition of constant readiness is this: you experience each moment of readiness-met - each experience of having felt prepared for some discomfiting aspect of new parenthood - as an accomplishment that brings you one step closer to the moment when you will no longer need to be ready. You spend the first year of parenthood being ever at-the-ready, secure in the unspoken-but-ever-present-assumption that one day you will be able to relax your guard, that one day, the spit will stop and the shits will end up in a toilet and the snot will not be your responsibility. You forge ahead, believing that things will get easier and cleaner. The children will get bigger and more self-reliant and the days of spit and shit and snot and mess will fade into the background behind you, lost in the mists of recorded (what, you didn't keep a record of the newborn shits?) and unrecorded family history.

That's how it's supposed to work, right? RIGHT?

Because this morning I got up and waded through the knee-deep lake of books and blocks and stuffies and DVD cases that has overtaken our living room and tripped over not one, not two, but three half-eaten mandarin oranges. After picking up the oranges, I tried to give WonderBaby some breakfast, and was rewarded for my efforts by being pelted in the head by a handful of corn puffs and half of a partially-masticated banana, which remained in my hair while I pleaded with my tiny monster to eat please eat some breakfast, a plea that might - might - have elicited a response were it not for the sudden arrival of the morning poo, heralded by a series of distinctly indelicate grunts. Which required, of course, that I interrupt the tossing of the corn puffs and mashing of the fruit to remove her from her chair, during which process I was smeared with the other half of the partially-masticated banana, which she had decided to store in the back of her pajama bottoms for later consumption. By the time I had removed the banana carnage from her pants and readied her for her diaper change, WonderBaby had had enough and decided to remove herself from her change pad mid-change, leaving me with a handful of shitty diaper, which had to be disposed of one-handed so that the other, clean hand could retain its grip on the shit-smeared Wonderbaby who was now determined to head into the cluttered living room and spread fecal matter across all manner of unwashable objects.

At which point it hit me: this is my life. This is it: this messy, shit-smeared existence is not a grotty way-station en route to some more ordered destination, some permanent condition of tidy domestic balance. It is my life. I am going to remain smeared with shit and/or snot and/or vomit and/or food for a very, very long time to come. It is going to be years before I can relax my Yuck Preparedness System, before I can let my guard down and begin each day without the expectation that I will be confronted by something icky or yucky or messy or some combination of all three.

No, oranges and lemons aren't yucky. Until they're chewed up and left in pieces for Mommy to step on.

There's at least one more year of shitty diapers, after which is the no-doubt messy process of encouraging the redirection of the poo toward receptacles involving plumbing. There will be snot and vomit for as many years as I bear primary responsibility for nursing her through illness. There will be clutter and mess indefinitely. And although I assume that WonderBaby will someday overcome the habit of throwing her food on the floor, I imagine that she will continue to derive enjoyment from dumping bowls full of oranges on the floor and frolicking in fruit for some years to come.

There's no end in sight.

I'm right, aren't I? I have, in choosing motherhood, embarked upon a project that is not entirely unlike the care and feeding of the Lopburi monkeys in Thailand. My life is just one big Monkey Festival and there is nothing that I can do about it.

This is pretty much what it looks like underneath WonderBaby's high chair. Citrus fruits, discarded pop cans, Macaque monkeys and all.

It's a good thing I like monkeys.


Thanks, so much, all of you, for your supportive comments on my decision to withdraw from the finals of the Canadian Blog Awards. It was gratifying to me that so many of you understood.


If I haven't been visiting very much, it's not that I don't still love you all. I'm just a little bit tired and overwhelmed by life these days, and needing to do a bit of cocooning. I'm trying to get caught up as we speak, but my energy is a bit slow to pick up. In the meantime, I'm lurking. I'll be back up to speed soon.