In response to today’s Daily Prompt: Head Turners.
My children are both grown up and moved out. They live nearby and we see them once a week, which is just about perfect – they come for dinner, we tell stories and make awful puns and play games. Then they go home.
I don’t often think about when they were little, but today’s prompt reminded me of a time when I did. I was walking to the parking lot from a store and passed a family coming in. The mother held the hand of her little girl, and the father carried his toddler son. As they went by, the father was rubbing at his son’s head and said, in complete seriousness, “Did Mommy get all the snot out of your hair?” I managed go hold in my giggles until they were out of earshot.
This one line brought it all back to me. Children are a delight and a joy, of course. We had some trouble getting our two children to come along, and gave heartfelt thanks for both of them. But nobody who has ever raised a child can say that it was all like the Pampers commercials. Have you noticed in those commercials nobody is ever cleaning up a really messy baby? We don’t want to think about those moments, but they are at the core of parenting. One of my very favorite comic strips is Baby Blues by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott, where they tell it like it is, and I remember the one where the mom was chasing after her little one to try to wipe her nose, change her diaper, clean her spit-up, and commented: only as a mother do you have to beg to be allowed to do something you don’t want to do.
Before I had children, I cringed away from the thoughts of changing diapers and getting spit-up out of the carpet. Now that my children are civilized adults (well, except for the puns) I cringe from those same thoughts. But when they are little, and they need you, it becomes a Nike moment – you just do it. It seems right and normal to keep the diaper over the shoulder and just swipe with it at whatever needs swiping, without a cringe in sight. And the same is true for bigger things than diapers. The most poignant interview I ever saw was with a mother whose son had severe disabilities, demanding intrusive and constant care. The interviewer asked her how she could do it, and she shrugged. “You just do,” she said. “It’s not even a question.”
From the toddler with snot in his hair to the severely disabled son, our children demand a lot from us. When we look at these demands from the outside they can seem unpleasant, unreasonable, even intolerable. From the inside, though, they are just life. As I think back on what I had to do for and with my little children, I’m reminded that we are all capable of doing things we thought we couldn’t do. When the moment comes, you do. You just do.