“That sort of thing happens all the time,” the nurse reassured. “We just clean it up, along with everything else, and keep on going.”
I made it through the delivery without experiencing what I once perceived as the most humiliating thing that could possibly happen to me.
Three years later, I thought my embarrassment peaked when, in the middle of labor with my daughter, another doctor opened the door to my room, looked between my legs, shrugged and left. He knew he was in the wrong room by taking a quick glance at my child’s crowning head and my battered crotch?! At that moment, I thought I could never be more embarrassed.
Then my second child was born.
We are so anxious for our children to begin talking that we forget what that skill really gives them the power to do: humiliate us.
In my early years of motherhood, my son, Evan, compared a man’s teeth at a restaurant to a jack-o’-lantern. The older gentleman, a few tables down from us in the restaurant, asked my son to repeat himself. And before I could clamp his little mouth shut, he did.
“You look just like a jack-o’-lantern,” he squealed. Evan thought he was paying the man a compliment; he loved the little jack-o’- lantern decorations we displayed around our home at Halloween.
I was mortified.
When my daughter began talking, the embarrassing comments flew out of her mouth a little more freely and frequently. If we were in the aisle of the grocery store, I was sometimes able to stroll her past the older lady whose “skin has lotsa creases” before she heard my daughter’s remark. Sometimes, before anyone else saw, I could push down Delaney’s tiny pointer finger aimed at a person who was different looking in any way.
Sometimes I was able to curb the humiliation.
But not the day we took her brother to soccer camp and she walked around to all of the males on the sidelines, asking each one if he was her father. Before I could set up our chairs, she had subjected at least five of them to her toddler interrogation.
“Are you my dad?” she asked an older man seated next to his wife. “Are you my dad?” she asked a couple of college aged guys who stopped passing the ball long enough to answer her question. Most just shook their heads and laughed. I tried to hide my embarrassment.
“Don’t worry, gents. You are off the hook,” I wanted to say. “We know who her dad is, and most days he claims her.”
This is the stuff we should be prepared for when we first find out we are pregnant. These are the topics that should be addressed in parenting classes. The other parts comes pretty naturally. We’re all going to learn what a contraction feels like. We will all figure out how to get that baby out of us eventually. But I could have used a little guidance on how to respond when my daughter brings up bathroom habits in a professional setting.
A little over a year ago, Delaney was meeting with her principal to discuss entry into a junior kindergarten program at a Catholic school. The principal asked me what expectations I had of the school and the teachers. After I answered, he turned to Delaney.
“And what goals do you have for yourself this year?”
Without the slightest hesitation, Delaney looked right at him and said, “I’d like to be able to wipe my own butt. My brother has been able to wipe his own butt for a long time now. I’ve been practicing, but my mom still has to check behind me some. I want to be able to wipe my butt myself.”
“Great goal,” the principal said, behind a smirk.
Embarrassed? Hell yes! But how could I be mad? She answered him honestly and sincerely, and what kind of goal is a preschooler supposed to have? And damn if she didn’t reach that goal before school even started!
I’m sure my days of being embarrassed by my children have not come to an end. They’re just getting started, brewing a new concoction every day. But I’m not going to let it get me down.
I will get revenge, though. I’ll get my turn when they’re teenagers. I’ve already started planning the elaborate costumes I can wear when I pick them up from school dances and sporting events. I can have shirts made that say “Evan and Delaney’s Mom” so there will be no doubt to whom they belong. I can intentionally match them when they are least expecting it and cannot change clothes, and I can comment profusely on their social media… I don’t know…about bathroom habits, maybe?
Just wait, kids. It’s coming.