My neighbor posted on our neighborhood Facebook group that if everyone could please make sure to remove their dog’s poop from her yard, she’d appreciate it. What she didn’t know is she had a much bigger mess headed her way. While on a walk with my four sons under age 7, one stopped suddenly, and before I knew it, he was standing above a literal mountain of poop on her sidewalk, right near the area the sneaky dogs had been going.
“Didn’t you wear underwear?” I asked him, half totally nauseated and half in disbelief that this is my actual life now. “Why would I need underwear?” he screeched back.
But it didn’t end there. The kid refused to move. I get it, it would be gross to try to walk home (all two houses) in such a… condition. So, being there alone with the three other kids and not many options, I left him on the sidewalk to retrieve a wagon from our garage. I plopped his poopy self into the wagon on a beach towel that — suffice it to say — no longer lives at my house, and pulled him home.
When I came back with a bucket of water to try to remedy the poop mountain, my sweet neighbors who witnessed the whole crappy situation had already pulled a hose down to the sidewalk for me. It became quite a running joke in the neighborhood for a while, and nobody seemed to care much about dog poop after my son one-upped all the puppies.
This kind of literal crap happens many days per week. With my first few kids, I found it largely distressing — how embarrassing, right, that my young school-age kid, not a toddler, just pooped in the middle of broad daylight on the sidewalk, I would have thought many years ago. But now, not so much. It was just too funny. I reached out to Dr. Whitney Casares, pediatrician and founder/CEO of the Modern Mamas Club, after the incident, curious about how and why sometimes these parenting crises are total stressful disasters and sometimes we are holding back hysterical laughter with all our might.
Casares says watching other parents who find humor in parenting themselves can inspire you to try it. “My friend is amazing at [when] a kid will do something funny and it’s kind of naughty; she’ll look at you and side smile but not fully. It reminds you this is not a big deal. I don’t have to be in it,” she says. Not being “in it” to her means seeing yourself as outside of the situation that’s happening, which can also help you to feel like not everything is your fault, or a reflection of your parenting, which sometimes prevents you from finding humor in your kid pooping on the sidewalk or doing other similar shenanigans.
She also recommends making a tagline, or a motto, that you say to yourself or to your partner in the midst of a parenting catastrophe. Hers, with her husband, is a line from Forrest Gump — “Lord make me a bird and let fly away.” “When things get really crazy in our house we do that, we look at each other… joking with a partner or with yourself can be really useful.” I have also tapped into my personal motto in moments like these, in which I ask myself — “Is this going to be upsetting or hilarious a year from now?” For really big things, I change it to five years. It tends to put things into perspective.
For me it also was a reflection on finding a community that loves my kids and the chaos that is my family for what it is. There will always be stray basketballs in my yard and occasionally (okay, often) in the neighbor’s. There might be bus stop yelling early in the morning. And, yes, there’s the odd chance that my kid might take a full-on dump in front of your house. But finding a community that has your back, and laughs it off with you, makes parenting a little easier and epically more enjoyable. My kid’s poop story helped me realize that we have that, and raising a child in a community that supports you, rather than yelling at you from their front porch, makes all the difference in your ability to laugh something off. The “Oh, I’ve been there’s” and the “You’ll laugh at this when they’re grown” might seem trivial in the moment, or even annoying, but they are quite the opposite — they are evidence that your community is right there, in the pile of poop with you. Literally.
Alexandra Frost is a Cincinnati-based freelance journalist, content marketing writer, copywriter, and editor focusing on health and wellness, parenting, real estate, business, education, and lifestyle. Away from the keyboard, Alex is also mom to her four sons under age 7, who keep things chaotic, fun, and interesting. For over a decade she has been helping publications and companies connect with readers and bring high-quality information and research to them in a relatable voice. She has been published in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Glamour, Shape, Today's Parent, Reader's Digest, Parents, Women's Health, and Insider.
Alex has a Master of Arts in Teaching, and a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications/Journalism, both from Miami University. She has also taught high school for 10 years, specializing in media education.