The screaming began approximately seven minutes after I put her in the bathtub.
Which, if you have little kids, you’ll agree is always somewhat reassuring. A scream means everyone is alive and able to get air into and out of their lungs. Prolonged silence is what makes a parent’s blood run cold. The moment you sit down and actually start to relax on your back patio you suddenly realize you can’t remember the last scream you heard and spring to your feet in a panic, certain some creepy neighbor has lured them into their tool shed for a game of good touch bad touch.
So, like always, when I heard the blood curdling terrified scream I continued wiping down the kitchen counter top, relieved everything was A-okay.
My nephew ran into the kitchen, panting and sweaty.
“Hers… hers… HERS P-P-POOPED IN THE TUB!”
We were visiting my sister and brother-in-law at their cattle farm for my nephew’s birthday for the weekend, which is the equivalent of letting my kids run amok through a field of buried land mines. Her 4-year-old son knows to stay away from the electric fence and if you drink the pond water you’re most likely going to get tape worm. My girls do not know these things, so I spend most of the day chasing them around knocking poison ivy bouquets out of their hands.
It was the end of the day and I was exhausted; I was certain that cleaning poop out of the tub would kill me.
“LILA!” I marched into the bathroom to find her smashed against the back wall, face pale and eyes like a wild animal that’s been cornered, toeing at something brown. “Why did you poop in the tub?!”
“It wasn’t me… it was Hadley!”
Hadley is my two-year-old, and the first of three to share that same bath water. This presented an interesting twist.
I grabbed Lila’s hands and with superhuman strength she catapulted herself over the water and out of the tub as if she were leaping over a family of bloodthirsty crocodiles. Expecting one or two floaters, my mouth dropped open as I observed at least a dozen turds bobbing among the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle bath toys. Some had already started to disintegrate. Lila hid her eyes behind my leg, trembling with fear.
I thought about how she had come upon the turds and the initial thoughts that entered her head as her brain processed what she was seeing. By the time she got in the water, the initially frothy bubble bath had started to deflate, so I wondered if she had merely eyeballed them as the bubbles disappeared one by one, or if her little fingers had blindly grabbed one under the water and instead pulling a plastic turtle out of the water she saw a big fat turd staring her in the face. I looked down at her, shivering with what I could only assume was the initial stages of PTSD, and knew this was going to come up in therapy one day.
Then I thought about my 5-year-old; blissfully ignorant to the tornado of turds swimming with her in the bubble bath. I decided it would stay that way.
I drained the water and, as with everything I really really don’t want to do, just stared at the tub and weighed my options. I was literally exhausted from the day. Maybe I could just leave them there for my sister to discover after we had already left? I could play dumb. “What turds?” I would convincingly say as my mini van kicked up gravel and made its way to the black top.
However, at that exact moment, my sister happened into the bathroom as she was giving a house tour to a group of party guests. Conversation abruptly stopped. They might as well have walked in on me severing the dog’s head.
“Ummm, we had a little accident in here,” I said, saddened that my window of option A was closing by the second as she walked toward the tub. “But we’ve got it all under control. Your son had a little accident, and you owe me big, but I’m gonna clean it up.”
So as much as I didn’t want to, I reluctantly fished out the brown goblins, bleached the tub, set fire to the ninja turtles and counted the days until they start college.