The Magnificent Exploding Baby

Dedicated to the very nice lady with the mystery novel and the red bookmark.

When I started this blog I wanted to stay away from poop humour, because it’s gross but also because everyone already equates poops with babies. There’s nothing more to learn. Nothing, except the extent to which parents are acquainted with poop. No honest account of motherhood would be complete without a poop story.

Last weekend was Joanie’s first excursion into air travel and despite the stigma of terrible babies on planes, and aside from a few spats of tears, she was quiet and well behaved. The horror show was the lead up to the flight. On our last day in New York Joanie and I came down with a cold. I struggled through a fever, headache and runny nose to pack while she wailed. We had done some shopping and had acquired a whole new bag of stuff. We were also running late as people with young babies perpetually are, something my previously maniacally punctual self has recently come to terms with. Frantically, I packed, crawling on the floor to find socks (I celebrate the minor victory of all our socks returning in pairs), throwing all of Joanie’s accessories into whatever bag was closest.

We arrived at Laguardia airport with a large bag on wheels, a diaper bag, a computer bag, a canvas bag of souvenirs, our coats, Joanie and the car seat she refused to sit in. On top of all this I am a nervous traveler who insists on having my passport and boarding pass in my hand where I can see and feel them. Immediately after checking in Joanie started crying her long loud hunger cry. “Let’s just get through security and then I’ll feed her at the gate.” I figured that as long as we were there with our bags checked and our passports ready everything would be easy. We would have time to feed her and ourselves. We’d board early and comfortably. We would only have an hour flight and short cab ride. Then we’d be home. Boy was I mistaken. The great explosion of 2014 was awaiting me at Gate 15.

As soon as we got to the gate, Eric left to find us some tea and sandwiches while I settled in to feed Joanie. Just as she started to feed she looked up at me with wide eyes and then surprised herself with the thunderous noise that came from her little innocent looking bum. Everyone looked as I smiled and continued feeding her. I couldn’t take her to the bathroom until Eric got back to watch our bags. Anxiously I waited, until another thunderclap cracked. This time I felt wet seeping in my hand. Joanie, uncomfortable for obvious reasons, started crying. I sat her on my lap and streaks of greenish brown appeared on my jeans. I grew more and more impatient as the mess in her diaper became unbearable. “Oh hell,” I said loud enough for everyone to hear, unfolded a mat and started to undress my gross little daughter. Joanie, who loves having her diaper changed, smiled wide as I struggled to remove her shirt without smearing anything onto her face. She reached up to put her poop-covered fingers in her mouth and I fought to keep them down by her sides. A very kind woman in the seat next to me took notice of my catastrophe and offered to help. Embarrassed, I declined but she knew better and insisted, grabbing Joanie’s hands and entertaining her with silly faces. Together, in a frenzy of poop and limbs and diapers, we were able to wipe her down using the rest of the wipes I had and a few tissues I’d stuffed in my pocket. The woman, her heroism complete, left to wash her hands that were now covered in a stranger’s bodily fluids. Just as I was strapping Joanie into her diaper and singing her changing time song, Outkast’s So Fresh and So Clean, Joanie let out her third and final thunderclap. Without any more wipes I used the diaper to clean her up and dressed in her last diaper, the others I had brought were stupidly stored in our checked luggage.

Eric came around the corner to find me holding his naked smiling daughter with my elbows, my fingers spread wide and away from her. He put down the two camomile teas and two sandwiches he had brought for us and took over while I left to scrub my hands and clothes. When I returned Joanie was shaking her stuffed Elmo and babbling away as if nothing had happened. Eric borrowed a spare diaper from a family nearby and we ate our sandwiches.

In the end it was just another day.

That’s my poop story.

The “I Dropped My Kid” Club

This week’s installment is a day early as Joanie, Eric and I are off to New York for the weekend. All our fellow passengers on the plane are in for a real treat.

My friends watch me with what I think is unease as I flip Joanie around with much more calm than I did when she was first born. All the photos of her and I in the first few days of her life feature my tensed shoulders and thin nervous smile. As I grasped my new baby I would think, “just don’t drop her.” Although I have since become significantly more comfortable holding my daughter, I still fear the inevitable first drop.

Everyone has a story about accidentally hurting his or her kid. My parents have both independently told me the story of pulling my brother out of the baby carrier on a plane and smacking his little head on the overhead compartment to the shock and chagrin of all the other passengers. Oddly enough they both take responsibility for it and can’t agree on who actually did it, which is a nice thought in a weird way. It implies that they were a  parenting team.

While the idea that every parent has dropped their child at some point creates a sort of club of commiseration, it is still terrifying. My initiation is both daunting and horrifying.

As I watch Joanie struggle somewhat successfully to roll around on my bed, I am tempted to leave her there I while run to the W.C with some certainty that she isn’t mobile enough to make it over the edge. The fear of her falling stops me because she is only incapable until she is capable. Who knows when that will be? It was only recently that she couldn’t pick things up. Now her favourite activity is putting stuff in her mouth. All of a sudden I have to be vigilant about the little bits and pieces that find their way to my floor.

The same goes for the words I carelessly drop here and there. When Joanie was still in her first weeks we didn’t pay much attention to the language we used. Both Eric and I have a touch of the sailor’s tongue and have since had to retrain our speech idiosyncrasies. We’ve replaced all curse words with foods. I might exclaim, “Oh Hamburgers,” or Eric might complain about some Muffin Fluffer Nutter. If Joanie is accidentally privy to a violent scene on T.V we are sure to say, “he’s spilling his ketchup everywhere.” We know that she doesn’t speak yet and she probably won’t for some time, but who knows when she’ll start understand if she hasn’t already. I would be mortified, but also perversely proud if her first words were “I’d fucks with that.”

My social baby

Without looking, without stopping, I walked quickly through the crosswalk and down the street. I had just dropped Joanie off at daycare for the first time and knew that if I didn’t get out of there I would lose control of the sob I had been wrestling with for the last twenty minutes. Despite my best efforts I was eventually tackled by tears, and I stopped, embarrassed and crying, in front of a group of tourists eating bagels from paper bags.

“As you’re enjoying famous Montreal bagels, look to your left and you’ll find an inconsolable weeping woman.”

The night before, as I wrote Joanie’s name on the tags of her shirts and folded them neatly into her new back pack, the purchasing of which had also made me cry, Eric and I repeatedly examined how we felt about sending our daughter to daycare so early. We agreed that is was the right decision though I still felt guilty. I realize only now that the thing that made me question my decision did not come from within me, but from the concerned looks and unsolicited “but she’s so young”’s that other people offered continuously.

Yes, she’s young. At four months she is among the youngest babies at her daycare. But this reflects a conscious decision we made as parents. At ten days old we brought Joanie to one of our favourite restaurants and in the last four months she’s been in more dining rooms than most food critics. She’s perfectly at home, sitting on a bar, watching chef’s work. Often, she prefers to be in restaurants or walking in her buggy in our neighbourhood than at home in her play yard. She smiles brightly as we meet friends in coffee shops. When we introduce her to other babies she reaches out to play. Joanie is boldly social. Everywhere we go people know her name. We’re not aiming for notoriety, that’s not the point, but it is important to us that she grows up an active and engaged member of her community, friendly and unafraid.

The daycare we have sent Joanie to is primarily French but its teachers sing to the children in Farsi, Arabic and other languages. At home she is spoken to in English. Our hope is that Joanie will gain an understanding of French and English in tandem while being encouraged to appreciate the beauty of other languages. So not only will she be introduced to other people but also their varied cultures, which will in turn contribute to our community-minded household philosophy.

When I pick her up at daycare I ask her what she got up to that day and her teachers relay her activities. They say: we ate and napped and had a big poop, “un gros kaka,” as they say in French, which I find a very strange expression as it is often used by healthcare professionals in the most formal of settings. And then I take her home and we carry on, a happy little family.

When police brutality becomes the norm…

In the wake of the recent onslaught of police brutality and the coinciding militarization of those who are supposed to serve and protect, I have been thinking about violence of this kind in my own community and what that means to my daughter. In Montreal, where I live and where Joanie will be brought up, officers drive Dodge Chargers, a car that’s look and name serve only to intimidate. They certainly don’t inspire thoughts of safety and protection as they carelessly cruise the streets.

            In June of this year one such Charger flew through a crosswalk in front of an elementary school where children were about to cross. The officer neglected to put on his sirens and flashers, giving no sign of his intention to speed. A brave staff member of the school, a young janitor, yelled after the car. He admonished the officer for his reckless behaviour. Here’s where the story gets crazy, frighteningly so. The officer, who clearly had no where better to be and thus no reason for his dangerous driving, turned his car around and arrested the janitor, aggressively pushing him against the car. A teacher at the school, stepped in, fearing for the janitor as well as for the impression the police officer left for the children. She told the officer he was hurting the young man and put her hand on his arm. This officer, this oafish buffoon, took the teacher by the throat, put her in handcuffs and charged her with obstructing justice. I must reiterate: this all occurred in front of children.

            When this is the kind of behaviour that has come to be common of the police, how am I to teach Joanie that they can be trusted? Who do I tell her to turn to in case of emergency? Of course she’ll learn to call 911, and I know that there are some very terrific officers of the law out there. I’m not advocating living without police, but I am wary of the messages they send out to citizens as they bump around town like brutes from the dark ages. Police should be pillars of the community, role models, not knock offs of the GI Joe action figures I would never give to children.

For more information on this incident watch CBC’s coverage

http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/ID/2464556849/