I looked up from our cabin’s off-white kitchen peninsula to see my husband, Craig, holding our son in the awkward, half-hug of a body vice grip and urgently asking, “What is in your hand, Milo? What is that??”.
Poo. It’s poo, Dad.
Score one for Kiwi the Cat, who apparently thinks that dragging bits of yesterday’s processed kibble into the living room is a fitting exchange for the millions upon millions of Rice Chex and Goldfish crackers that Milo leaves for her on the carpet, wood floor and every possible crack and crevice within his ever-expanding reach. At least she didn’t go for quantity, and at least he didn’t eat it. In the face of impending dysentery, some things are still worth being grateful for.
I keep telling myself that I will miss these days. These days, so full of food flinging, mysterious wet substances and a reoccurring festival of tears when the hand sanitizer is taken out of reach. I will miss this. Careening like a drunken circus performer down the front lawn toward open water. I will miss this. Toilet paper-ing the house as proficiently as a high school senior on Halloween. I. Will. Miss. This.
But really, who am I kidding? Of course I will. If, two years ago, someone had described the parenting of a young child as fun (and they did), I mostly thought they were as well put together as the embossed warning on my dad’s industrial strength, alarmingly effective ice-shaver:
Be Careful Finger.
However, to my pride-swallowing surprise, they were correct. Even more than correct, they were radically understating the fanciful glee-factory that lay ahead of us. While Milo has caused me to exchange my ideas of sleeping in and sleeping well for simply sleeping at all, he has enhanced just about every other aspect of my life. Except for road trips and dinner out, that is, and probably general hygiene, but who’s keeping track, really? That multitude of people I know who have said, “you will see things differently”, or “life will carry new meaning”, were right, and I humbly admit that I am now learning to see the world with fresh eyes. In particular, I am seeing the vast and varied world of excrement in a whole new light.
You might think this to be my segue into a tale of diapers and diarrhea (or diarrhear as we say up heyah on a regulah basis to keep the inmates from really losing it), but you would be wrong. Today, I have my sights set strictly on feline feces.
As I puttered away down our three-mile gravel driveway on the twenty-five minute drive to town and the grocery store, I found myself periodically snorting and sniggering, totally amused at both the enthusiasm and significance of Milo’s morning discovery. Don’t we all pick up a little crap every now and then? More often than not, it looks like poo, smells like poo, and – oh, no – does it taste like poo?? Yes. Gasp. Yes, it does. And yet, there we are, clutching it’s nasty contents in our grip, seemingly unaware that we’ve seized hold of something that seeks to do us foul, filthy harm.
Jealousy over a good-looking friend? Nasty.
Bitterness over a wrong that you can hardly remember? Foul.
Anger over something trite? Filthy.
An addictive habit? Poo.
(Especially true if that somehow is your addictive habit. And especially unsanitary.)
I don’t know about you, but – good glory – I know that I’ve picked up handfuls of the stuff in my years. Interestingly enough, Milo released his small but surprisingly robust grip on his pirate’s treasure this morning far more promptly and agreeably than I have been known to release my vices. This is a trail we could easily bunny hop down, because the only reason Milo gave it up so readily was because I offered him hand sanitizer in a trade, which is as I mentioned above, a favorite substance to squish through his fingers. If I hadn’t offered him something new, he would have been sorely tempted to snatch his bounty away from my grasp. I believe there is a life lesson hiding here somewhere….
(Like, Why didn’t you notice the cat crap on your floor before your toddler did?)
(No, not that life lesson. The other one.)
Just like that cat scat would have been toxic to Milo had it somehow *utter silent praise* been ingested or had festered in his grip for too long, the nasty habits and harmful characteristics I have picked up are also lethal to me if I don’t learn to offload them. Which, I think you’ll agree, isn’t as easy as simply relaxing my hand.
Today’s episode was important for me, because as time progresses, I am increasingly desensitized to what I’m hanging on to: it’s weight, it’s smell, it’s *gag* texture. I get so desensitized, in fact, that I completely forget about it. I fail to see that I am bitter. I overlook that I am jealous. So I am thankful for the reminder this morning to reflect on my rancid baggage – the unhealthy and distancing things I have held onto – in hopes that I might spark a decision to put them down. I’m reminded that, so far, I have chosen to embrace these things and that unless I make a deliberate choice to release my grip, they will persist and fester and ruin me.
I am grateful for Milo, in innumerable ways, and realize that over time and through new experiences, I will become even more grateful: for his perspective and audacity; for his lack of a filter and lack of fear. But today, I am specifically thankful for this reminder, and for Craig’s masterful speed and agility, and finally, for someone paying any semblance of dutiful attention in this house.