A few years ago one of my good friends introduced me to the Gunpowder Falls State Park, just north of Baltimore. As State Parks go, it's not my favorite, but it does have a beautiful River Beach-- soft sand, warm water, green shady trees-- and it has become a solid favorite for me and my children for a cheap beach experience. So last week, the kids and I packed a picnic lunch, put on our swim suits, paid our three dollar admission fee, and spent the day in the River. It was a gorgeous day, and the kids were having the time of their lives. Even Micah and Kolbie were swimming around in their Puddle Jumpers, having the time of their young lives.
And then, of course, the expected happened. As Micah and I doggy-paddled happily around each other, she looked at me with something akin to terror in her eyes, and said "I have to use the potty, Mommy". Oh, geeze. I knew it was bound to happen. You can't go all day without going, but as I looked at my other three children scattered around the water, I realized it would take at least five minutes, possibly ten, to get all children out of the water, pack up my bag, and run to the bathhouse that I could see a few hundred yards away. It was very likely to take longer than that, given the expected arguments such as "why can't I stay in the water while you take her?" and "If she gets to stay, why can't I?", Followed by sulky, plodding children who didn't want to be forced to come with me and will make me regret it as much as they can without getting in enough trouble to have me lose it and take them all home.
On the other hand, this was a river. It had fish, algae, a hundred other people (most of whom had already peed in it at least once), and what was a little more? So I did what many, if not most, other mothers would do in my situation. I told her "go ahead. You can go to the potty in the River."
To give her credit, she looked at me like I was crazy. This is my two year old who has had drilled into her as long as she can remember that you "ONLY PEE IN THE POTTY". So for me to be telling her to "go ahead and pee in the river" was a contradiction of her entire body of knowledge- other than "don't let the dog eat your sandwich" and "don't hit your sister". But, as testament to the power of matter over mind, she decided to trust me and let go. However, just when I expected a look of relief to cross her face, it was instead taken over by a look of strain, a tense gritting of the teeth, and --before I had a chance to react-- she looked at me and whispered "I pooped."
Not what I expected.
My mind froze. We were in a river. What was I to do? Tell the lifeguard? Would he clear the river until certain ph balances had been restored? Not likely, considering I don't believe rivers have such chemical balances in place. Telling the other parents "uhm... my daughter just pooped in the water, so.... you may want to swim upstream" would get me a lot of dirty looks and nasty comments and *may* get me and mine kicked out of the State Park. So I nixed those ideas, and went into damage-control mode. As disgusting as it may be (if you've been here, you already know. If you've not, I pray you never are.), I did what I had to do. I pulled at her bathing suit, using my fingers to rinse it out, then grabbed desperately for the, well, poo, before it floated to the surface and acquired witnesses. Why poo floats, I'll never know. But it does. Quite well. Being in a river, I quite cleverly, I thought, decided to bury the poo under the sandy bottom. Suffice it to say, it is impossible to bury anything under the sandy bottom of the river. I learned this the hard way as I struggled desperately to subtly dig holes with my toes, push the poo down, and recover it with sand. Nope. Not going to work. So, I decided to get rid of the evidence entirely and, with a smile plastered to my face and a steady stream of happy chatter to Micah-- "do you like the water? ohhhh... isn't this fun? Where's Kolbie??? happy happy happy!!!!"-- I went about disintegrating the poo between my fingers until it was no more.
Until I was painfully reminded of what we'd had for dinner the night before. Yes. Yes. Corn. Anyone who has ever changed a diaper after a corn dinner knows corn does NOT digest. And there, floating around me and my daughter, were whole pieces of corn. And they kept coming. And they didn't sink, they didn't disintegrate; they just floated around us like confetti at a parade. *sigh* So we did the only thing we could do at this point. We swam away.
Okay, okay. While some of you reading this may think this is the most disgusting story you've ever heard and judge me completely for my actions as a mother, others of you will grimace and say "ah, well, what could you do?". But this story, while it IS completely disgusting, gave me some insight. It became to me an allegory, if you will. You see... we all have some corn in our poo. We may think we can hide it, disguise it, let it disintegrate with the other dirt in the River. But some things just won't go away. Those disgusting, nasty parts of us that we think we can bury so deep that no one will see will be seen eventually. If we have corn in our system, it's going to come out. If the bitterness, the anger, the hate, the ignorance and disregard for others is there-- it won't stay hidden. That prejudice that you think no one recognizes? That lack of ethics that you think is justification for a bigger paycheck? That's your corn, and those little pieces of corn will float to the surface eventually.
So let me say it this way: If we eat corn, it is going to come out. So don't eat corn. Or, at the very least, don't poo in the River.