Yesterday, I met up with an amazing friend and her spunky daughter at a local tot lot so our kids could run and crawl around while we could sit and catch up. They did. We did.
Then it was lunch time. My two boys and her girl gathered around us at the benches for finger foods and continued playing in between bites.
My youngest, a few days shy of 1 year old, has a healthy appetite and stayed right by my side as I handed off bites of quesadilla, strawberry and banana. I popped a slice of banana in his mouth and he crawled away to check out a plastic excavator.
I ate a bite of strawberry myself, then looked back up at my sweet baby boy. He was still chewing. Usually, a banana bite is down the hatch in no more than three chews. "Are you still eating that banana, baby?" I get up, walk two feet, crouch down and check his mouth. Has the banana been dropped in sand and reinserted, because it sure is brown. And then, the stench hit me...
"He's eating poop!"
The remainder of the turd -- or the part that had drooled out of his mouth as he savored his current mouthful -- was next to him, and undeniably, it was poop.
Bird? No, cat! And a mouth FULL. And a smile, and CHEWING. My friend and a mom we had been talking to registered what I had just said: "He's eating it?!?!"
And then the kids register what I've said. 3-year-old stops in his tracks, "He's eating poop?!?!"
And then the laughter. At this point, the laughter is the backtrack to my shoving wet-wipes into baby's mouth. He's smiling because he loves when his big brother laughs, but he's clearly a bit annoyed that I've extracted his snack.
"He ate poop?!?!??!" That's me, incredulous.
It takes many wipe-swipes before they come out poop-free. By this point, I'm laughing, too. And a little high on adrenaline from the nice combination of crisis management and lack of true imminent danger.
Next thought: There is a lack of imminent danger, right?
Then I call the doctor. I get an advice nurse who can't find "Ate Cat Feces" in her problem list database.
She asks, "What brand was it?" I'm silent. As a psychologist, I'm used to not answering questions and letting the asker figure it out.
It takes a few seconds. "Oh, cat POOP. There is no brand."
She puts me on hold while she calls her supervisor. "She wants to know what brand it was?" Again, I allow the silence to answer.
"Um, maybe call Poison Control? I can do it for you." No, no. I can call Poison Control.
"Poison Control, how can I help you?"
"My kid ate a mouthful of fresh cat poop."
"That's not our department, you're supposed to call Infectious Disease Control."
"But, if the cat had worms, the child might get worms. Look out for him scratching his behind or worms in his poops."
OK, not imminent threat. And another thing that will crack my preschooler up -- worms in poop.
Now that I had reassurance that the likely downside would be relatively benign, I was free to laugh and enjoy the situation. While I will feel terrible for the little guy if he has to suffer the discomfort of pin-worms and I will bring him right into the pediatrician's office to get immediate medical care (I promise!), for now, we can all enjoy the event.
The baby liked eating the poop.
The big boy liked being able to say "poop" as much as he wanted. And he's excited to go back to school and tell all his friends, "but only when we're in the bathroom, cuz that's bathroom words." So rule-abiding.
I liked the thrill of emergency intervention without the terror that comes from true danger.
I love that I'm not freaked out. I don't feel like a bad mom. I don't feel like I should have supervised him more or kept him from putting crap in his mouth -- because I didn't expect the crap would actually be crap. So, this time it was actual crap. As one mom pointed out, "the sand is covered with cat poop, so they're all getting it in their mouths all the time." Don't fool yourselves, people.
Even if (knock on wood) the baby gets sick from this, it will not take away the pleasure we derived from the moment, so I'll let myself acknowledge it and welcome it.
Joy isn't always easy to come by, so I'll take it where I can get it.