Phoebe with glasses on

Catherine Kraemer's 1-year-old daughter, Phoebe. 

I thought I had already passed through five or six of parenting hell’s nine circles. I’ve been puked on, like, dozens of times. I’ve dragged screaming toddlers from busy public places and faced the wrath of a 6-year-old with tangled hair. Matt and I take regular road trips with three antsy kids, and we’ve even been to Chuck E. Cheese.

But up until a few weeks ago, I had never —excuse me while I collect myself — dealt with poop in the bathtub.

Right now, you’re probably saying, “My kids love to poop in the tub! Get over yourself!”

I get it. I’m fortunate in this regard, or at least I was. Emilia and Grace never felt the need to soil themselves in the process of getting clean, but Easter weekend, as Grace and Phoebe splashed and played in my in-laws tub, the unthinkable happened.

I heard a scream, followed by Grace jumping out of the bathtub like the water was on fire. And there was Phoebe, blissfully playing like nothing had happened, surrounded by suds, toys and some other stuff.

As I stood frozen in terror and disbelief, my much more collected and seasoned mother-in-law sprang into action, devising a plan for de-Phoebe-ing and then de-pooping the tub. For this reason and others, she is my hero.

She calmly cleaned while I gagged. And as the bathtub Barbies relaxed in a sink full of hot water and Lysol, I checked another milestone off my list.

Parenthood is a lot of things. It’s hard and beautiful and rewarding. But it’s also inherently gross. In that way, it sets itself apart from our other relationships in a key way.

My friendships are beautiful and rewarding, and at times, difficult. Same with my relationship with my mom, my siblings and my husband. But no role or relationship is half as disgusting as parenting.

I’d like to think that slogging through the spills and mysterious puddles, the nighttime vomit fests, the potty training accidents, the boogers and the bodily fluids has brought me closer to my kids and Matt, because we’re all in the trenches together. And nothing says, “I love you” more than cleaning up after someone in their most raw and revolting moments.

I wish I could say that Phoebe’s swim with a school of brown trout was a one-time thing, but a few weeks later, it happened again.

Again, I heard Grace (who will never again bathe with Phoebe, ever) scream. This time, Phoebe looked mildly ashamed. This time, I channeled my mother-in-law’s steely patience and went fishing.

Later that night, Grace woke up vomiting, and an hour later, Phoebe did the same. Too tired to bathe her or myself, we dozed together on the couch. Filthy, stinky, exhausted and peaceful in the trenches.

***

Catherine Kraemer writes twice a month for Momaha.com. She and her husband, Matt, are the parents of three young girls – Emilia, 6, Grace, 3 and Phoebe, 1. Originally from St. Louis, Catherine lives in Omaha and works at a local advertising agency.

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