My face had never been so close to something so foul. And at that moment, I realized I’d do anything for my kid.
I was at my 7-year-olds soccer game when Tristan ran off the field, the ball still in play, his right arm hooked around his back, handpinching his butt cheeks.
We were at a park on the southern side of Small Town Oregon. I followed him as he scurried to a row of port-a-potties that were on the oppositeend of the soccer field.
Tristan ran, his little legs moving quickly for a moment or two, then he seemed to lose something inside, so he stopped, pinch hisbutt harder, and walked until hed regained what ground hed lost. Then he ran again.
His rigid shoulders, tight-legged stride, and pale face all seemed to say, Im not going to make it.
I felt horrible for him.
Tristan was old enough to handle going potty by himself, but for some reason he insisted that I follow him in. And once there, I understoodwhy.
Tristan was a little guy, the smallest on his team. The soccer league that he played for issued uniforms, but they always seemed to have a difficult time finding shorts small enough to fit. This caused him, apparently, to tie about fifty million knots in the strings of his soccer shorts, and now the damn string was so tight he couldnt slide the shorts over his hips.
I crouched down in the port-a-potty, my face inches from the bowl, the smell of others wafting into my face, and attempted to unravel Tristans many knots. It was fall, but it was still warm out. The cramped space was stuffy and smelly, and I thought about how the company of these portable restrooms called themselves Honey Bucket.
Let me be the first to say, there was nothing close to honey in the bucket. My face had never been so close to something so foul.
In front of me, Tristan danced a jig, and I cannot recall ever being quite so miserable as a parent. I couldnt think of anyone in the world that I would do this for outside of my children. Or perhaps my wife, and when I thought about her, struggling to get her pants off because she had to poop, and me crouching down to help her, I wondered if a situation like that could be a deal breaker for marriage.
What Im trying to say here is that this is what the unconditional love of parenting really looks like. It isnt always rosy and sweet. Sometimes love takes the form of crouching down in a hot sweaty port-a-potty, your head inches from a strangers turd in a pool of filth, your 7-year-old dancing a jigas you untie all the stupid knots in his soccer shorts, waiting, anxiously, for shit to come rolling down his leg and send the bile thats been resting just below your jaw over the edge.
In what I assume was the nick of time, I managed to work through enough of Tristans knots to wrangle his shorts off. The boy wiggled ontothe toilet, and then I had the pleasure of watching him release one of the most amazing pooping spectacles ever produced by one of my children.
It was a bubbly wonder of smells and sounds, and once it was all done, and my shirt was covering my nose, Tristan smiled up at me, blue eyes a little watery, and said, Thanks, Dad.
As much as I didnt want to smile, as much as I wanted to gag, or pass out, or run from that place and never return, I couldnt help butlook at my son, his face one of relief from embarrassment and body pressure, and feel like Id done some great deed. Id been there for someone I lovedearly when he needed me most. I dont know what it is about kids that can turn the most horrible situation into a warm heart, but they can.
And in that moment, with Tristans gratitude, I felt satisfied as a father.
Its cool, buddy. You feeling better? I asked. Then I rubbed the back of his buzzed head.
Yeah, he said.
You going to be able to get back into the game?
Tristan was pulling his shorts up by then. He thought for a moment, and said, Yup.
We each used hand sanitizer, and as we did, I wanted to wash my body in it. Then Tristan ran back to his game.
When I was cursing and struggling with those knots, I wanted to lay into Tristan about what hed done. I wanted to let him know that tying abunch of knots in his shorts was asinine and led to a situation that I really didnt appreciate. But once everything was said and done, and Tristan saidthanks, I didnt say a word about it.
In so many ways I wanted the moment to be over, and perhaps thats why I just let it go. But when I thought about how that situation wasprobably as difficult for Tristan as it was for me, I realized that I probably didnt need to say anything.
The lesson had been learned.
Parenting seems to be full of moments that are horrible and frustrating. Moments where life lessons are learned, unconditional love is tested, and nothing more needs to be said.