In two weeks, Emile will turn 2. He and I have been enjoying parent/child swim class at the Walla Walla YMCA since he was a scant six months, so if I do the math (fine, it’s easy math), Emile has been in a twice-a-week swim class for about 18 months now. When we first started out, I had a bit of anxiety about a few swim class-related issues, including
- If people would notice my chest scars (they don’t because they’re too busy staring at how cute Emile is)
- If I would slip and fall on the wet floor while holding the baby
- If the baby would drown or contract some horrible, chlorine-resistent bacteria that started the next zombie apocalypse
- If the baby would take a dump in the pool in front of everyone
I grant that some of these are less probable than others, and that nearly all of them are ridiculous. But hey, they were my fears, don’t judge.
We managed to slip rather easily into our routine—put on swim diaper, swim shorts, pack pajamas, two towels, YMCA pass, stroller, diaper bag full of any potential tool the parent of a young one may need. I’d park, get out Emile’s stroller, bag, towels, and finally Emile. Put car keys wallet, and cell phone into stroller so they don’t go into the pool with me. Walk through men’s room into pool area, take off Emile’s shirt (or coat and hat and pants and shirt if it’s winter), take off own shirt, kick off flip flops, walk into pool with Emile and start the mantra of “kick, kick, kick.”
Over this year-and-a-half Emile has fallen for the instructor, Meagan, and had a few pool friendships with Nico, Eleanor, and Duncan. He enjoys the Hokey Pokey at the end most of all, but is a big fan of the safety sit and the monkey bar crawl as well. I try to encourage him to do his pool tricks when we’re in any generic pool, but the warm pool at the Y is his clear favorite.
For the first oh, six months, I was terrified that he would poop while we were swimming, but diaper after diaper, twice a week, he’d come up clean. It was like being in the pool shut down his colon—hey who knows? So routines what they are, I began to make assumptions about how swim class would go, depending on his mood before we even left the house. Of course we have missed classes, like when we’re on vacation or someone in the house is miserable with a head cold. But for the most part, my guesses are right on. I typically plunk Emile down on the dry towel and he looks at his reflection, saying, “Mirror, Daddy. Emile in mirror. Mirror.”
(Mirrors, by the way, are amazing. Thank you, Lacan, for belaboring the point of here/not here.)
So last week, during the penultimate class for the summer session, I followed all of my usual steps for a successful swim class experience. We were kicking and reaching/pulling, and monkey bar crawling, and doing our underwater dunks with the best of them. I noticed something in the water, like an old, flaky leaf that had partially decomposed—kind of like what one would see in a compost pile. Great job wiping your feet, people, I thought to myself. Not everyone took the care I did when coming into the pool.
We sang Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, and practiced floating. We worked on overhand paddling. We played Red Rover through a blue-and-white Hoola Hoop. I looked over as something went past my vision, and saw there was more compost in the pool with us. What the hell? You parents need to get your act together! Good thing this class is almost over.
Instinctively I picked up Emile’s feet and checked the bottom of his swim shoes, and they were free of debris. He giggled at me. We did the Hokey Pokey and the final cheer—Hip Hip Hooray! What are we? Awesome!—and then high-fived the instructor and walked out of the pool. I was glad to be away from someone else’s mess. The other parents and toddlers for the next class were gathered around, ready to start their half-hour. I said hello to two of them because I know them. Networks what they are.
Plunked down the towel, patted Emile dry as he chatted to the mirror. Then I slid his shorts off and ripped off his diaper.
To find he was full of compost. Except it wasn’t leafy debris. It was shit. Flaky, dry, dark brown shit.
Emile had shit in the pool. I gasped. He laughed at me.
I went through five, six, seven diaper wipe cloths. The shit was like, magnetically charged to resist the wipes. Oh my God I’m the crappy parent with the crapping kid, I thought, as I struggled to clean my son. Of course it’s my kid who took a dump in the pool at the Y.
Fresh diaper on, PJs on, filthy towels and swim suit tucked away, and I hauled us off to the front desk to tell the staff that they had a biohazard on their hands. There were two young men up front. One was talking to a gym member, the other was eating dinner out of a styrofoam carton with a flimsy plastic fork. I made eye contact with him.
“Can I help you,” he asked me with food in his mouth.
“I’m sorry, but my child pooped in the warm pool.”
He stopped chewing.
“Just now?” No asshole, three weeks ago. I just felt like ruining your pad thai.
He dashed past me, back toward the pool area. I sighed, defeated.
And I jogged out of the gym so we could disappear before anyone could spot us.