"How can a thing so cute as you produce a thing so foul as that?" I told myself in front of my 4 year-old daughter, Joy, when I was cleaning her shit. Over the years, I have cleaned all my three children's bottoms. But as best as I can recall, none of the other two's poo were as nasty as Joy's. Call it bias of recent recollection, but Joy's shit wins hands-down when it comes to pants-down stinkiness. And joy is disarmingly coy about her poo boo-boo. She gives no warning whatsoever. She doesn't even squeak it out. And she does it with panache and stealth. Here's her modus operandi.
When the rectal payload comes, she will effectively go into a perennial Zen mode – still and silent. Just imagine a fasting monk meditating under a Bodhi tree and you will get a foretaste of how Joy does her little business. It is all very subtle and quick. If you blink, you may not catch the frozen moment. Within seconds, she is done. And she will discard the Zen mode and seamlessly return to her rambunctious self. It is as if nothing has happened.
But the dead giveaway is the smell. And that can't be hidden. No way Hosea. Not even if you drown the incriminating evidence in a tub of Coco Chanel No.5. It still reeks with a vengeance and it gets worse in the confined space of an air-conditioned car. When you get a toxic whiff of it, you know it's her. It is her aerial trademark. It is Joy's peculiar aroma of social dilemma. And there is no need for any finger pointing. My 4 year-old is hard pressed to deny it.
No doubt she will be coy about it. Sometimes even stubbornly evasive. But her face betrays her innocent look of oblivion. Her cherubic appearance tells it all. In other words, her wordy denial and frantic head shaking could not hide her body language of guilt. Sooner or later, she will cough it out right after she has pushed out the last lump. This is where my wife will have to get to the bottom of things.
The usual cleaning tools to ensure a thorough purging are a pack of wet wipes, an easy-to-reach diaper, and a heavy dose of joie de vivre. For the clueless, that's the French word to describe an exultation of spirit. The latter coinage is an apt description because I was once tasked to clean her up (as my wife was out). And when I lifted the Velcro straps at both sides to expose in full view what lies insidiously beneath, what greeted me was immediately followed by these spirited exclamation of mine, "Holy Jesus, Father Son and Mother of God!" No joke, and with no disrespect either. I was regretfully explicit about my knee-jerked expletives. It was an involuntary utterance of glossolalia (tongues speaking). I literally muttered wordfully.
Of course I quietly sought absolution in my heart, but where is the resolution, I asked myself, in the rancid discharge lying motionless before me? But alas, dispensing with all that contrived hyperbole, here is the beauty of it all. And I will say it in absolute earnest.
While cleaning her and bearing with the smell, I caught a glimpse of my little girl’s face. That was all it took to distract me from everything seemingly disgusting or intolerable. Her helplessness and innocence spoke to me deep. At that moment, nothing matters except to clean her up. My initial resistance quickly turned into a helpless desire of willingness even I could not explain. All I knew then as a father was to fall in servitude for her.
However I sensed her unease. She tried to avoid eye contact with me while I was wiping her clean but I knew she needed me to finish the job. Her subtle embarrassment only compelled me further. And I also knew that I needed to do it because it was not just the act itself but the reality of our relationship that dawned on me.
In fact her future flashed before me and I could see how as her father I will be called upon on many occasions to be there for her. My unconditional love will thus be put to the test and no amount of effort is too much when it comes to giving of myself, my time and affection for her. I guess this is what makes our relationship unique, resilient and transforming.
Yet, all this does not change the fact that her shit still stinks to high heavens. My olfactory senses will still rebel. But the saving grace here is that she is my daughter and it is my privilege as her father to do what comes naturally for my children, and that is, to always clean up their shit in the literal and metaphorical sense. In other words, the joie de vivre will always be my exclamation of joy! Cheerz.