Today is the 4th of July, which means that I have been actively playing the role of mom for close to three years, more if you include the following-every-rule-and-heeding-every-piece-of advice-received-from-strangers-and-read-in-magazines 40 weeks of pregnancy. I am not ashamed to admit that some of the more subtle cues offered by Briar were lost on me,

“She’s a little night owl, just doesn’t want to go to bed until 11.” This said cheerfully after she writhed in our arms howling beginning at seven each night and ending as she passed out from exhaustion four hours later.

Neither of us really understood what she was saying until she was nearly two, now her sister at one declares, “Poop” and “diaper” with perfect clarity. “Wow! So much better at communicating.” This from Briar about us.

Yesterday I had a truly remarkable moment as I heard Briar call from the other room. Her throaty voice traveling from the dining room to where I sat in the living room, Avery resting between my legs,

“Mama, what I got? What I got, mama?”

I knew, without a shred of doubt, that what she had was something I wanted nothing to do with. My three years of being a mom have included the earning of certain badges and I have the What I got, mama? badge emblazoned on just about every shirt I own.

Instinctively I lifted Avery and set her off to my side, away from the direction of Briar’s voice. I turned my body and shouted to Sean to come immediately, having learned a thing or two himself during these years of parenting, he came without hesitation. Briar rounded the corner, lit from behind, arms outstretched, and rushed toward me,

“What is it mama? What’ve I got?”

The smell hit before my eyes and brain communicated the reality of the shape moving rapidly toward me.

Poop. Fresh, hot, and plentiful.

“No, Briar. No!”

I sprang from my seat and fervently prayed that my hands met an unsoiled surface. Bingo. I raised her in the air, my hands upon her waist, and scanned her body.

“What have you done? Briar! We don’t do this, we don’t touch poop.” I sprinted upstairs, slamming the door behind me and calling to Sean to stay away. Briar, face crumpled in a mix of horror and despair, flailed in my arms trying desperately to hold

“Honey, it’s ok, you were bad, but we just have to clean you, ok.” As we entered the bathroom she began to kick and grab at my arms, her fingers catching on my arms as the poop clung to my skin. I recoiled.

“Mommy, save me. Mommy help,” screaming. I thrust her into the bathtub and started the water as she continued to flail and beg for help. The water blasted icy and fierce, I silently willed it to heat up, which it did after what seemed an eternity. I began to spray her. The intensity of her protest, the desperation of her screams tore through me. Hot, prickly tears blinded me as I held her down.

“I have to wash you, honey. Be still.” She wouldn’t stop and every time I considered stopping she would swat at me, sending bright orange splatters against the green tiles of our shower. I put my head down, resolute to handle the task at hand and move on, both of us tortured as we were by our own actions.

I rinsed the last suds from her body and shut the water off, her wide blue eyes scanned my face, her mouth set in a tiny oval as if poised for simultaneous kiss and “I’m sorry.” I scooped her in a towel and carried her to her room. I wanted to hold her tight in my arms, soothing her and apologizing for having scared her. It was clear in her face she wanted to go back ten minutes and not explore the contents of her big girl Dora diaper.

I made do by gently patting her dry and dressing her in soft fresh clothes. I spoke in hushed tones and explained why she mustn’t ever do this again, she looked back at me and solemnly promised that she wouldn’t. I think we both knew in that moment that she wouldn’t, but she will do other things, and I will have to clean up. I hate that part of being a mom, literally loathe who I am in that moment even though I know she is a part of me that must exist.

I have learned, there are sentimental badges for these milestones and, more importantly, there is another side. There is a, “Remember when you stuck your hands in your own poop?” for me, and for Briar it is a “Remember when you gave me that sippy cup and I refused to drink from it and you got really mad and said I had to have a time out and then when you took it away you realized it was milk from like a week before and just dumping it out made you gag, remember that?”