There exists a fabled horror known to all parents.
It transcends generations and geography, eclipses the barriers of language and economic status. Its mention elicits the same response from mothers, fathers, and all who have come to know of its repugnant existence. Merely utter the words to another parent and a mask of sobriety will befall their face. Eyes turn downwards, teacups come to gentle rests on saucers. When the initial sting of memory passes, their eyes turn back to yours apprehensively.
They say, I know the thing of which you speak. I have been there.
I have smelled its stench.
I have recoiled in terror at its sight.
I have been forced to rid it from the earth with the power of only my hands.
I have found my way out of the depths; I have triumphed.
I have survived the car seat poop.
The stories begin the same. A beautiful day, a drive with the windows down. With your approach, red lights submit to green. You are overcome with a feeling of contentedness, of joy, of deftness at the parenthood craft. Your child’s nap time awaits at home, a glistening oasis. Where will the nap time journey take you, oh masterful parent? A soothing shower, a delicious meal, a cleaned home? A smile crosses your lips as the possibilities are laid out before you in a glorious buffet.
And then, something in the atmosphere is amiss. The shift is startling, sudden. The nerve receptors in your olfactory system come ablaze in a fury. High-level cognition shuts down and a primal urge overtakes you, begging you to find the answer: What, oh pray tell WHAT, is the origin of that smell?
The Where’s Spot? book, you realize, was only a grim foreshadow of this moment. Is there a garbage truck behind me? No! Is there a horrible catastrophe involving sewage spewing from the ground? No! Is there a manure processing plant on this street that I’ve just never noticed? No, no, no!
The backseat is the origin.
Oh hail, holy queen, mother of mercy, our sweetness and our hope, the backseat is the origin!
The severity of the stench, you are aware, points to only one horrifying conclusion. The seal of the diaper is compromised. A Chernobyl of poo awaits you. You allow yourself the indulgence of a brief moment of panic. Then, you summon the requisite composure to change your hideous reality. It is your only hope.
Your mind desperately scrolls through the options at your disposal, each more incomprehensible than the last. Could you pull over at the next parking lot? While you will lack the full arsenal of tools and resources that come with home base, there is the promise of immediacy. No. No. The fear of botching the attempt and digging yourself deeper into this crisis is too much. You must press on. Sweet child, strapped into a putrid pool of dung, forgive me– we must press on!
The few moments that separate you from home drag on tortuously. The distance between red lights is like the distance between prehistoric geological epochs. Your only plea with God is this: let the child’s hands not find their way to ground zero. Let whatever foul calamity come to me, the upholstery, the child’s garments, the car seat cover (hand wash only)– but spare the child’s hands and by extension, his face (Lord have mercy) and mouth (CHRIST HAVE MERCY).
You have made it home. A beautiful sight is curled beside the driveway. Oh, majestic, benevolent serpent– the hose.
Working with the swiftness of a Civil War medic, you begin. You remove the shorts, the t-shirt, the diaper. Each layer reveals more gore. It is overwhelming, all-encompassing, worse than you could have imagined. A nude toddler stands in your lawn. What the neighbors must think is trivial as you work furiously towards your goal: Cleanse the buttocks. Control the damage. Restore order.
The hose’s shower setting proves woefully insufficient. No, more force will be required. It is the only language with which this nightmare will negotiate. A bellicose grimace sweeps across your face as you adjust the setting: jet.
The child whimpers in protest at its icy chill. You cry to him, Submit yourself to the hose! It is your only path back to righteousness! The jet performs its noble duty. The chunks of excrement are driven to the ground, seeking their return to the depths of Hell from which their genesis came.
Soon, the final remnants of your odyssey are washed away. There is only you, still breathing hurriedly. Your child, bewildered by a barbaric driveway hose-blast. The child’s shorts, doused clean. They will be worn again. Maybe not this week, when the memory is still too much to bear. Maybe not before they’ve been through the washing machine twice. But they will ride again. You will not let the car seat poop have the satisfaction of claiming them.
A tear of victory, a prayer of gratitude. And an admonishment: Be gone, car seat poop. I have driven you from my child, from my vehicle, from all that is sacred to me.
Oh, you will strike again, this we know. The dance will continue, from generation to generation, nation to nation. But we will triumph.
We will prevail.
We will rebuild.
Together– a global army of survivors united in common cause– we will slay you, car seat poop.