Kids can turn the most horrible situation into a warm heart


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I was at my 7-year-old’s soccer game when Tristan ran off
the field, the ball still in play, his right arm hooked around his back, hand
pinching 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 opposite
end 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 his
butt harder, and walked until he’d regained what ground he’d lost. Then he ran

His rigid shoulders, tight-legged stride, and pale face all
seemed to say, “I’m 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 understood
why. 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 couldn’t 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
Tristan’s 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 couldn’t 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 in marriage.

What I’m trying to say here is that this is what the unconditional
love of parenting really looks like. It isn’t always rosy and sweet. Sometimes
love takes the form of crouching down in a hot sweaty port-a-potty, your head
inches from a stranger’s turd in a pool of filth, your 7-year-old dancing a jig
as you untie all the stupid knots in his soccer shorts, waiting, anxiously, for
shit to come rolling down his leg and send the bile that’s 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 Tristan’s knots to wrangle his shorts off. The boy wiggled onto
the 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 didn’t want to smile, as much as I wanted to
gag, or pass out, or run from that place and never return, I couldn’t help but
look at my son, his face one of relief from embarrassment and body pressure,
and feel like I’d done some great deed. I’d been there for someone I love
dearly when he needed me most. I don’t 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 Tristan’s gratitude, I felt satisfied as a father.

“It’s 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 he’d done. I wanted to let him know that tying a
bunch of knots in his shorts was asinine and led to a situation that I really
didn’t appreciate. But once everything was said and done, and Tristan said
thanks, I didn’t say a word about it.

In so many ways I wanted the moment to be over, and perhaps
that’s why I just let it go. But when I thought about how that situation was
probably as difficult for Tristan as it was for me, I realized that I probably
didn’t 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.

You would also enjoy,  My Daughter is Not a Princess.

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a
charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky
little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father
left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and
husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good
Morning America
, The New York Times,
Washington Post
, The
Huffington Post
, Scary
, The Good
Men Project
, Fast
, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and


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  • Becky (Page Turners)

    That's one if the loveliest and funniest articles I have ever read about parenting. You have totally encapsulated the joy of parenting in those words – that moment when you realise that you'd do anything for that little tacker that you brought into the world.