I like to think that I am okay when dealing with children. Having worked in a daycare for over two years, I have dealt with every disgusting, unsanitary, and just plain gross situation imaginable. The trouble is that children have much better imaginations than adults.
Take for example a potluck I attended with my cousin a few weeks back. My cousin has a young child that is quiet and well-behaved for a two year old, so when I heard that there would be other children and mothers present, I assumed the best and assembled a Japanese salad. I say assemble because if you do salads right, no cooking is required, but you give the impression that you are a superior chef and can punch well above your culinary weight class.
The whole meal went well for about the first five minutes. I met the other guests, all of whom were mothers, along with their respective children all of whom were six and under. The whole place was decorated in a new age style described to me as “granola” that I could definitely get behind.
Trouble began however, when I the children returned to speak with me. That is not to say that speaking to children is inherently problematic, but when kids run away immediately after meeting you only to return a few minutes later, I become suspicious.
As the small gang of toddlers came over, they became waylaid briefly by my salad on the dinner table and shoved their hands in to grab chunks of ramen noodle before being shooed off by their mothers and returning on their mission to speak with me.
I brushed this off as simple inexperience. Culinary utensils are a relatively new invention in the grand scheme of things and maybe they had not yet acclimated to using spoons and forks?
Conversations that begin with me providing a benefit of the doubt are never a good thing. The oldest boy stepped forward and with a mischievous smile on his face announced “I put your shoes in poop!”
“I am sorry little one but I think I misheard you little one”, I replied.
“I put you shoes in poop” the boy repeated as the other children behind him shrieked with laughter.
“Show me”, I demanded, assuming that I was about to find my freshly polished black walking shoes buried in a cat’s litter box. The boy led myself, my cousin, and the other children into another where a toy box concealed something.
Raising the box, the boy revealed that one of my shoes did indeed rest on poop. However, a basic understanding of the human digestive system confirmed to my horror that the fecal matter was not of feline origin. This was human to be sure!
“Is that yours” I asked, unsure of how else to respond to the discovery that small boy has crapped on your shoes.
The boy didn’t respond.
My cousin repeated the question with a bit more aggression, wiping the smug smile from the boy’s face. A third round of questioning eventually revealed that the boy had defecated on the floor previously, than picked it up, taken it upstairs and placed my business shoes atop it in some sort of fecal monument.
I expected this type of anti-executive attire act at an Occupy Wall-Street protest, but not at family potluck. After a few moments, I broke the silence announcing “I suppose they make shoe polish for a reason”. My cousin, who was red with embarrassment despite not having ownership of this child cracked a small smile over the comment.
That smile soon disappeared when I shared my revelation to her. The revelation started as I reviewed the series of events in my head. The boy crapped on the floor, picked up his crap placed on the ground upstairs before placing my shoes atop and coming to see me. The trouble I was having was the last part. The problem was that the boy didn’t come directly to see me, rather he got sidetracked by a certain…oh god my salad!
Despite my warnings, the dining group seemed comfortable eating my salad, leading to the only potluck I have attended where I boycotted my own contribution.
On reflection, the rest of the evening went comparatively smoothly. The boy received a well-earned whoopin’ from his mother. This whoopin’ fell short of my fantasy of walking on the boy with my dirty shoes, while warning the mother not to intervene with shouts that the child had “chosen his destiny”, but was an effective punishment none the less.
The rest of the night was comparatively uneventful and I found myself once again in awe of the creative imagination of children. I only wish they wouldn’t join the dark side at such a young age!