I’m a professional nanny. I earn a ludicrous sum of cold hard cash for doing things so irritating or, at times gross, that even the kids’ own parents don’t want to do it. One time, that aspect of my job necessitated burying feces in the sand at a public beach.
It was a beach day over the summer, and Alex (age three) was in the midst of potty training. I say that last statement loosely. Alex was perhaps the most happy-go-lucky child I have ever babysat — the kind of kid who would laugh hysterically when his older brother slapped him upside the head and who would constantly babble to himself. Potty training had been a struggle, not because Alex wasn’t smart enough to catch on, but because he honestly just found it hilarious to shit his pants. His mom (Amy) and I had caught on to his normal cycle of bowel movements (signs that you’re spending too much time nannying, am I right?) and decided that on beach days, it was acceptable to just let him wear trunks, sans swim diaper, and if he urinated down his leg or in the ocean, so be it. Much easier and less painful than checking his diaper and changing it on the beach, risking sand rash and traumatization for all.
My job on beach days was simple: follow Alex around, make sure he didn’t drown or find another family to go home with or wander onto Lakeshore Drive to play in traffic. Alex couldn’t be tamed, so I was constantly on my feet sprinting Baywatch-style around the beach, chasing after a three-year-old in Pixar’s Cars swim trunks. It was during one of these pursuits that I realized Alex’s trunks looked a little saggier than normal, especially considering he hadn’t played in the water yet today. My heart sank lower than his pants as I corralled him long enough to confirm what I knew to be true: he had shit in his swim trunks.
Options were limited.
I could: take him to the bathroom (a fair trek away, and a risky move considering I wasn’t about to carry him and his shit-filled trunks half a mile across the beach and I couldn’t trust him to willingly walk there with me), or improvise.
I promise, I thoroughly considered the first option, realizing that it was the most sanitary and technically responsible plan. But really, what would I do once I got to the bathroom? Make Alex stand on the toilet seat and take his shorts off, shaking the poop pellets into the toilet? No way was a hyperactive three-year-old going to follow my directions for that long. Also, did I mention it was a REALLY long walk to the gross, cement-floored public bathroom? With that in mind, I went with Plan B: Improvise.
“Alex, let’s go play in the water!” I said.
It was almost too easy. I grabbed his hand and we waded in far enough so that his little butt was covered by the water, making sure we were in a zone underpopulated by lifeguards (in retrospect, a lack of lifeguards is a serious safety issue on a public beach, but I was thankful for the oversight at the time).
Lifeguards would not have approved of my next move.
“Okay, we’re going to take off your swim trunks now!” Alex didn’t care. To Alex, being naked in the ocean was a natural move, one that he was probably surprised he hadn’t done earlier in his short life. The loaded swim trunks came off, and, being careful to keep my back to the lifeguards on the beach, I gingerly turned them inside out and, well, dumped his dump into the lake.
I’m not a heathen. I didn’t leave the shit in the lake for other beach-goers to potentially step on and assume someone had been eating a melted Hershey’s bar in the water. No, after generously splashing Alex’s butt with fresh lake water (nature!), I thoughtfully buried the poop in sand, taking advantage of the calm lake and lack of waves to get the job done. Furtively, I scooped up sand with my hands and plopped it on top of his defecation until it was covered to my satisfaction. With the dirty deed done, I grabbed Alex’s hand and mentioned something about the ice cream cart, and Alex sprinted off on tubby legs and clean(ish) hindquarters to chase down Pablo for a Choco-Taco.
I hadn’t planned on telling his mother about the “shitcident,” but she had noticed our extended absence and was attuned enough to her son to realize that he wasn’t physically capable of staying in the lake for that long without some sort of trouble happening. And when she asked me, “Hey, what were you guys doing for so long?”, I wasn’t prepared to lie. Without mincing words, I explained the situation:
“Alex pooped his trunks on the beach. I didn’t think we’d make it to the bathroom in one piece, so I took him to the ocean and washed him off…and buried the poop in the sand.”
Amy stared at me for a full ten seconds, during which time I mentally berated myself for being lazy and not just taking him to the bathroom in the first place. But finally, she busted out laughing.
“You WHAT?! You buried his poop in the sand? Oh my gosh, you’re just like a cat. That’s what cats do, right? The lake is Alex’s litter box! I need to tell Pam about this. Pam! Come over here! Listen to what Kristen just did!”
And with that, what had originally begun as just another comedy of errors in my childcare saga transformed into a heroic narrative, with me starring as the resourceful nanny who capably handled Alex’s surprise shit. Moral of the story? A flexible and quick-thinking nanny is more valuable than a rigid, by-the-books nanny. You can’t rely on kids to act reasonably, so you just have to go with the flow- the flow of the lake, in some cases.
As a side note, I’ve seen enough shit and bodily expulsions to last me a lifetime, and it’s safe to say that nothing — NOTHING — grosses me out any more.
Nevertheless, I didn’t get in the lake for the rest of the summer.