Monday, March 27, 2006

Twist and Shout.

It appears that most of my friends are out of the “Having babies” business (and into the “Setting up the appointment for their husband to have a vasectomy” business), so I am going to pass along an idea for a shower present that came to me recently. It doesn’t have the coo factor of a weensy pair of pink or blue Uggs, or the sentimentality of your great-grandmother’s baptismal gown, but the giver of this gift will be thought of fondly for years to come.

Gift the parents with a case of stain remover.

Before I had a child of my own, I had been around children; heck, I even was a nanny. I did understand that children were messy. What I didn’t fully comprehend until the fourth month or so of Daughter’s life is that babies are constantly, relentlessly, leaking. It’s as if they are amphibians, and must constantly refresh their slimy outer-layer in order to survive on dry land. If something wasn’t leaving her mouth at great speed, I would feel the bottom half of her growing slowly more sodden and heavy, usually when I was in no position to do anything about it, beyond feeling it compromise whatever she was wearing on the bottom.

We changed her clothes more often than a runway model. After a few months, I was trying to coordinate the separates based as much on stain color as the fabric color:

QUINN: Could you grab the flowered leggings with the sweet potato stain, and the yellow t-shirt with the spit up on the sleeve?

Consort would hand me clothing.

QUINN: No, sorry, I meant the long-sleeved yellow t-shirt with spit-up on the sleeve.

I kept a few outfits like new, but most of the day-to-day stuff took the brunt of Daughter’s Adventures in Cuisine ("Avocado: Food or fabric softener? Who's to say it can't be both?") Because I am a little squeamish about Daughter breathing in chlorine bleach fumes, which are terribly persistent, and because she was growing out of things at the usual baby rate, there was no reason to try to make the clothing less squalid. She might look unkempt, I reasoned, but at least no one could doubt she ate.

[Her propensity to wear food is a talent inherited from her gormless mother. I can tell you how big a slob I am or I can give you an example: when I was fourteen, my half-brother came and stayed with my mother and me during the Christmas holidays. Owing to general inertia, I wore the same shirt around the house for three days, only changing to go out. After three days, my brother swore he could tell me my diet merely by reading the stains on my shirt; he didn’t miss a single snack.]

Daughter grew and entered into activities. The stains accelerated in both density and complexity. What had been a daub of vomit and a trace of cooked peas, became a heady blend of Pepperidge Farm goldfish cracker dust, poster paint, mashed-in Play-Doh, the tail-end of a runny nose, and the results of a dropped ravioli; let us call it Toddler Tartan.

At least twice a day, I’d whisk everything off her, douse it liberally in Shout and let it soak while I put Daughter in the tub and tried valiantly to remove the same artifacts from her skin. Her skin usually came back to its normal color (side note: is anyone else creeped out by how certain dyes used in kid’s birthday cake frosting last on the skin for days?). Her clothing was a different matter. The stains would usually leave, but only to a degree. I collected stain-removal tips I found online and in magazines. I went through several different kinds of stain remover, and was growing terribly frustrated with the lack of complete success when, one terrible day, I caught myself standing in the detergent aisle in the market, staring at the stain removing products. I said out loud, “When, oh when, will someone create a stain remover that removes stains, keeps colors bright, and is safe for children?”

Ooh, look! It’s 1955! All it took was one small child, and the entire Women’s Movement was wiped clean from my silly little head.

Slowly, I started to develop perspective. Daughter was clean; Daughter was just clean in spotted clothing. She didn’t care, and I needed to let it go. I developed tools which allowed me those precious moments of admiring Daughter in unsullied clothes, after which I forbid myself from running after her in public screaming, “Touch NOTHING and I’ll feed you by hand if you get hungry!”

I have learned that if I want a picture of her in the perfect Easter dress it behooves me to take it at home, when we are still miles from the big fuzzy guy with the long ears and the basket of chocolate fabric-bombs.

I have learned that I can put Daughter in a full Hazmat suit created of napkins, but if she eats anything with tomato sauce, she will wear it. My carrying on later helps no one and just causes Daughter to spill her lemonade into her lap.

I have learned that there is no food which cannot create a stain, if handed to a member of my family.

And I have learned that if I really, really, need to see Daughter in an untouched outfit, I can always take a picture of her and Photoshop a clean white linen dress on top.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My eleven year old daughter has always been a messy eater. She once got BBQ sauce on her back. Now, as she goes through life with food on her clothes and face, I smile and think of it as a natural boy deterrent.


6:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter is a messy eater also, plus she bites holes in her shirts. She has worn a new shirt and destroyed it in one day. As for a stain remover, several Hispanic people I knew in California all swore by a pink soap made in Mexico.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Er... hello.

Entirely off topic here, but I was wondering if you could help me. I'm a George Burns fan, and I have a morbid curiousity about the film "Grandpa, Will You Run With Me?" There appears to be no information whatsoever about this film on the net.

You wouldn't happen to be the same Quinn Cummings as appeared in this film, would you? If so, could I bug you for some basic info about it? My email can be linked from my username.

I appreciate your time, regardless.

And, it seems we own one of your hip huggers...

6:10 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Since your name didn't have a link, I will post here. I can't tell you much about "Grandpa", because I barely remember it myself, but I do remember it starred Jack Albertson. That should help your Google-ing.

8:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, no kidding about the frosting dye. My girlfriend told me about a Cookie Monster cake she bought at the grocery store for her son's birthday party—apparently, every kid in the neighborhood pooed blue for days.

(Hmm—how do you spell "pooed"?)

—Lady C

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"(Side note: is anyone else creeped out by how certain dyes in used in kid’s birthday cake frosting last on the skin for days?)"

Well, that would creep me out, but I can't relate, because the birthday parties that OUR little darling attended always served cakes from the organic bakery, which used no artificial ingredients whatsoever, and sweetened only with fruit juice and barley malt. So there. (sticks tongue out)

2:54 PM  
Blogger torontopearl said...

Good idea about the stain remover--yes, a lifetime supply would be just about right.

Whereas most parents "doll up" their babies in cute girly or boy clothes whenever they are out in public, my three kids -- as infants -- mostly wore plain sleepers in public. If they weren't spitting up, they were drooling; if they weren't drooling, they were spitting up. When they wore bibs, they missed the target; when I threw a burp cloth over my shoulder, they missed the target.

They're older now, so thank G-d they don't drool or spit up anymore -- they just wipe their hands on their school uniforms and wipe their mouths on their shirtsleeves!

9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

side note: is anyone else creeped out by how certain dyes used in kid’s birthday cake frosting last on the skin for days?.....
AMEN, sister! I read an article about organic foods...did you know that a common red dye used in many foods has crushed beetles as its primary ingredient...EEEWWWW! I'm not even a vegetarian or organic food activist, but the thought of bug stains on my kids' skin grosses me out!

1:21 PM  

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