I know, I probably shouldn’t take the bait. Maybe this is a joke. Surely, it is a joke. Surely, a serious woman – a journalist by trade – did not write an op-ed for one of the most respected newspapers in the world, The Guardian, in which she lamented the fact that the size of her two-year-old daughter’s feces would decrease as that daughter grew older, and that this would portend all sorts of adult horrors that the said mother was helpless to prevent.
No, she did.
Okay, I thought, perhaps this was a Swiftian satire of some sort, a meditation on aging and the abuses our bodies suffer in the material world, a take on childhood at once poignant and tender, the headline but the ploy of a crass editor hungry for clicks.
Heawood delivers exactly what she promises, which is the best thing that can be said about the confounding dispatch from the wilds of modern-day parenting. It is about the size of her daughter’s shit. That’s it.
Well, not quite. There is no philosophy quite like scatological philosophy (cf. On Bullshit). After a rather too-precise description of her daughter’s defecations, Heawood wonders about the day when her daughter’s poop will decrease in length or diameter or cylindrical volume or net weight or whatever other metric is used to measure the size of feces:
I'm so in love with her big poos that I can't bear the idea of them stopping. Of her realising that they aren't things you want to show off about. Of the day when somebody makes it clear to her, whether by accident or design, that sweet little girls aren't supposed to describe the massive steaming achievements cruising out of their bums, propelled by the wonders of peristalsis, into the marvels of the plumbing system. That curly little blondes such as she should desire to be small, and contained, and clean, and dress up as pink princesses. And shut up about their dirty selves; already, enough.
Because, you see, the bigger the turd, the greater the spirit. To shit is to live. I dump, therefore I am. Or something like that:
And I think about how much of what girls do is about making themselves smaller. Wanting to suck their waists in and be thin. To not have said so much in public, with such an impact. To be like Hello Kitty – all smile, no mouth. I remember well the years from 12 to 14, where I learned to step back from the tests, step back from my brains, because girls weren't meant to initiate. Girls were meant to follow the boys, and I adored those funny boys. Who so often took our jokes and said them a little bit louder. A little bit more – big.
There is much to be said about this, though perhaps the most obvious — and only — thing to be said about the above argument is that fecal output has nothing to do with female empowerment or gender inequality or any other significant force, benevolent or otherwise, that will come to shape Heawood’s daughter. Her poo size will only be affected by what she eats, as well as by some anatomic factors best not discussed here.
But, okay, let’s say one more thing: there are children starving in Africa. And Detroit. And Staten Island. And, probably, a half-mile from where Heawood lives. There is a chaotic world that desperately needs our attention. Instead, we are talking about toddler crap.
And now I am talking about toddler crap. Oh, God.
It’s true, every generation thinks that the generations that follow it are hopelessly selfish and dumb. I think that too. But I do suspect that in this time of widening inequality, those of us who have privilege are grossly abusing it, wasting our brains and resources to make sure that the artisanal letter-blocks our children play with, the ones handcrafted lovingly in a Michigan workshop, contain only cruelty-free dyes.
I guess I am trying to say that everyone is guilty.
But there is hope in The Guardian’s comments section – there is often hope in the comments section. Reading through some of the nearly three hundred comments the piece has already received, I came to realize that Heawood’s musings – and my own response to the same – are thankfully isolated to a small, privileged slice of society that, one hopes, does not represent most parents.
“Truly a crap article, in every sense,” wrote one commenter on Friday in a quip that was cruel but, well, kind of funny.
Another comment post today noted that the article was “Apropoos of nothing.” Get it?
And then there was a commenter who was starting his Friday the right way: “I did one today that would've been fourteen inches long had it not snapped into three pieces.”
If there's a hero to this sordid tale, then it is surely he.