So yeah, I totally agree with you. The way I anal-retentively carve and lovingly salt-water-bathe apple slices for my children every day is borderline insanity at its finest. But lest you think I’m that conscientious about all my mothering tasks, you should really take a look at this…

"Peek-a-boo!!!" {Eewwww!}

That’s a public restroom, folks. And those are two of my three beautiful children, joyfully exploring the space in between the stalls: that magic box that exists only in public Ladies’ Rooms.

The very box where we deposit our used feminine hygiene products so they won’t clog the toilet. The box that millions of women touch with hands that have been just handling their dirty pads and tampons.

"Mom! My head totally fits in this hole!"

I can’t think of a more pathogen-laden germ hole in a public restroom than this magic box that is sooooo appealing to children of all ages.

So yeah… about these pictures. Before you call D-FACS, let me explain. Two things are happening here.

One, I have three kids. The first kid is the “practice kid.” You’d wrap that child in a plastic bubble if you could. You make him wear a helmet… everywhere. As a baby, when his pacifier would fall to the ground, you would boil it. You probably also had a number of back up binkies sterilized in your high-end diaper bag just in case this happened when you were out and about at a “Mommy and Me” infant swim class or story time at the library.

By the time the second kid comes along, you are a little more laid back. You know the drill and you’re not as freaked out by every little thing. If that pacifier falls to the ground, you quickly rinse it in the sink. You have a back up binkie, but you can’t find it. And P.U., how long has this dirty diaper been in my diaper bag?

Third child? Fuhgetaboudit. You are so tired and overwhelmed all the time that your previously high standards are out the window. When that pacifier hits the floor, you pick it up and dip it in your 32 ounce Diet Coke to wash it off, then you lick it. Good as new. Diaper bag? What diaper bag? You have one diaper, a stack of Chick-Fil-A napkins, and a juice box in the bottom of your purse. It will have to do.

So yes, I’m tired, I’m jaded, and my hygiene standards are low.

And if you’ve ever taken a 4 year old boy into a public restroom, you know how revolting and exhausting it is. They crawl on the floor. They touch EVERYTHING. They put their heads dangerously close to the toilet bowl to see what’s in there.

Like George Costanza, my 4 year old son must completely disrobe to drop the kids at the pool. And where do those clothes go when he starts ripping them from his body before I can free my hands to catch them? The floor. My apologies to this nice man who is likely to have a seizure if he reads this.

Your gentle pleas of “Honey, that’s gross, don’t touch that please,” quickly morph into verbal assaults of “STOP IT!” and “NO NO NO NO NO” and “OH MY GOD, GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THAT TOILET!” You fear that if you utter any version of “No” one more time, you will snap. You will. And it won’t be pretty. So you accept the things you cannot change and vow to give the kid the scrubbing of his life when you get home.

The second force at work here is the fact that I am a writer, a blogger, a digital expositionist. Bloggers see the world through a different lens. Suddenly everything in your life has an angle and a story to go with it. If you can capture an image of it somehow, even better. My friend Kate sums it up best in her brilliant post, A Beginner’s Guide to Blogging:

Get used to disapproving looks from other mothers when your child falls in the street and you scramble for the camera instead of picking her up.

Guilty as charged. Who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth like this:

"I see you! Wait...what's that smell?"

Hey, at least the box was empty, right? I like to believe that even I would have put the kibosh on this rousing game of Peek-a-Boo if it was happening above the rising fumes of a freshly deposited maxi pad.

There is a very wide space in between the mother I was 11 years ago and the mother I am today. Just like the wide space between my over-the-top apple prepping standards and my apparently lacking maternal instinct to shield my children from blood-borne pathogens. And frankly, I enjoy that space. There is a lot of wiggle room there. Room to breathe and to make mistakes. It’s a good thing.

So please, know that the mom who buys a special cleaner to wash potential poo off the kids’ apples, also lets her kids stick their FACES in the dirty tampon receptacle… and photographs it. Awesome.

The space in between… clearly enormous and inconsistent, but also somewhat  entertaining in a trainwrecky sort of way, no? Next time you are beating yourself up for a parenting sin, come on over. I’ll wrap you up, {deposit you in a metal bin}, and make you feel better.

© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.