If you love experiences that spike your adrenaline levels, get a two-year-old child. It is, I think, a matter of time before some aspiring imperialist tyrant harnesses the destructive force that is the two-year-old boy. A reasonably small horde of toddlers could unleash havoc on a scale that quite belies their tiny frames.
A couple of nights ago, as we sat in the bath, Nathan looked up at me and said: “Papa, BIG poo.” His eyes got that distant, focused look that I know all too well, but which I assure you is significantly scarier when shared in a confined space, especially as I know what he is capable of producing. My heart nearly stopped. I tried not to make a fuss. I have learned that my son finds horrified protestations hysterically funny and will repeat whatever action elicited the response. I had accepted it as inevitable that this moment would come, but – really – nothing can quite prepare you for it. It is more difficult than you would imagine to remain outwardly calm while attempting an emergency bath evacuation.
As it happened, no exodus was necessary. After an enormous gaseous explosion, Nathan laughed and carried on playing with his plastic ducks, completely oblivious to the impact of his words and actions. Even had his contribution to my bath been a little more, well… solid… I still suspect he would have been completely unfazed.
Now when you are two, a certain amount of irresponsibility is acceptable. It might even be considered cute. It is considerably less endearing, however, once a person is no longer a toddler.
The thing about irresponsibility is that some poor sucker always has to fish the turd out of the bath water, while the one who dropped it there goes on playing with his ducks.
Now I acknowledge that I myself am prone to moments of profound irresponsibility, and in no way consider myself beyond reproach. I have committed acts of monumental idiocy. In my favour (not that it justifies any of my stupid deeds or careless words), I am usually quite good at owning up to them and taking the consequences. And as I have grown older, I have become less self-righteous and better at thinking before acting.
That said, irresponsibility really peeves me. It is too common nowadays for people to poo in the baths of others’ lives and expect them to accept it. They avoid any form of accountability with: “it is just the way I am”, or seem to believe that because of their tough circumstances, others should be more tolerant. Very often when confronted they will even have the audacity to accuse their detractors of being judgmental or lacking in compassion.
And the worst part is that – too often – we allow it. We accept the blame. Godly people are made to feel unChristian or unpatriotic because they stand up against deplorable behaviour. It is just not right. Jesus, for example, was quick to denounce the Pharisees for their irresponsible, self-serving leadership, and Paul certainly took a hard line against churches that compromised the integrity of his own mission. So why do we feel that we have to stay silent while irresponsible people run amok?
I have more than just Nathan trying to add to the excitement of the bathtime that is my life at the moment, and a very dear friend has been helping me to see that I need to say something, regardless of how the irresponsible parties might perceive my stance.
Nathan’s recent bathtime escapade has helped me understand something very important about life: if the turd is going to land in your bath, and you are going to end up having to remove it, then you have not only a right, but an obligation to correct the behaviour. Now Nathan is too small – and lacks sufficient bowel control – to be held accountable for what might happen in the bath. But those sitting in my metaphorical bath are not. And unless I change the way I respond to them, they will keep playing with their ducks and allowing me to dispose of the debris they leave behind. Doing nothing is not an option, or bathtime will eventually become too unpleasant for everybody concerned. Taking the responsibility on myself is not a solution either, because it leaves me bitter and frustrated. So the goal is simple: certain people have to learn to control their bowels. After all, it is my bath too.