Recently, we moved house.
There were numerous lessons in this.
There was the confronting experience of realising just how many items we had managed to accumulate. When you load the hired truck for the fourth time and there are still odd bits and pieces left in the house that you will need to come back for tomorrow…you start disliking your stuff and asking some hard questions about why you have so much of it.
There was the strange sense that although we had grown from a duo to a trio, the best thing for us was not to move into a bigger house, but actually a smaller one. There were the things we learnt from choosing what to keep, what to let go of, what is actually significant to us, and what we had just been giving space to in our life out of obligation or other less inspiring reasons.
There was the opportunity to consider what experiments we could try upon moving into a new space, what rhythms we could redefine. That has looked like a month without switching on our TV, and a conscious decision not to get home internet connected at this stage. Which in turn has looked like home becoming less insanity and more sanctuary. A place of disconnection in one sense - and reconnection in another, as we have been learning to simply sit with ourselves and each other again.
Then there was the thing I learned from the poo-covered foot.
Yep. You read it right.
On a blissful afternoon unpacking boxes in the kitchen, Sam was standing on a step-ladder putting glasses in a cupboard. Noah was romping around the house nappy-free, enjoying exploring the new texture of timber floors (rather than the 3,000 year old carpet we had become accustomed to). Next minute, Noah crawls into the kitchen, making the little slightly-cute-slightly-infuriating grunting noise he makes when he wants his Mama’s attention (the slightly-cute part is related to the noise itself and the slightly-infuriating part is mainly related to its frequency). He pulls himself up next to the little ladder, looks at Sam with huge eyes, and begins to tug at the bottom of her jeans.
“What are you telling me?”
The words are barely out of her mouth before she notices the chunk of poo protruding from his left foot. “Ahhh”, she says “Thank you so much for coming to tell me you’ve done a poo.” And there’s not a hint of condescension or sarcasm - there is a genuine gratitude that Noah, of his own initiative, has come to inform us of the situation and seek some help.
And in that moment lights switch on in my head.
Our little boy, has started to do this kind of thing. We have not begun any formal ‘toilet training’ yet, but we are strong encouragers of the nappy-free time at home (when you get an opportunity to spend time without your pants on, you might as well!) - and in recent weeks any time Noah has done a wee (or the more occasional poo) he comes and shows us.
Why is this a big deal?
When he is literally sitting in his own crap, our boy’s first impulse is to come and tell us. He comes with no shame or fear. He doesn’t try and hide the poo. He knows we are adequately equipped to clean it, clean him and ensure explorations can recommence with minimal interruption.
And I can’t help but wonder if this is my first response, when I am (metaphorically) sitting in my own crap. I don’t think it is. I’m more of a ‘quick-slide-the-poo-underneath-the-nearest-hiding-place!’ kind of guy. Or a ‘strut-around-with-poo-on-my-foot-and-pretend-it-belongs-to-someone-else’ kind of guy. What if I just owned my mess, tugged at the hem of God’s robe and pointed at the poo on my foot?
When I saw Noah do this with Sam, I couldn’t help but think about where the Bible begins. With a man and a woman naked in a garden and completely free of shame. Then, in the blink of an eye, things shift, and they are hiding. Shame bars the way to the relational intimacy they have previously known.
I know that I’ll blink and watch this shift in my son. That before I know it, there will come a day when he will hide the poo or ignore the poo or point a finger at someone else’s poo. Like I do. Like they did. Like we all do.
My hope is that at some point he will learn again, that his Daddy is waiting, arms open, ready to help clean him up, deal with the poo, and start fresh. My hope is that I would learn this too.
Ain't no better bond cleaner than a one-year-old.