Like most parents, freshly risen from a semi-restful night of slumber, I made my first stop the master bathroom to conduct my morning business.

Our spacious lavatory includes: a double-sink situation to minimize marital conflicts and a massive walk-in closet to contain piles of unwashed clothing. It also has a nice shower, with sliding glass door, to remove all hope of privacy when marauding children barge in and ask any number of questions vulnerable dads don’t feel like answering in the shower.

The most useful component of our master bath, however, has to be the commode with its own door. The commode not only contains our toilet, but the small room doubles as a library, reading nook, botanical garden (pending wife approval), and all purpose sanctuary/retreat center.

It was after a respite in our commode, still waking up, that I opened the door, stepped out into the commons area and beheld one of the most terrifying, panic-inducing, sights in all of parenting history:

It…it can’t be…

Waves of panic crashed against my consciousness.


I froze.

My still-sleepy body had been short-circuited by the plastic bottle of golden liquid, accentuated by multiple pieces of buyoant brown bits basking in the early morning sunshine.

Eventually my mind replaced denial with a torrent of questions I couldn’t answer:

Did they do this when we were asleep?

Who taught them how to do this?

What were they trying to make?

What if this IS what they were trying to make?!

With my gaze transfixed on that diabolical bottle I was left with only one sad conclusion:

My children are crazy.

No, not the cute, colloquial crazy we often attribute to the wild antics of young children when they make loud noises, funny observations about the world, or try to pass off their scribbles as fine art.This was padded-room, therapy, meds-for-life, full on clinical insanity that had appeared on my watch.

I mean, honestly, making decorative bottles of your own pee and poop? That’s the kind of hobby future serial killers and comic book villains have. It reminded me of the book Weekends at Bellevue,where the author tells a story about a woman who carried a bag of her own feces over a bridge to the hospital, because, “I just felt like I needed to be here.”

That was my daughters’ destiny now. I couldn’t wait until my other friend’s kids grow up, graduate college, and lead productive lives so I can have conversations like:

“Yes, we are so proud of Marybeth and Susan. They are both astronauts and teach yoga for disabled kids at the Y in their free time. What do your girls do?”

“Uh…they work in plastics…at the hospital. Full time. They can neeeeever ever get away…we hope.”

Yep, due to my lack of parenting I have produced a couple of “poopsmiths.” They flushed their future down the toilet instead of…what they should have flushed down the toilet.

How could this have happened?! I failed. I didn’t see the signs. I didn’t even know what to look for. None of those dumb parenting books have anything to say about this. And then more horrific questions came to mind:

How do I even know its theirs?

What if they have been secretly harvesting dog poop from the backyard?

But how would they hide it?

Why would they leave it out for me to see?

Are they sending me a message?

Am I in danger?!

Eventually I steeled myself, and walked toward the bottle. I would pick it up…somehow…and carry it to my wife–in hopes she would have some hidden parenting knowledge I didn’t. I prepared for the inevitable confusion that would result from me waking my wife up to look at a bottle containing pee and poop–but I would assure her it wasn’t mine.

It was our kids that were nuts–not me.

Gently I picked up the disgusting bottle–and noticed something about the fecal texture…it looked a lot like pine cones. No, wait, they were pinecones! Hallelujah!! Suddenly I recalled my daughter’s attempt to make “shampoo” the evening before. They had gathered some pinecones, and a few other natural ingredients (not-waste related mind you), and put them in a bottle of soapy water.

Soaking overnight had made the water yellow.

I smiled, set the “shampoo” back down, and breathed a sigh of relief.

My kids weren’t crazy–I had been made crazy for a moment; but that’s because its too easy to think that when something looks weird (or incredibly wrong) with your kids that it is.  We stress out over what we think we see–but most of the time a calm, closer look reveals our crazy kids are just cute and creative.

















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