Dignity? Who Needs It
by, Kasie West
I sat down to check my e mail and smeared across the back of my hand was a dried booger. Yes, dried, as in, it had been there for a while. It would have been disgusting enough had it been my own, but it wasn’t. It was my two-year-old son’s. It would have been understandable had I not remembered exactly how it had gotten there, which would have been the case on any other day (there had been other days).
As I looked at this particular booger, however, I knew how it had come to be there. It had been bath time, it had been hanging out of his nose, and I had wiped it, (with my finger, of course, what else would I wipe it with?) and as I had gone to throw it away, it had disappeared. I thought to myself at the time, ‘Huh, I wonder where that booger went?’ And then just as quickly I had thought, ‘oh well.’
So, fast-forward to the now dried up booger. What would I do? Would I get a tissue for it, like I should have done when I originally saw it hanging out of his nose? Or would I let it sit for another few minutes while I checked my e mail? It wasn’t getting any drier or less disgusting, of course I waited. Which brought me to the question I asked myself a lot as a mother of four children under the age of ten—did I have any dignity left? And the answer I always came back with was—of course not.
What was dignity anyway? I was already checking my e-mail. It wouldn’t take much longer to jump onto a dictionary site, just to make sure I wasn’t selling myself short. Dictionary.com informed me that dignity was “bearing, conduct, or speech indicative of self-respect or appreciation of the formality or gravity of an occasion or situation.” I looked back at the booger—nope, not an ounce of dignity left.
I thought back, trying to remember at exactly what point, over the last ten years, I had lost it. I concluded that it wasn’t something that had happened all at once. It was a culmination of many experiences. After all, I had at one point been a very self-respecting individual. Or so I had successfully fooled myself into thinking for many years.
It wasn’t something I lost merely by becoming a mother. In fact, I can remember clearly my first child as a baby. I used a blanket when I nursed. When her binky would fall on the ground, I would wash it under hot water for several minutes. I would carefully check her diaper for any signs of a “stinky” by lifting it away from her leg and peeking inside. I even remember gagging when I was changing her diaper one time and poop came squirting out, landing on my arm. I must’ve used just short of a million wipes to scrub my arm clean.
When my first child was a toddler, however, there may have been little things creeping into my patterns of behavior that hadn’t been there before. Like the time I had gone to the grocery store and was trying to decide between two flavors of pop tarts. In my cutest little mommy voice I had said, “should we get the stwaberry or the booberry,” only to look over and see that my cart was empty. I had left my daughter at home with my husband. That was back when I was still trying to cling to my dignity, so I was thoroughly embarrassed when the man a few feet away gave me a strange look. I even felt the need to say, while laughing, “I thought I had my daughter with me.” In his eyes I don’t think that had made much of a difference.
Then my second child came. I was slightly more relaxed in my dignity. If my blanket slipped while nursing, it didn’t mark the end of the world. If her binky fell on the floor, thirty seconds under luke warm water seemed sufficient for disinfection. Checking the diaper became a job for my nose instead of my eyes.
The public humiliation seemed to come more frequently with the new addition to the family. My first child, perhaps in an attempt for attention, thought it was her duty to take off her diaper and streak through the isles at large, crowded, stores. When I had my bits of dignity left, it was very hard for me to hunt down an employee and say, “Um, there’s been a spill in isle four.” “What kind of spill,” they would inevitably ask. “Urine,” I would mumble before leaving as quickly as possible.
Then my third child came and I came to the realization that certain behaviors of practice previously attempted now seemed unrealistic. Using a blanket to nurse seemed impractical because by the time the baby was done, we were both sweating. If the binky fell on the floor, my own mouth provided just the right amount of disinfection. After all, I rarely had access to a faucet of running water. Was she poopy? A finger directly into the side of the diaper could find out quickly. Did that make you gag? Not me. In fact, I rarely gagged at all these days. Not even when my fourth child spit up directly on to my face, causing momentary blindness.
Public humiliation seemed to happen less these days as well. Oh wait…no…it happened more, I had just become less humiliated. Did it bother me when I walked through the isles at a grocery store with no children, but a large chocolate drool stain down the front of my shirt? No, because if I had put on a new shirt before I left, it would have been dirty by the end of the day too, and that would have just equaled more laundry.
Have I made proper reference to all bodily functions yet? Just making sure, a person lacking dignity would include every last one.
I finally went to the sink and rinsed off the booger. After drying my hands on a towel, I rubbed my finger across my now clean hand. It felt soft, as if I had applied an expensive mask to my skin, the kind they sold for a lot of money in the department stores. Who needed expensive masks when they had kids? And who needed dignity? Not me. I had so much more.
I love being a mommy. Have you all managed to keep your dignity in tact through the process??