Mama Madison: Pariahs at the pool

Surviving the ignominy of the worst of the summer accidents

The ominous email arrived in my inbox this past week. "It is with great disappointment," it stated, "that I must notify you that our wading pool will be closed until Saturday." It continued, "This morning, there was a fecal accident in the wading pool, and therefore we must assure, as we always do, that we are able to provide you with water of the highest quality and with the highest assurance of safety that we can provide."

As I read, I felt appreciative of the pool staff's due diligence when it comes to issues of renegade fecal matter. And I felt sorry for all the preschoolers who would unfortunately miss out on a couple days of baby pool action in these final weeks of summer. But mostly, all I could think about was the poor parents of the kid who caused this mess. Because I know from experience how awful it is to be the mom branded with the "scarlet" (maybe it should be "sepia" or "russet" or some other fanciful word for brown) double P. For Pool Pooper.

It was like any other sunny weekday morning that summer. My oldest, who was five at the time, was taking swim lessons in the big pool. And my five-week-old newborn and I were hanging out on the deck while my 2-1/2 year old son played around in the baby pool. I'd been proud of my little guy's kiddie pool behavior the whole summer. He never splashed the grown ups and played well with the other pint-sized pool patrons. He readily shared his beach balls, buckets and sifters. But on this fateful day, he chose to share something else-a pair of dill pickled sized bowel movements, giving new meaning to the word "floaties."

At first I couldn't understand how this had happened. Wasn't he wearing one of those aqua disposable swim diapers just a minute before? But when I asked my son what had happened to it, he lifted it up out of the water and told me it felt "too icky" to wear with the poop in it. Yes, the pool management may have politely called it a fecal "accident." But my son had clearly removed his diaper and released its contents on purpose.

My shriek of horror mixed with disbelief was all that was needed to clear the water.

Within a matter of minutes (which felt like hours) I gathered up my brood, informed the pool staff what had happened and high-tailed it out of there. When I peered back through the fence on my way to the car, I could see the lifeguards were already testing the water with one of those fancy pool chemistry kits.

Up until then, we weren't really the type of family that was known to cause potential public health crises. But for the rest of the summer, I felt like the pool pariah. I was the mom whose kid had dropped an underwater deuce.

So my heart goes out to you, parents of the child who caused the "fecal accident" in last week's email. But rest assured, time heals all wounds -- especially a wounded sense of dignity. And we did venture back to the baby pool later that summer.

But this time with much stricter rules on when not to remove a swim diaper.

And I sported a much bigger pair of sunglasses. Maybe it's possible no one recognized me as the Hester Prynne of pool purity.

Has your kid ever done anything really embarrassing in public? How long did it take him or her -- or more importantly you -- to recover?

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