Code Brown

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Enter the world of parenting young children through this humorous short story.

Submitted: July 30, 2018

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Submitted: July 30, 2018



Personal Narrative Seeds to Story8/1/2017


Mess. Dread. Embarrassment.  How would I cover this one up? The brown I saw was a combination of cloud-like gas and dark brown fragments, slowly floating away from my beautiful daughter. How can something so lovely produce such noxious chemicals?

Maddie smiled and splashed, totally unaware of the impact the code brown would have on the entire pool. The hotel guests spent hundreds of dollars each night for the privilege of swimming.  My eyes darted from person to person surrounding me, blissfully unaware of the mess slowly spreading throughout the water.

“Mike, can you help me?” I frantically called out. “Mike. Mike. Mike!!!!!” I couldn’t seem to get his attention. “MIKE!!!!!” my voice echoed across the pool deck. His head swiveled towards me with that last plea. It seemed like the moment lasted forever. Too long. Then, he slowly shook his head from side to side.

There was no way I would be able to cover this one up. I would have to alert the lifeguards. The pool would be shut down.  I wanted to scream, yell, tell Maddie this was not okay. Then the words of my pediatrician came back in my head, the voice of authority beseeching me not to ever punish her for this minor transgression for fear of the damaging impacts to her health.  The voice inside me quieted.

I still remember the first time my baby Maddie girl showed me she loved to swim. Way back when she was a teeny tiny baby, barely able to crawl. My older daughter, who took a restrained approach to swimming, was taking lessons at a local pool. My Maddie fought, squirmed and wiggled in my arms, desperately trying to reach the water where her older sister gently kicked her feet and blew bubbles in the water. I tried every trick I could think of to keep Maddie from the water. The volumes of parenting books I had digested swirled in my mind. Distracting her with food, singing to her. It was a total fail. I was sweating. Finally, the instructor reached out of the water with his authoritative voice and suggested, “How about you just put her in the water with us?” Sweet Jesus. What a gift. This was a watershed moment, and right then and there, Maddie was launched into her love affair with swim.

The circle of yellow brown continued to grow around us. “We have to get out of the pool honey.” My sing-song tone betrayed my inner voice.

She looked at me, the smile slowly disappearing into a frown. The water was her favorite place. The place where I would see a smile never fade…until it was time to get out.

I hurriedly carried her from the pool. The stench invaded my nose as I sped up my pace.  I glanced at Mike, blissfully seated in in lounger with our older daughter curled into his lap, and immediately anger rose into my chest. Why was he not concerned? Then my anger shifted to Maddie, the toddler who continued to reach for the pool, her frown taking voice as a scream of displeasure.  Again, I quieted my inner voice, the one who wanted to scream back and shout, “This is not okay!”

It would be months, years, before I would consistently listen to my own voice - not drown out the words of wisdom from those many who have raised children, studied children, built their lives’ work around imparting advice to willing parents – but have confidence to forge my own path for my own daughter.

Those early days of parenthood are long gone. My own little Maddie has blossomed into a girl who still loves the water, who is happiest in the water, now flying dolphin-like off the competition blocks, slicing into the pool and transitioning to a beautiful swimming butterfly.

Last week was the end of her competition season, but she begged me, pleaded with me, “Mom, can we go swimming?”

“Yes, let’ go!” I replied.

I never tire of watching my Maddie swim. After several hours, she came dripping wet towards me and whispered, “Mom, I think some kid pooped in the pool. It was gross! I almost stepped in it. Should I go tell a lifeguard about the code brown?”











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