empty toilet paper roll

“We have a situation,” my daughter B screams.

I run from my office to the kitchen table where I’d left my two girls not a minute before. E looks up from the Play-Doh she’s smashing with her fist and smiles.

“What’s wrong,” I say, scanning the room for blood.

“What does this say?” B asks, pointing to a sentence in her coloring book.

I read it and remind her that I need five minutes to finish an important email before racing back to my computer. I haven’t even pushed my chair under the desk before she’s screaming again.

“We have a situation,” B yells with even more urgency than before.

I leap from my chair and sprint, vaulting over several toy hurtles in my path. When I get to the table, E is still beating the ball of pink dough. B is still perched elegantly on her chair before her coloring book.

“What!” I say, louder than I should.

“What’s this say?” she asks, pointing to the sentence on the next page.

“B, a situation is blood, pee, or vomit,” I say before reading the sentence. In my haste, I forget poop, which is pretty remarkable considering past experience.

I haven’t even reached my office when B screams “MOMMY, WE HAVE A SITUATION.”

I blame my husband, and of course MTV’s Jersey Shore, for bringing “situations” into my life. The show exploded into pop culture when I was pregnant with B. So, naturally, “We have a situation” became code for blowout diapers, projectile spit up and booger rockets. It’s was our battle cry for any unexpected infant grossness that required reinforcements.

Being a native of New Jersey, my husband mastered the phrase, adding needed humor to those first holy-shit-did-that-just-happen moments of parenthood. It took a while for my Southern drawl to catch on, but eventually I could “situation” with the best.

We retired the phrase in B’s toddler years, only to resurrect it like a terrible 80’s fashion trend when E came home from the hospital. B loved it. And being a Jersey Girl herself, she excelled at the execution.

“We have a situation,” she’d scream as fecal matter dripped from her little sister’s onesie. All hands would heed the call and come running, wipes at the ready.

If anything, the phrase has become more important in recent years. I rebirthed Evel Knievel when I brought E into the world. The moment she went mobile, and our needs to use the bathroom or drop raw chicken in the crockpot remained, this simple phrase averted more than one potential disaster.

“We have a situation,” B screams.

I run from the kitchen, raw chicken juice flying, and find E has parkoured to bone-breaking heights using only a stuffed animal and sheer will power.

“We have a situation,” B screams.

I run from the bathroom with my pants around my ankles to find E has taken a red crayon, from Lord knows where, to the exterior door and is about to go full Picasso on my office walls.

I watch my children carefully, but short of handcuffing them to the staircase, there are moments when they are beyond my sight and able to move freely into trouble.

“MOMMY,” B screams. “WE. HAVE. A. SITUATION!”

I try to type my email. The kid is obviously crying wolf. What could E possibly do in thirty seconds with a ball of Play-Doh? Instead of writing, I imagine a laundry list of all the things E could be doing. Finally, I give up.

As I reenter the kitchen, I scan for bodily fluids. Judging from B’s reaction, I now have smoke pouring from my visible orifices.

“B, you know your coloring book is not a situation. Are you hurt?”

“No.”

“Is E hurt?”

“I Ok,” E shouts, rolling the Play-Doh in a huge ball, so she can flatten it again.

“‘We have a situation’ is for serious things: Blood, poop, pee, vomit and crayons in the wrong context. Got it?”

We lock eyes, sizing each other up like a pair of welterweight champions or Black Friday shoppers going for the same cart. I could pull rank and tell her that if she bluffs again, she’ll go to her room. But she knows, and I know, that I need her and the situation call if I ever want to finish the damn email or pee again. E keeps smashing the Play-Doh, blissfully unware of the unfolding showdown.

“I’m setting the timer for five minutes. Mommy is in time out.”

B huffs, but goes back to coloring. If you’re in time out, you don’t talk. House rules. Unless the situation gets REAL.

I hurry to my office and write my victory email. I even finish before E realizes all the damage she could do with a ball of sparkly pink Play-Doh, just in time to sally forth and handle the next situation. Poop, of course.

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Kathryn Hively

I started Just BE Parenting as a way to cope with the anxiety of balancing work, motherhood, and the impulse to write. That’s right, I’m not a parenting expert. I, my kids, and my family are perfectly flawed in MANY ways. As a parent, I’m trying to let go of perfection and just BE the best mother I can for my kids. The ‘B’ and ‘E’ in Just BE Parenting also represents the first letters of my children’s names. What works for me and my family may not work for you and yours. That’s ok! Even if we’re not the same, I hope you’ll find something relatable here.