That Sweet Smell of Septic Stench

I’ll be honest. Being a septic tank specialist was never an occupation I had aspirations of becoming growing up. In fact, it takes every ounce of energy to will myself to clean the bathrooms once a week. After the past few days, however, my kids have me pretty well convinced that doing such things would be the grandest of adventures.

We have now lived in the country for one year. ONE YEAR! Coming up on our year mark we decided it might be good to evaluate how everything was functioning, the septic tank being one of them. Upon opening the hatch it was clear that something wasn’t right. We gave the septic tank guy a call, and he came in his great big truck the very next morning. Our boys were watching out the window as he backed up the driveway. “Oh man, Mom! You HAVE to seeee this!!! That truck is HUGE! And Mom, it’s in our DRIVEWAY!” Even N couldn’t hide his enthusiasm. If simply seeing the truck parked 10 feet away wasn’t cool enough, my husband even let them go out and watch Mr. Septic Tank Man open the hatch and *ahem* suck up the contents (I’m embarrassed to even write that!). The boys were on top of the world. Life really doesn’t get much better than that from a 3 foot perspective, does it? The septic guy was great. Told them all about his job, joked around with them, told them how the tank worked, even let them play with his dog he brought along. By the time he’d finished they were totally ready to hand him their resumes,  jump on the truck and join his crew.

To our dismay, we found out that something was indeed wrong, and probably had been for several years (why in the world did we trust the previous owners when they said they’d take care of whatever needed to be done with the septic system?? And why did they do nothing to keep the property up for all those years?? Ugh, it still gets me all worked up thinking about it). We were talking an excavator, tearing apart our entire front yard, possibly loosing trees. Not to mention boku bucks to get it all done. We were not thrilled. The more we discussed the situation, the more bleak things looked. After a few minutes of silence, my husband broke in. “Oh jeez. I’ll do it. I’ll dig the 8 feet down, I’ll get in there. We don’t have to get an excavator, destroy our lawn, sell our souls to pay the Plummer. I’ll just do it myself.”

And he did. The next night he went to town, shovel in hand. He, R, and M worked long after the sun had gone down until they reached the tank. Getting the boys to bed that night was a chore (it ALWAYS is! Read here: Bedtime Battle). I heard the entire day summed up in two five-year-old breaths and a three-year-old trying to interject his two cents. “…And then, Mom, we hit a rock! It was huuuuge. But Dad did this with is shovel (imagine some crazy manuver), and it broke. And the dirt pile is so high. And guess what? You can’t even see us when we’re inside the hole. Could you see us, Mom? And tomorrow we’re gonna open the hatch. It will be AWESOME! It could be stinky, but that’s ok. We can just plug our noses. Will you plug your nose, too Mom?…” Disneyland wouldn’t hold a candle to the pure joy these boys were getting out of our nightmare project.



The next night Grandpa came. They worked for hours trying to pry open the darn cement hatch. As I made dinner, I had little feet pitter-pattering in and out the door to give me the play-by-play. Then just before I called them in for bed, I heard cheering from the front lawn. “They got it, Mom! They smashed it open! …Boy is it stinky!” Honestly, I think the smell was half the excitement for those wacky boys. With a ton of hard work, a little septic specialist assistance, and the help of my father-in-law, my handy husband fixed the septic tank for a fraction of the cost and way less mess. What a stinky, disgusting relief!

The saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” took on a whole new meaning for me this week (or maybe it should go “one dad’s stinky septic tank failure is another boy’s muddy castle of bliss and excitement”).While my husband and I were cursing our lousy situation with our broken septic tank, our boys couldn’t get enough. Every pile of dirt added to their ecstasy. It was the highlight of the month, maybe even possibly the year. All my husband and I could see was a gaping, muddy, smelly hole and a cement slab that wouldn’t budge. Not to mention lots and lots of dollar signs going to one lucky plumber.

Kids have a way of seeing sunlight in the dark moments. I hope my boys don’t loose that enthusiasm for life. I hope they can find joy in every day and maintain that sweet innocence. Childhood is far too short to take anything for granted, even a smelly, gross hole. I hope we can all see life occasionally through the eyes of a child and experience the wonder and awe in our every-day (sometimes infuriating) situations. Let’s all try to be more childlike. Let’s try to see the fun in the mundane, the good in the awful, the sweet in the bitter. I know I could use some more of that rosy perspective in my life. Whether we be 2 or 102, I truly hope we can all find joy in the journey.


2 Comments on “That Sweet Smell of Septic Stench

  1. Ben and Aaron are cut from the same mold I think. Your kiddos are wonderful and so glad they could help you guys find joy in that exciting albeit stinky adventure lol 🙂


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