My 9 year old, Mack, called me this morning. He called me from the neighbor’s house. I feel like that needs more explaining, so I’m trying to drag it out now. He called me from the neighbor’s house because he was feeding their dog. He’s a little bit of a famous pet sitter on our block. Hey, ya got to start somewhere. But I don’t want to miss the story here.
He called me and said, “Mom, there’s a coyote in front of our house. Would you check and see if it’s there before I come home?”
Well, sure, son, I said to myself. But why the hell are you calling me now? He’d been gone like 20 minutes? So he had calmly seen a coyote and gone to do his pet sitting and then called me on the way out?
Uh, kinda awesome. I couldn’t help but grin with pride, while my mommy tummy clenched simultaneously. You sometimes think your kids are awesome, but you wish if they were going to be so brave, maybe they could be someone else’s kids.
Maybe your kids could just cower in fear, so they never get hurt. But then the rational side of me liked to think I had done something terribly right that he was able to process like that. Yah, I’ll stick with that scenario, since no one got hurt.
Then later the neighbor kids come over and both my kids and one other are in the pool. They are playing out there, while I am inside. Before you judge my negligence, understand that I was inside the air-conditioned back doors watching, while a babe slept in another room. It was totally safe and, well, what do I care if you think I suck. I do, just not at this particular thing.
The neighbor girl runs in to tell me there’s a chipmunk in the pool. This usually means there is a dead, crunchy animal at the bottom of the pool who was unable to be sucked up in the pool vacuum. Okay, no problem. I head out to get the pool net and pull the creature from the pool. Yah, it’s gross, but it’s not like they touched it, right?
My 9 year old yells, “Mom, Zoom touched it.”
“He touched what?” I said with great denial, hoping it would seep into the world and make all things disgusting turn out how I wished instead of how they were.
“He touched the chipmunk.”
“He did?” I looked at my 6 year old. “You did, sweetie?”
“Seriously, did you? You touched it?” trying to remain calm, as I pull a hairless beast from the pool, the size of a gopher. It looked like a large baby mouse, you know the creepy little mice that you saw in science class or at a friend’s house, or at your own home growing up?
I pulled the large baby mouse, from the pool. It started falling apart the second it came out of the water. Pieces of its skin were falling from the pool skimmer, while it’s bleeding body continued to tear open. Yep, it was that gross. And it dawned on me that it wasn’t a large mouse. It was, a rat. It was a big freaking rat in our pool, a baby rat, the size of a gopher, whose body was disintegrating quickly. It had been there quite a while.
I tried again. “Did you really touch this?”
Without looking at me because, oddly, he could sense my disgust and panic at the idea. “yes, mom.”
My 6 year old touched the freaking rat, my son who sucks on his fingers and pulls buggars from his nose to eat at will. He was the one who touched the rat. I pulled myself together, but only a little. I made him wash his hands indoors, knowing full well that the chlorine in the pool was ten times stronger than any hand soap in the bathroom. I repeated how he should never touch dead animals because that was disgusting. I kept repeating the phrase, “I can’t believe you touched that!?” Meanwhile, I threw the decayed animal over the fence into the desert beyond, the stench rising up from the creature that now smelled ten feet tall! I was assessing the real danger because I don’t like to over-react, but holy hell, he touched this Petri dish?! Never mind, I’m going to react.
I did. I didn’t. Who knows. The day is over now. And I made it through. What the hell? We live in suburbia, right? I looked outside to check again. The desert sucks in the summer. That’s all there is to it. It’s hot and apparently fraught with crazy animals that suddenly feel free to roam about. How can that be? And I start to realize the beauty of video games and movies. I start to realize my idea of making the kids get out and try different things is stupid, just damn stupid. Sure, I want them to be interesting adults with varying interests. But me, I am an adult, and I don’t want to be more interesting. I don’t want to fight desert animals, and I don’t want to figure out how to graft the skin from my butt to my son’s germ-riddled arm, where I have taken his skin off. But still, I do, I will, I am.
Cheers to you today. Cheers to, well, summers in the desert and wildlife. Keep on your own damn side of the fence, animals. You don’t want me to visit you!