Yesterday, as I was walking to the gym for my yoga class, I came across a field mouse, deceased, on the sidewalk. It reminded me of the time many years ago in San Antonio when we had the toughest time getting rid of a pesky mouse who had invaded our home. After many failed attempts at capturing it in a trap, we resorted to sticky paper. The next morning my husband went into the laundry room and found the enraged little beastie firmly attached to the glue. Our youngest son, who was about seven at the time, was right behind my husband and asked his dad if he were going to take the mouse outside and let it go. My husband looked at the mouse who was snarling menacingly, its jaws snapping at him, and said he couldn’t let it go because it would just come back into the house. Our little boy, eyes wide, asked him what he was going to do with it then. “Well…er…I have a friend at the university who works in a lab and likes mice. I think I’ll take it there.” That satisfied our son who pictured the “sweet” little furry creature frolicking with other little mice friends, living out its days in air-conditioned comfort. Of course, you know that was not the fate of that “sweet” little mouse.
Another time, my husband was chopping down ligustrum bushes in the back yard in preparation for putting up a privacy fence. The bushes were so tall and thick, they were like small trees. Unfortunately, they were tree-like enough that a mama finch had made a nest and laid her eggs in the branches. My husband did not see it until my two boys, who had been helping him by picking up the cuttings and piling them in a heap, discovered the nest among the debris with three baby birds in it. One baby was already dead and the other two were barely alive. My husband and sons felt terrible. “Daddy, can we save these two?” our youngest pleaded. “We could put the nest in another tree so the mama can come back for them.” My husband knew it was futile, and the babies were too young to be hand-fed, but looking at his son’s little trusting face, he had to give it a try. So he scooped up the nest and found another ligustrum bush to set it in. The next morning, when my boys went out to check on the nest, the babies were gone. “Daddy, daddy, the babies aren’t in the nest anymore! Do you think the mama came back for them?” My husband went out to look for himself, and after making a careful inspection, he found one baby on the ground, dead, and the other missing. Lurking at the edge of the yard was one of the many cats in our neighborhood, and it was licking its chops. When my husband went back inside, he said, “Yes, that must be what happened. The mama bird came back for her babies.” My son was in innocent bliss. Son, if you are just now discovering the deception, I’m terribly sorry.
One can argue that we should always be straightforward with our children and tell them the truth in situations like these. They need to toughen up and learn what life is all about. Yes, I suppose there is some truth in that. But they will have to deal with the harsh realities of life soon enough, and buffering that until they are more able to handle it doesn’t seem like a bad idea. It’s interesting to note that our other son, who is three years older than his little brother, knew his dad wasn’t telling the truth, but he kept up the deception, too, for the sake of his tender-hearted sibling.
I sometimes wonder if our government thinks we are children, too, when they keep telling us things are getting better or that they are working harder for us. I see so many people still struggling and out of work, school debts mounting with no way to pay for them, less money in my pocket because of rising health care costs and no cost-of-living increases in my retirement check, both parties continuing to argue and refusing to work together, and I’m supposed to believe we’re on the upswing? Note to Washington: Guess what? We’re not children anymore.