It’s one of those over-used phrases which describe a parent’s love and protection of their child above all else: “I’d take a bullet for them.”
And of course I would. We all would. Only an absolute jerk would look at their kid and think, “Eh … a bullet? Maybe.” (That said, I wouldn't encourage taking a bullet for my children. If I had enough time to talk it through, I’d hopefully suggest other ways of displaying my parental devotion. Like - going without a shower. Now that says “I love you.”)
But the other day, I think I found a new spoken contender for that kind of fierce protection: “I’d lie to their faces about my biggest irrational fear.”
Spring means a lot of things in cities. Among them, the wildlife comes back out to play and, depending on your level of neuroses, potentially claw your face off. Rodents, for me, exist solely to terrify the bejeebers out of my otherwise grownup self. Mice and rats are extremely commonplace in Chicago and, regardless of their different sizes and plague-spreading abilities, have been shriekingly grouped into the same big itchy, twitchy fear of mine.
Starting way back with a mouse-infested “garden” apartment in Boston and reaching critical mass when a rat made its way into my Chicago kitchen, I've hated all rodents on sight and am fairly certain they all consistently wish to kamikaze themselves at me.
I have no shame at the level of “irrational” I put into “irrational fears.”
But it’s important to me that my girls are brave. (And my son, too, when he’s old enough to know things beyond bold patterns and ‘round the clock feedings.) So the other morning when I saw a baby mouse in a corner of our garage, staring in a frozen and terrified little way, my vision spun slightly. But I made a conscious decision to not swear in fear. To not vomit my heart through my mouth. And to not let my kids think that anything attached to our home should ever give them even a moment of terror.
“Heeeeey little guy,” I told the beady-eyed little monster in as bright and non-wobbly a voice as I could muster.
The two year-old was fascinated. The baby was oblivious. The four year-old, however, was unsure. “I don’t like mice, Mom,” she told me.
“NO, SWEETHEART,” I managed cheerfully through gritted teeth. “MICE ARE SWEET AND DEFINITELY MORE AFRAID OF YOU THAN YOU ARE OF THEM!” (“Hahahahahaha,” laughed my inner monologue.)
“Can I hold it?” My two year-old wanted to know.
“OH NO, LET’S LEAVE THE POOR LITTLE GUY ALONE. LIVE AND LET LIVE, THAT’S WHAT I SAY! BUT THEY SURE DON’T BELONG IN OUR PROPERTY, RIGHT? HA!”
I ushered the kids inside as quickly as I could. I felt my breathing steady. I felt pride at being a strong role model.
And I felt that my husband best hurry home to deal with MouseGate 2014 before I’d be driving anyone, anywhere even near the vicinity of our garage.
Because there’s totally a rodent in there.
Keely Flynn is a Chicago playwright, freelance writer, and blogger living with three young children, an extraordinarily tolerant husband, and two cats who just try to make it through the day without being ridden like ponies. Check out her personal blog, lollygagblog.com.
See more of Keely's stories here.
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