Musings on Parenting and a Very Dead Squirrel


I recognized two things immediately as I looked out from our kitchen window: 1) a squirrel had gotten caught in the electric wire on top of our chicken fencing, 2) the squirrel was dead, dead, dead.

Our "hot wire" isn't so bad if you hit it as a 150 pound human.  For a 5-6 pound chicken it's a sterner warning, but still not even close to lethal. If you're a tiny bird or a squirrel, however, it can make a rather grisly end, as we've learned once or twice this summer.

While I'm generally not squeamish about dead animals, something about death-by-electrocution is particularly horrifying to me.  Particularly with my overly sensitive nose right now, I delegated the job of disposing of the squirrel to Sweet Husband who slipped into his shoes and headed out to take care of it.

"Can I come help, Dad?" the Kid asked eagerly.

"Ohhh...." I said discouragingly, trying to come up with a "tidy" reason to keep him inside as I looked over his head at Sweet Husband and frowned. 

Sweet Husband raised his eyebrows at me and told the Kid, "Sure, bub, get your shoes on."

And then said aside to me, "You're not doing him any favors by protecting him from this one."

"OK...." I let it go, and tried to smile convincingly as they traipsed out the back door.

I watched from the window as they used a stick to pull the squirrel down into a bucket.  The Kid looked inside, clearly fascinated.  I couldn't hear what was being said, of course, but they stood and poked and examined for a good two or three minutes--forever in 3-year-old time--before wrapping the squirrel up and putting him in the garbage.

Then the Kid moved on to his digger trucks.  No trauma.  No tears or worry.  Just a "meh, that's life".

The next morning, I read an advice column that broke my heart.  It was a woman writing to question whether she should report her neighbor for child abuse.  One of the examples she gave was of the child--a small boy--being locked out of the house late at night for misbehavior and of hearing him beg to be allowed back inside, "Mommy, I'm so tired now, I just want to come inside."

Of course, when you read something like that, your mind never imagines some stranger's kid--you always see your own.  And then, because there's not a darned thing you can do for that scared boy on the porch, you read two extra stories at bedtime or go for a surprise ice cream run after dinner, as you'd dearly love to do for that other child.  A little more love gets shared around in a cosmic sense, but it actually has nothing to do with your kid and everything to do with how bad the newspaper was.

Do you ever catch yourself doing that?  Through over-protectiveness or love or frustration at the state of the world--do you ever catch yourself parenting from where you are as opposed to maybe what your kid needs or the situation really warrants?

I'm not saying that the two are always mutually exclusive, or even that it's a bad thing--we all could use an extra bedtime story now and then--just that it's something I've been thinking about.