That would be me, of course, that I speak of.
Based on my 13 years or so of parenting experience, you would think that I would learn. Never. Say. Never.
Last week, Greg took off for a short trip to Las Vegas, leaving me at home to single parent for a few days. And generally speaking, I enjoy the opportunity to single parent once in a while. You know that saying…”When the cat’s away, the mice will play.” And play, we do. We’ll see two movies in a row at the theater, sleep wherever we land at the end of the evening, wear our pajamas all day even when we make a trip to Target, and eat popcorn for lunch or have cake for breakfast. We certainly make the most of it. And by the time he comes home, I like to think that the girls and I are more tightly bonded together. Or we want to kill each other. It’s all about timing with girls, am I right?
Anyway, Greg’s absence also gives me an opportunity to prove (to myself, admittedly) that if, God forbid, something ever happened to him, I could do it. I’m talking about the logistics, mind you. I would never devalue the presence of a father figure in a child’s life. What I mean is that I can get all the kids to their activities, perhaps a bit late, but at least they make it. I can feed and care for the dogs, take out the trash and even pull the trash bins back in the garage, get the kids all showered and dressed, take care of the paperwork, schedule the appointments, and on and on.
Greg left Wednesday morning and other than the fact that the twins and I spent 3 hours in the car shuttling Madison and Emily to competing activities that evening, the day went well. And then it started to rain. And rain. And rain. And I got sick, but managed to please the girls by making it around to all the classrooms at open house.
You can see how the perfect storm is building here, right?
We got home from open house in time for the girls to get showered up and I brushed out their hair, made sure they put on clean underwear and appropriate sleep attire, and helicoptered as they brushed their teeth and finished getting ready for bed. Meanwhile, Emily decided she needs some clean clothes so she packed up her things in a laundry basket and toted them downstairs to the basement laundry room.
Everyone ready? Cue, and action!
We hear shrieks coming from the basement and then, “Mom???!!! I think there are baby mice down here!” We explode, the rest of us, in the direction of the basement. I head down the stairs first with the youngest three following close behind. They get to the bottom step when I turn around and very sternly say, “Stay here.”
As I approach, I can see two tiny balls of fur writhing on the cold cement floor as if they are dying, and then realize that they are babies. Like, not even eyes open, babies. Ew! Where is the mother?! (silent scream)
I am not sure what exactly happened next as the stress of that moment has jumbled up my memory of it. I remember being asked what I was going to do with them. I remember seeing 4 pairs of huge brown eyes, some horror-filled and some tear-filled, staring at me. I remember shooing the younger three back up the stairs and somehow getting them into bed.
And during those few moments, I am quickly weighing the options in my head. Oh my God, why can’t this have happened while Greg was home? What am I going to do to find the mother? What if there are others? Will the babies survive if I just put them outside? Do I even want them that close to my house? Should I call Greg? What would HE do? Oh, no. I can’t call Greg. I can take care of this on my own.
I head back down to the basement to make a decision and take some action, though I had no idea what I was going to do. Emily and I stood there, tentatively, for a moment. She asked if we could keep them and I said, “No!” But as I watched those helpless babies my heart started to melt, and I was reminded of a latin phrase I learned when I was fresh out of college and touring Kansas talking to groups about Advanced Directives.
Primum non nocere. (First, do no harm.)
Soon, my mind began to conjure little faces from Stuart Little, The Tale of Despereaux, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, and Ratatouille. They will surely die if I put them outside in the rain. I can’t throw them in the trash and then sleep at night. I can’t bag them up and put them in the freezer to die a slow death. (That’s not my sick mind. I read that on the internet.) Wait, I need to do some research.
So, with all that on my conscience, I had Emily put them in a basket and I ran upstairs to the computer to read up on orphaned baby mice. After scanning a few very detailed websites, it became clear to me that those poor babies didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of living. Their eyes weren’t open so they needed to be fed. Oh, and not just cheese and water. They would need someone to hand-feed them kitty replacement formula every two hours. And they would need to stay warm so we needed to place their crate on a heating pad and keep it at a certain temperature. Site after site said the same thing – “They won’t live…” And here comes the heart tug – “…but if they do, the bond you form with them will be very strong.”
Somehow I now saw this as a worthwhile challenge. Heh! They won’t live. I birthed 4 babies and somehow we managed to keep them alive. We’ll show them! They’ll not only survive, but thrive!
A couple of years ago, and only for a couple of months, Emily had a guinea pig. I was afraid it would bite me so I never even stuck my hand in the cage. It died, and when it went to its backyard grave, I told the girls we’d never have another pet rodent in our house.
Let me introduce you to Remi and Rose, the newest members of the Chopp household. Sorry. I’d have to look at their genitalia to point out who is who.
Author’s Note: I have to take a moment to acknowledge those amazing parents that have, or do single parent full-time. My own mother having been one of them. I admire and respect you immensely.