One of the hardest things about parenting for me is coming up with good explanations and “Momisms” on the spot. It doesn’t help that I am living with a 6-year-old Lawyer in Training either. She does NOT take my first answer as solid. She continues to question and reason and inquire and investigate and OMG . . . . it can be just exhausting sometimes. I love her curiosity, but geez kid.
I like to think I’m a pretty smooth operator and think quickly on my feet, but when it comes to the hard-hitting issues of parenthood, I sometimes fall short and find myself stammering through what feels like an interrogation by a smaller version of myself.
Case in point: A poor unfortunate forest creature on a recent weekend trip. We had hopped on some golf carts and were taking a wonderfully serene tour through a resort golf course in the mountain lake region here in our beautiful state of West Virginia, and Little Princess and I were sharing a cart. We were having so much fun! Singing, chit-chatting, and just enjoying our surroundings.
We continued this little journey as the golf course path wove through the hills and into the forest. The lush greenery of it all nearly took my breath away. It really felt like a little enchanted forest.
Until it wasn’t.
I slowed our cart as we realized that something seemed to be scurrying across our path. Upon further investigation, I quickly (but not soon enough to dodge the bullet I’m about to share with you) realized it was a chipmunk in the THROES of death. I am not even exaggerating. It looked like a dramatic western death scene acted out by forest rodentia. I couldn’t swerve around him (her?) because he was convulsing all over the path and I was afraid I would squash him, further scarring my daughter for life as “The Mommy Who Smashed a Chipmunk.”
I had no other course of action than to wait for him to finally stop seizing and go around cautiously. After what felt like hours of the two of us watching in horror (it was seconds), I was able to slowly navigate the cart around his lifeless body. He was on my side of the cart, but 6-year-olds are curious and we are all crippled by our inability to look away from a train crash, so we both got a clear visual of the blood that was coming out of his little mouth profusely.
I have no clue how this happened. We didn’t run over him; I was pretty sure the cart in front of us was too far ahead of us to have hit him.
Can chipmunks fall out of trees to their death?!?
No, seriously, I’m asking because that is the exact explanation I gave my daughter.
She was quiet for a little while and I said to her, “I’m sorry we had to see that. It was sad. Do you have any questions?” (Silently applauding myself for such an amazing reaction to the situation and rethinking writing a book on stellar parenting.)
Not so fast, Holls.
Cue 6-year-old rage and dramatics.
“WHY DIDN’T YOU STOP???? WHY DIDN’T YOU HELP HIM! WE COULD HAVE TAKEN HIM TO A VET! THAT’S WHAT VETS DO! THEY HELP ANIMALS!”
I held her as she cried and I tried to navigate a golf cart on a narrow path and attempted to explain to her that there wasn’t a Chipmunk Vet (“YES THERE IS!”), and that there wasn’t anything that could be done to save him due to the severe head trauma sustained from his fall. “WE SHOULD HAVE PICKED HIM UP AND HELPED HIM!” More tears.
Look, I get it. I’m a sympathetic soul, too, and it hurt my heart to watch the poor little guy die. But I want to really emphasize to anyone who is reading this and thinks my daughter has a point and that I should have done something that this thing was undeniably and reliably D-E-A-D. Watching it flop all over the trail was terrible.
She continued to cry. I continued to silently curse the heavens above for making us witness something so yucky, thereby also forcing me to have this somber discussion on what is supposed to be a relaxing weekend vacation. I started to feel emotional because I couldn’t take away my baby’s sadness and it hurt my heart to see her so upset. I empathized with her hopelessness toward the chipmunk, as I felt helpless as to what to say to comfort her. I also couldn’t stop picturing Alvin, Simon, Theodore, Chip, and Dale.
I had exhausted all the right things to say, which wasn’t much. That parenting book of mine will probably be more of a pamphlet than anything, really. So I whipped out the last trick up my sleeve: Chipmunk Prayer Vigil. I pulled the golf cart over and turned it off, and we said a prayer for the little fella.
We bowed our heads and asked Jesus to open up his pearly gates and welcome Mr. Chipmunk in with an abundance of nuts and other chipmunk friends.*
*Seriously. I said all those things. I was grasping for straws here, people.
We eventually made it back to the clubhouse and I shared with the other adults in our golf cart caravan the traumatic events of the last 15 minutes or so. (Actually, what I think I said was, “ok, which one of you ***********ers hit the **** chipmunk?!?”) None of them did; after all they really were too far ahead of us. But I really have no idea what happened to that thing! I’m sticking with it lost its footing and fell from high branch.
As children tend to do, Little Princess rebounded nicely and soon forgot about the critter and his untimely demise. I think I’m more scarred over the whole debacle, partially because I wonder if I handled it correctly. Death is a difficult topic with kids, and it is hard to explain a situation that is truly hopeless. Mr. Chipmunk went to heaven. There was nothing we could do. And we got to watch (UGH!).
Later that evening at dinner, we were all enjoying dining al fresca, and the whole chipmunk fiasco of 2018 seemed to have passed us. We had moved on to the acceptance stage of grief and were at peace. #amen
And then, I sh!t you not, at that very moment a freaking bird flew across the terrace and smacked RIGHT INTO the glass window next to our table and dropped like a rock to the ground in front of God and everyone (including the kids).
*orders glass of wine*