parenting, rats, and Buffy

I got out on the wrong side of bed this morning, apparently. I was in a bad mood all day. It was one of those days in which I would have preferred to be alone, but instead needed to interact for hours with a person who (sometimes) gets really upset when she doesn’t get to open the door first, go downstairs first, have a specific plate and fork combination, etc. Hazel asked for frozen strawberries in her oatmeal this morning. Because she loves to mix things up herself, I put a bunch of them in one bowl and her oatmeal in another bowl and set them at her place.
“I wanted raspberries in my oatmeal!” was her wailed complaint.
I was exasperated. I told her that the appropriate response to me giving her the oatmeal and raspberries she’d asked for was, “Thanks.”

Here is my goal. I want to focus on telling Hazel what I want rather than on telling her what to do. In the moment, I struggle so much. I now understand why parents tell their kids what to do all the time. The first three years were easy for us. Now, attempting to cultivate my daughter’s many strengths while also setting reasonable boundaries is a huge personal challenge. There are plenty of times I think I cannot manage it.

I am coming up against how hard it is to act upon my own philosophy, that I want to root my actions in my values rather than my emotions. Damn hard when emotions are so strong. And kids are genius at tapping parental emotion.

One day at a time, I guess.


So, the Rat Man came today. He found various points of entry, including the chewed-on lintel of the basement door. He is going to install a tough sort of mesh all around our porch. This is going to require the digging of an eighteen inch deep, foot wide trench. This in turn will require the uprooting of a bunch of roses, one of which is climbing on a trellis. He is also going to plug a couple more entry points, set traps, and put out a few bait stations on our property line. His price for all this work is pretty reasonable, though we’ll get someone else to dig the trench for cheaper than he’d do it (his recommendation). He will come back after a week to empty the traps. We will continue the bait stations for a while to “thin the population”. We will wear masks when working in the basement, and spray Lysol about to prevent rat poop dust, and use a Hepa filter in our shop vac. Joy. But we will get rid of the rats, and we will be very motivated never to allow the conditions to pertain again which encouraged the rodent presence in our yard and house. We will be more responsible.

In conversation with Hazel about this topic, she said, “So it’s good that the Rat Man can come kill the rats so we don’t have to.”

Amazing how kids can get to the heart of a matter in absolutely no time at all.

Her quote from a bit earlier (after Ted had said he’d heard noises downstairs, and wondered if we had rats, but before we’d confirmed it): “If there’s a rat, just tell me and I’ll run and put on my boots and squish it.” As our nanny says, she seems firmly on the side of the Rat Man.


I reflected on my way to my writing group this evening that perhaps a Pollyanna-type perspective is not so bad after all. I’ve been feeling pretty stressed out by the rat situation. However, if we had no rats and were merely facing emptying out our basement, sorting the contents, and preparing for the building of my studio, I would still be feeling stress, and might not appreciate how much better that circumstance was compared with having a rodent infestation. So saying, “Yay, I’m glad it is not worse!” actually made me feel better. And it made me laugh to consider all the (sometimes extreme) ways in which that could be true. You can take that line way too far, of course, but right now, I’m just glad we caught it before the rats had invaded our living space.

For whatever reason, typing this brought back a memory of a Buffy The Vampire Slayer episode called, “The Wish”, in which Cordelia finds herself in an alternate universe where Buffy doesn’t exist. She finds out that the greenness of the grass doesn’t compensate for the presence of evil, after all. So if Cordelia can learn to appreciate Buffy, I guess I can learn to appreciate the presence of the Rat Man in our lives.

Since I am now clearly writing nonsense, I will sign off and perhaps return to some semblance of sense tomorrow.


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