My little boy, a mouse and life’s journey
500 Words: U-Turn
Lots of parents have been in the position I suddenly found myself in. I remember my dear parents humouring my attempts at vet science when I brought home a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest or a small lizard which had been used as a toy by a neighbour’s cat. When a rosella with an injured wing crash-landed into our suburban backyard, my father helped me to catch it gently and place it in a borrowed cage until it recuperated enough to be set free again. So, when my second son who was only a tiny boy at the time, came running up to me with a decidedly unwell brown field mouse in his hands, begging that we help him, I knew I was at another u-turn point in my life.
Mice, rats and I have never been friends. Too many bad memories from encounters in high school science dissection classes came flooding back.
Yet here was my beautiful boy with a mouse in his palms begging that I let him keep him and help him get better. The tears in his brown-black eyes dissolved my hardened heart and nudged my unwilling head around my fear of mice and towards vermin acceptance. I needed to part ways with my fear and loathing and make that ‘joyful’ u-turn that so many parents have made before – for my son’s sake. My son named his mouse Ralph.
We found an old shoe box and lined it with a soft hand towel.
The lid of an empty jam jar was filled with crumpled bits of bread and softened with milk.
My son spent the rest of the evening checking on Ralph and stroking his furry head. I spent the rest of the evening disinfecting my son’s hands after each pat. At bedtime, Ralph’s box was put into the laundry, in a warm space.
This story doesn’t have a happy ending. The next morning, my son bounded out of bed expecting Ralph to have made a miraculous recovery. He found his little brown bundle dead in his five-star box. My son sobbed silently as fat tears rolled down his pale, baby cheeks. This was my son’s first encounter with death.
Our family held a funeral for Ralph and then buried him out in the paddock. More tears were shed.
Since that time, my family has had many more pets and many more pet deaths. I can’t say it has become easier saying goodbye. But, as emotionally draining and upsetting as living through the circle of life is with kids, it holds important life lessons.
My tiny son is now almost a man. He still remembers Ralph and that time in his life when my u-turn made a huge impact on a little boy, his mouse and life’s journey.